I am worried. A consensus is emerging among the international institutions about the need to guide investment in agriculture in order to ensure that it shall proceed responsibly, and many of us are here today because they wish to contribute to shaping this consensus. But at the same time, many civil society groups and farmers’ organisations, including the most representative among them, denounce ‘land-grabbing’. Indeed, they denounce the very idea of adopting a code of conduct. They see this as legitimizing what, in their view, should not be allowed : depriving the poorest from their access to land, and increasing concentration of resources in the hands of a minority.
They see, as we all do, that all too often, notions such as ‘reserve agricultural land’, or ‘idle land’, are manipulated out of existence – as the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources before us rightly note, ‘that there are few areas truly ‘unoccupied’ or “unclaimed”, and that frequently land classified as such is, in fact, subject to long-standing rights of use, access and management based on custom’.
They see that the requirement that evictions take place only for a valid ‘public purpose’, against fair compensation, and following consultation of those affected, is honored more in the breach than in the observance. They live on the frontline : in countries in Africa where land is considered to be State-owned, and treated by governments as if is it were their own ; in Latin America, where agrarian concentration is on the rise ; or in South Asia, where many populations are being driven off their land as we speak, to make room for large palm oil plantations, for special economic zones, or for reforestration projects.