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Campaign Update – Ethiopia: UN Creates Guidelines on Land Deals

The UN has drafted a set of voluntary guidelines that encourage countries to limit the size and duration of agricultural land deals made with foreign companies, deals that have become known  as ‘land grabs.’ The document is set to be ratified in May at a special session of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization after more than three years of discussions.

The guidelines, which have not yet been made public, have been criticized as being ‘pro-business.’  Critics charge that rather than discouraging land deals, the guidelines largely support them, saying that states should “promote and support responsible investments in land, fisheries and forest.” The voluntary code will be the first attempt to regulate investment in farmland deals, which often involve rich countries, such as India and Saudi Arabia, investing in overseas farming in Africa and Latin America to boost their own food security.  Such is the case with Cultural Survival’s Global Response campaign launched in February regarding a land grabbing case in Gambella, Ethiopia.

The World Bank last year urged voluntary regulation of farmland investments, painting a poor picture of some of the deals already signed. In a report, the Bank said that “land acquisition often deprived local people, in particular the vulnerable.”

“In some cases, investors who were unable to turn a profit due to unrealistic plans then started to encroach . . . [on] land that had explicitly been set aside for use by local people, causing environmental damage and threatening local food security,” the Bank reported.

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Source: Nicosia Business Review