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'Land grabbing' and international investment law: toward a global reconfiguration of property?

Lorenzo Cotula


This yearbook chapter discusses the link between international investment law and commercial pressures on the world’s natural resources. It argues that changes in legal frameworks are redefining control over natural resources, and facilitating transitions toward more commercialised land relations. As pressures on resources increase, many national laws undermine the rights of people impacted by investments. If not properly thought through, international treaties to protect foreign investment could compound shortcomings of local and national governance. Addressing these issues requires a holistic understanding of the interplay of national and international law. Ongoing debates about reforming the investment treaty regime need to consider the on-the-ground reality of investment processes in low and middle-income countries. At the same time, only by tackling the international dimensions will it be possible to secure land rights at the grassroots.

A Q&A on Law in the natural resource squeeze: ‘land grabbing’, investment treaties and human rights (first link below) provides a fuller summary of the main findings.

The yearbook is available to purchase from Oxford University Press.

Publication information

  • IIED code: G04091
  • Published: Oct 2016 - Oxford University Press
  • Area: South America, Africa, Europe, USA
  • Themes: Land acquisitions and rights, Law
  • Source pub: Yearbook on International Investment Law & Policy 2014-2015
  • Language: English

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Cotula, L. (2016) "'Land grabbing' and international investment law: toward a global reconfiguration of property?" in Bjorklund, A.K. (ed.) Yearbook on International Investment Law & Policy 2014-2015, Oxford University Press

Project information

Commercial land concessions may be protected under international investment treaties, with important implications for local land relations. Securing land rights requires tackling these global dimensions.

More at www.iied.org:
Land rights and investment treaties

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