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Land rights, international law and a shrinking planet

Lorenzo Cotula

Briefing, 4 pages

As the media spotlight on ‘land grabbing’ wanes, there are new opportunities to interrogate the deeper-level transformations in control over natural resources at local to global levels. The effects of some land deals are now visible on the ground. Lands previously used for common grazing or foraging have been converted to monoculture, although only a fraction of the land acquired has been cultivated. Other, less tangible but equally important, changes are also taking place. These are shifting the balance between competing natural resource claims — for example, between local land rights and commercial land concessions — and between private interests and public authority. Developments in international law are shaping these shifts while also creating new spaces for contestation and accountability.

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