Land deals hero image
Global Witness/Chris Kelly

Commercial pressure to produce agricultural commodities like palm oil and rubber has been cranking up demand for land, and further concentrating resources in the hands of an elite few. Our work has exposed the secret deals struck between governments and investors, robbing communities of land that’s rightfully theirs.

Imagine waking up one day to be told that the land that your family has lived on for generations has been leased to developers. You have to be out by the time the bulldozers arrive next week. You can’t see the documents behind the deal, and you won’t be getting compensation. And if you don’t go quietly, soldiers will make you wish you had. This is the reality for those at the sharp end of land grabs.

Global Witness has for years been documenting land grabbing in countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Liberia, where governments strike secretive deals with agribusiness companies for land at the expense of communities that have relied on it for generations.

As investors scramble to acquire cheap land for everything from food to biofuel plantations to mining, the market has been moving much faster than regulators can, leaving behind a murky trade controlled by powerful and often corrupt elites.

Our 2016 report Tainted lands outlined how corruption has fuelled the global land grabbing crisis, which has seen millions of people displaced from their homes and farm land. We have pushed for solutions to fix the system at the national and international levels. In Dealing with Disclosure, for example, we set out practical steps for governments and companies to make land deals fair and open.

We continue our work to protect and raise the voices of land and environmental defenders who are being threatened and criminalised for standing up to irresponsible business, and to hold companies to account for the impact of the operations on people and planet, including through land grabs.

Indecent Exposure

How EU investors and their subsidiaries are helping to bankroll human rights abuses and environmental destruction
Land grab