Land Grabs Cause Lingering SE Asia Conflicts

Via Seed Daily, commentary on the impact of land grabs in SE Asia:

Three-quarters of around 50 conflicts that have erupted in Southeast Asia since 2001 pitting mining, logging or agribusiness giants against indigenous peoples protesting land grabs are still lingering today, researchers reported Tuesday.

Only six such clashes have been resolved, while others have resulted in lawsuits, damaged corporate reputations, abandoned projects, and even loss of life, according to a report keyed to the launch of the first global institution dedicated to securing indigenous land rights.

Whether palm oil plantations in Indonesia, sugar farms in Cambodia, or hydroelectric dams in Myanmar, government-backed business ventures that drive local communities off their land tend to become festering hotspots.

“It’s tragic that we still see governments and private sector partners grabbing land, forcing out the inhabitants and levelling their forests,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Around the world, indigenous peoples are literally dying to project their lands.”

Nearly half the disputes analysed in Southeast Asia involved violence, and a fifth resulted in fatalities, according to a report by business risk analysts TMP Systems.

More often than not, these conflicts also take a toll on companies’ bottom line.

“There has always been a strong moral argument for respecting land tenure rights,” said lead author Ben Bowie.

“We show that there are also hard-headed financial arguments for doing the right thing.”

More than 50 percent of the conflicts across eight countries in Southeast Asia resulted in significant financial damage.

Some have also spawned name-and-shame campaigns by activist groups such as Oxfam or ActionAid targeting consumer brands that procure ingredients from companies embroiled in such disputes.

Two sugar-producing giants, British-based Tate & Lyle and Mitr Phol of Thailand, both became the subject of such campaigns.

“This has prompted upstream buyers such as Coca Cola and Pepsi to consider how much they source from these places,” Bowie said.

“That pressure is feeding down to producers.”

A parallel study of conflicts in Africa, published by TMP Systems earlier this year, found a similar pattern, though the level of violence was even higher.

On both continents, contested plantations were often close to national borders in remote zones where law enforcement is lax or absent, the studies revealed.

In Asia, Myanmar is emerging as a flashpoint as local communities battle land grabs by Chinese-owned energy projects, TMP Systems reported.

Backed by Norway, Sweden and major charities, the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility unveiled Tuesday provides funding and expertise to resolve conflicts over land tenure, drawing from methods tested in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“The Facility is really vital,” said Bowie, who has been tracking land-tenure conflicts for five years. “It can remove some of the preconditions to conflict.”

The Interlaken Group, an informal association of corporations, investment banks and major NGOs, also works to resolve disputes stemming from the land claims of indigenous peoples.

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Seeds Of A Revolution is committed to defining the disruptive geopolitics of the global Farms Race.  Due to the convergence of a growing world population, increased water scarcity, and a decrease in arable land & nutrient-rich soil, a spike of international investment interest in agricultural is inevitable and apt to bring a heretofore domestic industry into a truly global realm.  Whether this transition involves global land leases or acquisitions, the fundamental need for food & the protectionist feelings this need can give rise to is highly likely to cause such transactions to move quickly into the geopolitical realm.  It is this disruptive change, and the potential for a global farms race, that Seeds Of A Revolution tracks, analyzes, and forecasts.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has long held a keen interest in natural resource policy and the geopolitical implications of anticipated stresses in the areas of freshwater scarcity, biodiversity reserves & parks, and farm land.  Monty has lived, worked, and traveled in more than forty countries spanning Africa, China, western Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Southeast & Central Asia, and his personal interests comprise economic development, policy, investment, technology, natural resources, and the environment, with a particular focus on globalization’s impact upon these subject areas.  Monty writes about freshwater scarcity issues at and frontier investment markets at