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24/02/2016 LANDac-IASC co-organized panel

LANDac and the International Association for the study of the commons (IASC) are co-organizing a panel during a European Regional IASC conference in Bern, Switzerland, from 10-13 May 2016:

Large scale investments in land and Infrastructure in Africa, Asia and Latin America: what are the consequences for the commons – what is the maneuvering space for collective action?

Central question: What are the implications of large scale investments in land and infrastructure for the commons – what is the maneuvering space for collective action ? What new kind of civic-public and civic-private partnership do we see, what do these mean for local people’s capacity to develop their own plans – What are the consequences for ‘development as a freedom’?

European companies and funding agencies (often under the cover of various public –private partnerships) are very much involved in large scale investments in land and infrastructure development in various African, Asian and Latin American countries. Large-scale land investments in food and biofuels, but also in urban infrastructure, hydrodams, tourism complexes etc. are contributing to the rapid transformation of the landscapes, restricting people’s access to open commons (land, water, forests etc.) and leading to enclosures and fragmentation or competing claims. Local groups are increasingly under pressure as the consequence of three spatial trends which each is limiting local people’s manoeuvring space (Zoomers 2010): The rapid expansion of food and biofuels promote worldwide ‘monocultivation’, i.e., expansion of the areas used for industrial monocrops, for example soya, oil palm and sugar cane (Borras & Franco 2014; Budidarsono et al. 2014; Cotula 2012, 2014). Even though this might contribute to economic growth (employment, income etc.), it often goes at the cost of freedom of choice. Becoming an outgrower or plantation worker is the only way to benefit, but producing monocrops often make producers more vulnerable (price and climate variability). Second, there is a rapid increase of ‘no-go areas’ as consequence of large scale investments in (eco)-tourism and, in particular, the boom of REDD+ in the context of climate mitigation. Facilitated through multilateral funding for reducing forest emissions, thousands of forest emission projects are currently being implemented on large areas of land in countries with remaining forest frontiers. Even though local people are supposed to share the benefits (e.g. providing ecological services), levels of remuneration are low and the cost of losing access to common pool resources is often higher than the benefits. In addition, large-scale tourism development (usually at beautiful sites) is occurring in many countries, and is often followed by real estate booms and rapidly rising land prices. In addition, processes of landscape destruction are increasingly a cause of exclusion and displacement. Governments in countries such as Mozambique, Peru, Indonesia, Zambia and Nigeria have generously provided enormous concessions for the exploitation of oil, gas, bauxite, etc. In countries such as China, Vietnam, Brazil and Ecuador, large-scale investments are made in hydropower dams, often in the context of climate change mitigation (green energy), forcing local people to move or become resettled (Pham Huu 2015; Tanner & Allouche 2011). Local groups are at best compensated for their loss of land, but the amount they receive is in many cases not enough to rebuild their livelihood in new locations.

In this panel we aim to analyse the consequences of large-scale investments in land and infrastructure, by focusing in particular on what happens to the commons (local people’s access and use of natural resources). Current discussions are very much driven by questions such as how to stimulate ‘green inclusive growth’, ‘protecting local people’s rights’ (FPIC etc.) and taking care of ‘fair’ compensation. But what are the implications for local people’s manoeuvring space to ‘have the life they value – their capacity to develop their own plans and pursueing collective action? What new kind of civic-public and civic-private partnership do we see, what kind of negotiations are taking place? Do these help to defend ‘development as a freedom’?

Contributions by:

Hsing-Sheng Tai: “Commons, local people, and collective action amid large scale investments: an indigenous case study from Taiwan”

Christoph Oberlack: “Sustainable livelihoods through large-scale land acquisitions? Patterns, processes and potentials”,

Elyne Doornbos”Defending Social and Environmental Justice: Land Grabbing, Instrumental Freedoms & Politics ‘from below’ in the Context of Nicaragua’s Interoceanic Gran Canal”.

Dear Dr. Esther Leemann – Collective Action against Policies of Exclusionary Development in Cambodia”, has been uploaded properly.

Murtah Read tbc

Kei Otsuki and Annelies Zoomers