Companies acquiring land may impact human rights, including by disrupting the livelihoods of local communities by not establishing the ownership and use of lands before purchase, or by providing inadequate compensation for loss of or damage to land caused by company operations.
Companies can also fail to obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous communities when accessing or impacting their lands. The practice of corporate land grabbing in particular involves forced displacement, which can leave people without a home or means of employment.
In 2017, four people a week, including a number of indigenous people, were killed worldwide protecting their land from business exploitation. Extractive industries around the world, agribusiness in Latin America and illegal wildlife trade in Africa were the biggest drivers of violence over access to land for resources that year. Women also face higher risks of eviction as they are less likely to have formal land titles or the opportunity to participate in negotiations.
While there is no explicit broad right to land under international human rights law, several international human rights instruments link land issues to the enjoyment of specific substantive human rights, including of indigenous peoples and the rural poor, and are based on secure and equitable access to and control over land.
Responsible investments should do no harm, safeguard against the dispossession of legitimate tenure right holders and environmental damage, and should respect human rights. Effectively addressing land tenure challenges can help companies support more sustainable development outcomes in communities where they and their suppliers operate.
- Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2012.
- Guidance Note 5: Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement, International Finance Corporation (IFC), 2012.
- Land and Human Rights, Standards and Application, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR), 2015.