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Legal empowerment for local resource control: Securing local resource rights within foreign investment projects in Africa

Lorenzo Cotula

Book/Report, 127 pages

This report draws lessons from experience of using legal processes to secure local resource rights within the context of foreign investment projects in Africa. Security of local resource rights is a major challenge in many parts of Africa. The analysis of relevant law reveals that resource rights associated with more powerful interests (foreign investment) tend to enjoy greater legal protection compared to those held by local resource users. However, legal tools accompanied by adequate capacity-building efforts can help redress this imbalance and strengthen protection of local resource rights. By increasing local resource control, effective use of these tools can help disadvantaged groups gain greater control over their lives (“legal empowerment”). The report will be of interest to development lawyers, development practitioners working at a macro-planning level, and researchers. The report sets out the case for taking law seriously as a tool for empowerment and positive change, it also argues that designing and implementing legal tools that deliver positive change depend not only on sound legal thinking, but also on tackling power relations and other social, cultural, political and economic factors that affect the way the law operates in practice. The report also contributes to ongoing debates on the relationship between law and power, through developing a conceptual framework and through linking this to the empirical analysis of law and power issues within foreign investment projects in Africa.

This report has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.

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