Thursday, February 2, 2012

Outcomes from the IHRB Roundtable on Business, Land Acquisition and Land Use

By Christian Schulze

On behalf of LandNet Rwanda Chapter, Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD), attended the consultative meeting on the draft ‘Guidelines for Business on Land Acquisition and Use’ of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) on January 27 in Kampala (Uganda). 

Dialogue and stakeholder consultation

The roundtable in Kampala brought together a group of participants from civil society and business to provide feedback into the draft document from an East African perspective with a view of finalizing the draft for the launch of the final report in September 2012. The event followed earlier convenings on this subject organized by the Institute for Human Rights and Business in Manesar, India (June 2009), Bogota, Colombia (May 2010), Johannesburg, South Africa (November 2010) and Naivasha, Kenya (February 2011). 

Based on these dialogues and recommendations made by various stakeholders the IHRB has now developed a set of draft guidelines and a framework which addresses human rights abuses with regards to land and human rights, including processes before acquisition, during acquisition, and after operations have commenced and, if necessary, relocation and rehabilitation arranged and compensation paid. 

Participants expressed clearly the need to find a solution for the issue of human rights violations caused by land investments and valued the meeting as successful. The approach of targeting business directly was appreciated and many suggestions were made towards strengthening the draft document and to find suitable and long lasting solutions, based on the respective regional land issue experiences shared from Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya (e.g. relevance of land for the livelihood; protection of vulnerable groups; land registration; land use planning; expropriation and compensation; definition of “public use of land”). The IHRB valued the discussions and input given by participants as extremely useful and promised to incorporate most of the feedback into the document. 

Identified Challenges

The main challenge found by participants, is to assure effective enforcement of the guidelines as their implementation just relies on the commitment of the respective businesses. Neither the governments of the country affected by land investment, nor the country where the business is seated are taken into any responsibility to help to move the guidelines from statement into action. In this regards some participants doubted that the guidelines, in their current status, will have a large impact as they are not addressing governments, which were identified as key actor in regard to end human and land rights violations in the region. It was therefore criticized that no government representatives were amongst the participants to share their views.  

Recommendations and the way forward

In general the consultative meeting was successful and valued as useful by the majority of the participants. There is hope that the implementation of the Guidelines on Business, Land Acquisition and Land Use through business entities will contribute to the strengthening and securing of the vital human rights of land owners affected by investment in land. Participants recommended to the meeting organizers to incorporate governments into the dialogue and consultation process to bring them on board as soon as possible. Especially government agencies responsible for attracting investors to invest in the country (e. g. Rwanda Development Board) should be at least aware of the guidelines and in the ideal case should take them as basis for cooperation with investors. 

It was also stressed that the guidelines should not only focus on foreign investment in land as many reported cases of “land-grabbing” in the region can be traced back to local investors or even local governments.
The Institute for Human Rights and Business will incorporate most of the feedback into the document and keep participants informed of next steps towards the launch of the final report in September 2012.

Further comments can be sent to until February 29, 2012.

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