Why we oppose the principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI)

LRAN | Saturday 9 October 2010


FIAN International * Focus on the Global South * La Via Campesina Social Network for Justice and Human Rights (REDE SOCIAL)

In recent years a new development has emerged, commonly known as “the global land grab.” With this new development, it has increasingly been acknowledged that large-scale investments in agricultural lands can have negative impacts in terms of human rights, social cohesion, sustainable food production, household food security and environmental protection for the receiving/host country. Declaring a concern to mitigate the negative impacts of such investments, various international institutions and national governments have called for guidelines, codes of conduct or principles to govern these investments.

The World Bank (WB) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) were among the first proponents of such a perspective. The “Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources” (RAI), now jointly promoted since January 2010 by the WB, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), is the most advanced initiative in this respect.

In a public statement released in April 2010, La Via Campesina, FIAN International, the Land Research and Action Network, GRAIN and others strongly rejected the RAI as it is a move to try to legitimize what is absolutely unacceptable: the long-term corporate (foreign and domestic) takeover of rural people's farmlands.

In this brie?ng, this rejection is reiterated: The seven principles are constructed to look reasonable and persuasive, even though they are not. It is particularly problematic to advance principles supposedly meant to guide certain policy measures knowing very well that these principles are utterly inadequate as regulation of policies that violate human rights and international law.

States are duty-bound under international law, in particular Art. 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), as interpreted in the General Comment 12 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in the FAO Right to Food Guidelines 8, to carry out agrarian reforms safeguarding people?s access to land and to other appropriate means of production, allowing them to feed themselves and the populations of their countries in dignity. Taking into consideration future land needs of rural populations (the African population for example will double between 2010 and 2050), safeguarding land reserves for these populations is imperative. Land grabbing forecloses vast stretches of lands for current and future use by peasants and nomads, and therefore is in breach of these obligations. This fact cannot be remedied by any “principle.” Violations of international law are also implied by a number of aspects connected to land grabbing such as the deprivation of peoples of their means of livelihood, the introduction of non-sustainable forms of agriculture that destroy local natural resources, forced evictions without proper rehabilitation and compensation, denial of information, and prevention of participation in political decisions affecting one?s lives.

This brie?ng is meant to show the fundamental ?aws and short-comings of both, the RAI initiative and of the RAI principles themselves, principle by principle. In a second step, we will raise the institutional and procedural problems related to the way this initiative has come about.

Download the full briefing (1.3MB PDF)

Table: A comparison between FAO Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Land and Natural Resources Tenure and Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources (100Kb PDF)
  •   LRAN
  • 09 October 2010
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