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Thursday, September 3 • 16:00 - 18:00
From graft to grab: analysing the role of corruption and impunity in large-scale land investments

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Between 2000 and 2013 it is estimated that at least 49 million hectares of land in low and middle income countries has been leased to companies, or is under negotiation. Additional studies (such as the 2012 World Bank report Rising Interest in Farmland Investments ) concluded that demand for land was highest in countries with weak governance. As competition increases to control and exploit land, and the natural resources on and below it, the attractiveness of corrupting such processes for personal gain also increases. Although such problems are frequently occurring in countries which have previously experienced “resource curse” type impacts from poor governance of other natural resource assets (eg. forest, oil gas and mining sectors), governments and policy makers have been slow to respond to the challenge of corruption in the land sector.

The global rush to acquire large-scale areas of land for investment purposes evident since 2008 is increasingly linked to significant negative impacts on access to and control over natural resources, food security, human rights, and the environment. These so-called “land grabs” have been plagued by secrecy, with associated deals often made without the knowledge or consent of affected communities, who are thus unable to hold governments or investors to account. This fosters an environment where corruption and state capture becomes the norm, especially in countries where rule of law is weak, and is resulting in resource-curse type governance failures in the land sector. However, policy makers and regulatory agencies have yet to adequately understand the land grabbing – corruption nexus or respond to it; a gap which this panel attempts to address.
The aim of this session is to build an international evidence-base for how civil society, governments and the international community can tackle the conditions of corruption and impunity that exacerbate the phenomenon of land grabbing and its detrimental impact on communities and the environment.

The session will aim to produce strategies for:

  1. Fostering stronger transparency, accountability, and participation mechanisms that benefit and involve communities most affected by land grabbing, particularly those communities whose livelihoods, cultures and wellbeing are built around customary land tenure regimes;

  2. Building and strengthening international advocacy efforts to support the above that are built on a strong evidence-base; and

  3. Enabling governments, multi-lateral and bi-lateral agencies and other international institutions to identify key lessons from anti-corruption measures in the extractives and natural resource sectors, which would be relevant for addressing corruption in the land sector" "The increasing global commercial demand for land for food, fuel (eg. biofuels), fibre and financial speculative purposes, is causing devastating social and environmental impacts. Land acquisition deals are frequently concluded in secret and owners of the land are rarely even informed, let alone being given the chance to provide informed consent. The impacts are not just economic; cemeteries as well as important religious and cultural sites are also being cleared to make way for commercial investments.

avatar for Rueben Lifuka

Rueben Lifuka

Vice Chair/ President, Transparency International/ TI Zambia
Rueben Lifuka is an architect and an environmental consultant and managing partner with Riverine Zambia Limited. He is the founder and a director of the consultancy firm Dialogue Africa and chair of the National Governing Council of the Africa Peer Review Mechanism process in Zambia... Read More →


Carlos Hernandez

Executive President, ASJ
Carlos Hernández is the co-founder and president of the Association for a More Just Society (AJS). He is also president of the civil society coalition Transformemos Honduras and a member of the board of directors of the Alliance for Peace and Justice in Honduras. Hernández received... Read More →
avatar for Samuel Kimeu

Samuel Kimeu

Executive Director, TI Kenya

Leila Shamsaifar

Land Tenure Officer, Food And Agriculture Organization

Lawrence Stephens

Chairman, TI Papua New Guinea
Originally from Australia, BA (Politics and Sociology) from Australian National University. Resident of PNG since 1976, a naturalised citizen, with roles in government, private enterprise and CSO's. Employed by the Catholic Church from 1993 to 2006, including as General Secretary... Read More →

Session Coordinators
avatar for Megan MacInnes

Megan MacInnes

Advisor, Global Witness
I have been working for Global Witness since 2009 and prior to that spent seven years working in Cambodia with a range of grassroots organisations on land and natural resource governance issues. I shall be coordinating a panel (with TI) which looks at the interactions between land... Read More →

avatar for Zoe Reiter

Zoe Reiter

Interim Representative to US, Transparency International Secretariat
Since 2008, Zoë has worked at Transparency International. Currently, she serves as TI’s interim representative to the US and senior project leader. Her work in the US involves working with diverse stakeholders to help re-establish TI’s formal presence in the US. The purpose of... Read More →

Thursday September 3, 2015 16:00 - 18:00 GMT+08
Hall 3

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