Land rights and investment treaties
Commercial land concessions may be protected under international investment treaties, with important implications for local land relations. Securing land rights requires tackling these global dimensions.
Principal researcher and head of law, economies and justice programme, Natural Resources research group
As economic globalisation intensifies and expands its reach, growing global consumption is placing the world's natural resources under unprecedented pressure. Petroleum and minerals are extracted in previously marginal sites, and agribusiness developments have extended their reach, displacing natural habitats and non-intensive land and resource use.
The effects of some 'land grab' deals are now clear to see: lands previously used for common grazing or foraging have been converted to monoculture. More intangible, but equally important changes in international law are shifting the balance between private interests and public authority in competing natural resource claims.
As demand for valuable lands intensifies and land relations become more transnational, struggles over land increasingly rely on international law – creating new opportunities to challenge and demand accountability. For example, indigenous peoples have taken encroachments on their ancestral lands to international human rights bodies.
Meanwhile, international treaties protecting investments can have far-reaching consequences for land relations – whether in the context of redistributive reform or land restitution, or with regards to large-scale land-based investments.
What did IIED do?
We generated evidence on the linkages between land rights and investment treaties, and fed insights into policy processes at national and international levels.
'Land grabbing' and international investment law: toward a global reconfiguration of property?
Publication, 01 October 2016
Property in a shrinking planet: fault lines in international human rights and investment law
Publication, 01 May 2015
The New Enclosures? Polanyi, international investment law and the global land rush
Publication, 01 November 2013
Blog: Law and Political Economy of Commodity Rushes: Reflections on “Land Grabbing” in the Global South, Lorenzo Cotula (2019), Law and Political Economy blog
Farmland in International Investment Law and Dispute Settlement: Developments in 2017, Lorenzo Cotula, Thierry Berger, chapter in Yearbook on International Investment Law & Policy 2017
Article: Law in the natural resource squeeze: ‘land grabbing’, investment treaties and human rights, Lorenzo Cotula, October 2016
Foreign investment, law and sustainable development: a handbook on agriculture and extractive industries, Lorenzo Cotula (2013, second edition 2016), IIED report, Natural Resource Issues series