Wednesday, July 17, 2013
PUBLICATION: The global land grab: The new enclosures
A new piece by Liz Alden Wily puts the current state of global land deals in historical perspective.
In short, economic crises and shifts in the balance of political power once again produce seismic shifts in who owns and controls land, resources and production. But where are the poor and the commons in all this?
The answer is quite simple. Much of the lands being sold or leased to entrepreneurs are commons. This is not surprising because lands defined as commons in the modern agrarian world generally exclude permanent farms and settlements. Governments and investors prefer to avoid settled lands as their dispossession is most likely to provoke resistance. They also want to avoid having to pay compensation for huts and standing crops, or for relocation. Only the unfarmed commons – the forest/woodlands, rangelands and wetlands, can supply the thousands of hectares large-scale investors want. But most of all, the commons are deemed “vacant and available.” For the laws of most host lessor states still treat all customarily-owned lands and unfarmed lands in particular as unowned, unoccupied and idle. As such they remain the property of the state. This makes their onward sale or lease to private investors perfectly legal. Indeed, without such legality in domestic land law, and investor-friendly international trade law to take their side in international courts if needed, no international or local investor would proceed.