Urges Transparency and Regulation to Protect Rights, Prevent Further Food Insecurity
New York, October 28, 2010—Companies and states investing in large-scale land deals must be held to
standards of transparency and accountability to ensure that these deals do not threaten human rights and
food security, said the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at NYU School of Law in a
report released at a public launch today.
The 118-page Report, “Foreign Land Deals and Human Rights: Case Studies on Agricultural and Biofuel
Investment,” examines both the immediate and anticipated impacts of large-scale land deals on the
fulfillment of human rights in host communities. Based on a year-long study, the Report includes four case
studies that evaluate, in unprecedented detail, investments in biofuels, food crops, timber, and carbon
credits in Tanzania, Sudan, Mali, and Pakistan—countries that suffer from acute poverty, food insecurity,
and in some cases, are still in fragile, post-crisis transitions. According to the Report, these factors
heighten the risk of serious human rights consequences for the host communities of these investments,
which makes the call for transparency and regulation all the more urgent.
“Although investments in agriculture are sorely needed in the Global South, they should not occur at the
expense of the human rights of local populations,” stated Olivier De Schutter, the current United Nations
Special Rapporteur on the right to food, who contributed a foreword to the report. “The large-scale
industrial farming model being pushed by powerful economic actors is already responsible for one-third of
man-made greenhouse gas emissions today and further marginalizes small-scale, family farmers.”
According to the World Bank, foreign investors targeted more than 42 million acres of agricultural land
from October 2008 through August 2009, representing nearly 10 percent of all non-cultivated arable land
worldwide. As CHRGJ’s case studies show, these deals often lack transparency and take place in
environments that lack oversight and regulation, with potentially grave consequences on food security and
human rights, including the right to food; the right to water; the right to non-discrimination; and the right to
be free from forced evictions.
Among other issues, the report features how:
• In Tanzania, investments by Swedish companies in sugarcane-ethanol production may threaten
local water supplies and have, to date, proceeded without clear community consent.
• In Southern Sudan, at a time of acute political fragility in the region, a Norwegian company has
secured a 99-year lease to approximately 179,000 hectares (250 square miles) of land for tree
plantations and carbon credits. Despite the substantial scale of this project, the investment
agreement is strikingly vague in defining commitments to host communities.
• In Pakistan, thousands of villages in Punjab province alone may be displaced as a result of Gulf
State investors acquiring some of the country’s most fertile land for export-oriented agriculture.
By way of contrast, the report also features a project set in Mali, where a firm financed by the Dutch
government has worked with local farming cooperatives to produce biodiesel in a manner that meets the
host community’s energy needs without reducing local production of food crops, and also gives those
farming the land some stake in the company.
“Collectively, the case studies reveal that large-scale land investments are a growing trend characterized by
a lack of transparency and regulation, with the potential to deeply affect human rights,” said CHRGJ
Faculty Director and one of the Report’s co-authors, Smita Narula. “Serious limits need to be placed on
these investments until the proper legal and regulatory frameworks are in place to ensure the rights of host
The report offers concrete recommendations for how companies and states alike can live up to their
responsibilities to respect and protect human rights in the context of foreign land deals.
For more about CHRGJ, see: www.chrgj.org
About the Center
The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law was
established in 2002 to bring together the law school’s teaching, research, clinical, internship, and
publishing activities around issues of international human rights law. Through its litigation, advocacy, and
research work, CHRGJ plays a critical role in identifying, denouncing, and fighting human rights abuses in
several key areas of focus, including: Business and Human Rights; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
Caste Discrimination; Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism; Extrajudicial Executions; and Transitional
Justice. Philip Alston and Ryan Goodman are the Center’s Faculty Chairs; Smita Narula and Margaret
Satterthwaite are Faculty Directors; Jayne Huckerby is Research Director; and Veerle Opgenhaffen is
Senior Program Director.