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Community Action

How to help communities protect their lands

Rachael Knight's picture
Kenya Land Alliance facilitates a meeting
with the community of Chara, in Tana
River county

The scale of the global land grab is staggering. While international actors have made excellent progress establishing complaint boards, issuing principles for responsible investment, and securing commitments from multi­national corporations, these protections do not chart a clear course of action that communities can follow to protect their lands and natural resources before an investor arrives seeking land. 

The problem is that once an investor arrives to “consult with” a community, it may be too late.  After a deal has been made in capital city conference rooms or in clandestine meetings between chiefs and company representatives, communities are forced on the defensive. At this point, all they can do is try to mitigate the negative impacts of investors' plans rather than assertively proclaiming their legal rights, demanding that the investor abide by FPIC principles, and then choosing whether to reject the investment or accept it on terms that ensure that the community benefits and prospers.

Meanwhile, many of the “investors” grabbing land are national or local elites unaccountable to international  institutions  –  the cousin of the President or the nephew  of the Minister – who operate with complete impunity, protected by powerful connections to government, the judiciary and the police. Such individuals do not answer to shareholders or complaint boards, and are not the least bit concerned with principles of corporate social responsibility. If a community’s land claims  are unrecognized or undocumented – and if the community’s leadership is weak or corrupt – the easier it is for these elites to manipulate their power to claim what land they want.

To have a fighting chance against elites’ bad­faith actions, communities must proactively take steps to know and enforce their rights, prevent their leaders from transacting land without community approval, and seek legal recognition of their land claims.  And they must do so before elites and investors arrive. 

#7 from 2014: Being a Guide Can Be More Rewarding than Running a Marathon on One's Own

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
This post was originally posted on November 17, 2014


I'm often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder the question. What exactly do I think about when I'm running? I don't have a clue.”    ― Haruki Murakami
 
This reflection was inspired by the contemporary Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, in his 2009 memoir on his obsession with running and writing while training for the New York City Marathon entitled “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”
 
I only read two books in my life in one sitting: Quo Vadis by the Polish Novelist and Nobel Prize Laureate, Henryk Sienkiewicz, and now Marakami’s funny and sobering, playful and philosophical personal contemplation. One of the reasons why I enjoyed the story is the fact that Tokyo, New York City and Boston are cities to which I have special sentiment. Tokyo due to its magnificence as the Mega City, The Big Apple is a place where both of my kids were born, and Boston due to my daughter’s Alma Mater, which instilled in her the joy of running along the Charles River banks in Cambridge.
 
I am a former track cyclist, where speed is the winning factor; as such endurance competition translates to me as boredom and long, self-imposed unnecessary torture. My relationship with sport is love-hate mixed with a lack of interest on a good day, but when I am in, I am into it big time. In my wildest dreams, I would not have dared to envision myself as a marathon runner, but what is so appealing in it: to do something which seems impossible. I was always fascinated with the notion of turning the impossible into the possible, and I was blessed to get a semi-regular taste of these sweet moments in my life.

How Can Aid Agencies Promote Local Governance and Accountability? Lessons from Oxfam’s Work in Five Countries

Duncan Green's picture

Community discussion class participants in Bardiya village talk about their plans for building a community clinic.Oxfam is publishing a fascinating new series of case studies today, describing its programme work on local governance and community action. There are case studies from Nepal (women's rights, see photo), Malawi (access to medicines), Kenya (tracking public spending), Viet Nam (community participation) and Tanzania (the ubiquitous Chukua Hatua project), and a very wise (and mercifully brief) overview paper from power and governance guru Jo Rowlands. Here are some highlights:

“Governance is about the formal or informal rules, systems and structures under which human societies are organised, and how they are (or are not) implemented. It affects all aspects of human society – politics, economics and business, culture, social interaction, religion, and security - at all levels, from the most global to the very local."