Companies’ Impacts on Land Rights: Introductory Course
Companies run their business operations globally, often on land where local communities have lived for generations. What happens when these people are evicted in order to make room for the companies?
Think Rights
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Human Rights
Business and Human Rights
Food Security
Indigenous Rights
Land Rights
Land Tenure Security
Poverty
Poverty Reduction
Land Grabbing
Palm Oil Industry
Agricultural Development
Resource Extraction
Private sector
Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
Land Governance
Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 15: Life on Land
International Development
International Politics
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Course Description
Land rights are human rights. Land is a source of livelihood and linked to economic rights. It is also linked to peoples’ identities, and so connected to social and cultural rights. HUMAN RIGHTS RELATED TO LAND: right to property; right to an adequate standard of living; right to housing; right to water; right to food; right to freedom of expression and information; right to an effective remedy; freedom from discrimination; right to equal treatment of men and women; right to self-determination; and right to develop and maintain culture. Disputes over land can turn violent and may have additional negative impacts on the right to life; right to security of a person; and freedom from torture and inhumane treatment. Land is the foundation of life for most local communities in the Global South. Having access to land and other natural resources can mean the difference between poverty or income and going hungry or getting food on the table. When companies take over land in the Global South that belongs to local communities in order to run their business operations, it has severe impacts on the local communities who lose their livelihoods. This course will exemplify this phenomenon by taking you to the Solomon Islands in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, where the palm oil sector has adversely impacted local communities and their land rights. So, what can be done to address this issue? And why is this issue even happening to begin with? These are topics that you will learn about in this course. After you have taken this course, you will understand the importance of land rights and the impacts that companies can have on people’s lives when business operations take place on their land. This course will also give you the opportunity to understand land rights in the global development agenda, as a crucial cross-cutting issue to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you wish to learn more about the SDGs, you can check out the related courses on CanopyLAB’s platform. Follow this link: https://student.canopylab.com/public/course-preview/140/
Units

Unit 1 Presenting Think Rights' series of courses on Companies' Impacts on Human Rights
This unit will introduce you to Think Rights' series on "Companies' Impacts on Human Rights" and will explain you what are the responsibilities of companies with regard to human rights. In the video lectures below you will find: 1) Think Rights' Board member Emanuela Ranieri presenting the series of courses 2) Allan Lerberg Jorgensen, Lead Sustainability Advisor at A.P. Moller Mærsk, endorsing Think Rights series of courses on "Companies' Impacts on Human Rights" In the "Materials section", you will find a video explaining the responsibility of states and companies in respecting human rights.
Unit 2 Land is life- Land rights and why they matter
Rights to land, forests and other natural resources are also known as tenure rights. Tenure rights can thus include property and usage rights of resources such as land, forest and water. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines tenure as the relationships that describe: who can use what resources for how long and under what conditions. These relationships can be either legally or customarily (based on accepted tradition, practise and customs) defined among people, as individuals or communities, with respect to a resource. Land tenure can be explained as the rules and norms that govern access to the use of land. It can take various forms but a few common characteristics can be drawn for the Global North and the Global South. Please watch the video lecture by Louise Rose in the “materials section” to get more information about this. So, when one has defined these rules and norms, it should be enough, right? Throughout history, when talking about land, the focus has often been on the various tenure forms, but many researchers and practitioners believe this is not enough. They believe the focus should rather be on the security associated with the different kinds of land tenure in a specific context. Land tenure security is, therefore, a more adequate term to use since it encapsulates the certainty that a person’s access or right to land will be recognised by others (e.g. states and companies) and protected by either statutory or customary institutions (e.g. traditional chiefs or elders) in case of challenges or violation. Tenure security cannot be easily measured and to a large extent, it is what people perceive it to be. This might be a big mouthful for you to take in now, but hang in there! The exercises for this unit are basic and you will learn more about the meaning of land tenure security in the following units. NAVIGATION FOR THE EXERCISES To complete each unit, and eventually the course, you have to do at least 3 of the exercises below. However, if you wish to dive further into the topic and receive all the exercise hashtags, you should do all 5 exercises. You will need to submit proof that you have done the exercises for the evaluation- but don’t you worry too much about that, the proof can be as simple as a screenshot. Detailed descriptions can be found below. By going through the exercises, you will discover which of the materials are required and which are optional for you to do in order to complete the exercises for this unit. We recommend you start by watching the video lecture by Louise Rose and the video by USAID "Module#1". This will provide you with all the basics you need to fully understand the remaining materials in the unit.
Unit 3 Land grabbing: when land rights are disrespected
With a worldwide growing population, the demand for arable land for food production and other resource extractions has put great pressure on land. Land is becoming a scarce resource and this has caused conflicts and grievances to arise over land. This phenomenon has not only taken place in the Global South but also on the Global North- the Arctic region is an example. This course, however, focuses on cases of the impacts on local communities in the Global South. In the Global South, many people have been displaced from the land where they, and sometimes their ancestors before them, have lived for decades. This displacement has taken place in order to make room for international companies to come in and use the local communities’ land to produce food and other materials to meet the global demand. Land grabbing, also known as ‘large scale land acquisitions’, is the buying or leasing of large pieces of land by domestic or transnational companies, governments and powerful individuals. There is no complete definition that fully captures the issue. Nor is there a definition that has been accepted as the official one. In the land rights courses, we work with the phenomenon of land grabbing as when project activities happen without meaningful consultation, and in the case of indigenous communities, without Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and without adequate compensation. You will learn more about the FPIC principles in the next unit of this course and if you hang on, more information about the meaning of adequate compensation will be provided in the advanced land rights course. The materials section of this unit will dive into the phenomenon of land grabbing and the impacts it has on local communities and their land rights. NAVIGATION FOR THE EXERCISES To complete this unit, and eventually the course, you have to do 3 of the exercises below. By going through the exercises, you will discover which of the materials are required and which are optional for you to do in order to complete the exercises for this unit. We recommend you start by watching the video lecture by Marianne Wiben Jensen from IWGIA. Afterwards, you should have a look at the link by Action4justice about land grabs and forced eviction and the video about land corruption by Transparency International. This will provide you with the basics you need to understand the remaining materials in the unit. Dig in!
Unit 4 About Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)
The FPIC principles came about as a part of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) on Thursday, September 13 in 2007, when it was adopted by the General Assembly. Indigenous people have a unique relationship to their land which has been ignored by companies and governments throughout history. The UNDRIP and the FPIC principles are put in place to establish bottom-up participation of indigenous communities. The meaning of the FPIC principles should be understood as follows: FREE implies that the consent is given voluntarily without force, intimidation or manipulation PRIOR implies that consent is sought sufficiently in advance of any authorisation or commencement of project activities and respect is shown to time requirements of indigenous consultation/consensus processes. INFORMED implies that full information is provided about the project and its activities. This includes among others the nature, size, pace, reversibility and scope of any project or activity within the indigenous territory; the purpose of the project as well as its duration; locality and areas affected; a preliminary assessment of the likely economic, social, cultural and environmental impact, including potential risks; personnel likely to be involved in the execution of the project; and procedures the project may entail. This FPIC process may include the option of withholding consent. Consultation and participation are crucial components of a consent process. As of now, the right to FPIC is only recognised for indigenous peoples. However, some organisations are arguing that FPIC principles should be applied to all communities, not only the indigenous ones when business operations affect them. What about raising the bar and demanding the FPIC principles should apply to all who are at risk of being adversely affected by companies' operations? What do you think? Share your point of view in the exercises below. NAVIGATION FOR EXERCISES To complete this unit, and eventually the course, you have to do all 3 exercises below. By going through the exercises, you will discover which of the materials are required and which are optional for you to do in order to complete the exercises for this unit. We recommend you start by watching the video by FAO and then the two links by Cultural Survival and OHCHR. The remaining video from AIPP (Rights+in+Action...) will show you how a community can practise the FPIC principles.
Unit 5 What is needed to secure land tenure?
Land governance is the entire structure of rules, processes and institutions that regulates and enforces land rights and responsibilities in relation to land by making decisions about:  The use and allocation of land  The transfer of rights to land  The enforcement of land rights  The extent and nature of sanctions The focus on land in the development field is very often on “good vs. bad governance”. The goal of good land governance is to make sure the system that governs the use of land is transparent, accountable and accessible. Land governance systems can be constrained by corruption, lack of capacity and citizens lacking understanding of what those systems entail. Land governance systems are often categorised as formal or informal ones. Many donor agencies, such as the World Bank and national governments, promote formal land governance systems. However, those systems do not always provide better land tenure security to people. Informal land governance systems have shown to be just as good, and in some cases, even better in providing land tenure security. THE FORMAL LAND GOVERNANCE SYSTEM includes public authorities that manage, allocate, and oversee the transfer of land and provide sanction mechanisms. This could be land administration offices and land ministries. The rules and processes are written in the country’s constitution, statutory and regulatory frameworks that govern tenure relations amongst people. If disagreement over the land in question arises, for example in relation to the allocation or transfer of land rights, the case will end up in the national court system. THE INFORMAL LAND GOVERNANCE SYSTEM can be based on a variety of non-state institutional arrangements such as customary, religious or other informal institutions that manage, allocate and transfer land. What these informal land governance systems have in common is that they are often based on traditional knowledge, oral agreements and the recognition of belonging to the informal institution. These agreements and relationships are rarely written down and knowledge is instead passed on to the future generations orally by traditional authorities (e.g. community-, clan- or tribal chiefs or traditional groups of elders). Some informal land governance systems have customary court systems to solve disagreement between parties. Land tenure security does thus depend on whether people feel secure about the ways in which land is managed, allocated and transferred in the formal or informal land governance system. NAVIGATION FOR EXERCISES To complete this unit, and eventually the course, you have to do 3 of the exercises below. By going through the exercises, you will discover which of the materials are required and which are optional for you to do in order to complete the exercises for this unit. We recommend you start by watching the video "MODULE#2", which will refresh the meaning of land tenure security and relate it to land governance systems. If you wish to skip the recap and jump directly to the explanation of land governance, go to 6 min within the video. If you can’t get enough and want to learn more about the terminology of land tenure and land governance systems, you can watch the video by Land Links. This video is indeed long and is not mandatory to watch to complete the exercises.
Unit 6 The call for global action in securing land rights
If land grabbing is a global issue, won’t we need global initiatives to fight it? The call for putting land rights on the global development agenda has been demanded for decades. Within the last decade, land rights and the governance of land has received more attention on the international level. Land is, in fact, a cross-cutting issue in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To be exact, the SDGs consist of land-related targets and indicators under SDG 1, 2, 5, 11 and 15, where the specific strengthening of land rights includes the link to poverty alleviation, food security, advancing women's empowerment and environmental stewardship. Improving the governance and security of land tenure has however not been a high and direct priority of the SDGs to begin with—despite its cross-cutting nature. The international land community has been struggling to include explicit land targets and indicators for measuring the progress of land rights in the SDGs. In the materials section, you can read about how the community supporting land rights fought for the reclassification of land-related indicators from Tier III to Tier II (Tier III is the lowest status for the SDG indicators. You can read about the Tier classification for the SDGs by following this link: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/iaeg-sdgs/tier-classification/). Besides the SDGs, the Voluntary Guidelines on responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) is another global initiative to strengthen the governance of land, fisheries and forest in the context of national food security. If you are interested in learning more about the VGGTs, Thinks Rights has developed an advanced course about companies’ impact on land rights, where you can find more information about the VGGTs and how new technologies, such as blockchain, might be used to secure peoples land rights in the future. Check it out. NAVIGATION FOR EXERCISES To complete this unit, and eventually the course, you have to do 3 of the exercises below. By going through the exercises, you will discover which of the materials are required and which are optional for you to do in order to complete the exercises for this unit. If you don't know about the SDGs, we recommend you start by watching the video “The Sustainable Development Goals- Action Towards 2030”. Otherwise, you can head directly to the article by Land Portal about Land and the SDGs. Afterwards, you should read the article “With Reclassification, SDG Indicator 1.4.2” and then the article “Status on the SDGs Land Indicators”. The last brief “Land Rights Indicators in the Post-2015 SDGs” is from a practical point of view about how the land rights indicators should be operationalised. Dig in!