Understanding land politics

20 ဧပြီလ 2021
Article

TNI has a long track record of working on land politics within the broader context of agrarian and environmental justice. Many of these have been produced with transnational agrarian movements and partners on the ground. Here, we highlight five key readings (and some further recommended readings!) that TNI has published over the years.

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Photo credit Pixabay
Land politics - who controls what land, for how long, for what purposes and who benefits – is a central dynamic shaping the lives of many rural and urban working peoples across the world. This holds true in the current moment as the global pandemic and accompanying economic hardship has gone hand in hand with rising food insecurity, the disruption of long-distance supply chains, mass protests and farmers’ mobilisations, and the growing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. As we seek to understand what these dynamics will mean for small-scale food producers and workers around the world, a closer examination of key issues within land politics can help to make sense of the present. 
 
TNI has a long track record of working on land politics within the broader context of agrarian and environmental justice. Many of these have been produced with transnational agrarian movements and partners on the ground. Here, we highlight five key readings (and some further recommended readings!) that TNI has published over the years:
 

1. Agrarian climate justice: Imperative and Opportunity (2018)

Global pressure on land and natural resources is mounting, with mainstream narratives about climate change often intensifying pressure to replace so-called "inefficient" users of land, including small farmers and pastoralists with market-based dynamics and actors. This dynamic makes the pursuit of socially just land policy ever more important and urgent, while at the same time creating new challenges. The fundamental connections and tensions between agrarian and climate justice must be reckoned with, and movements on both sides must deepen their understanding. This working paper aims to foster the dialogue between agrarian and climate justice movements in the ongoing pursuit of alternatives. 
 
Recommended further reading:

 

2. The Meaning of Land in Myanmar (2016) 

“Land is like our vein; it is vital for our living. After our land was confiscated, we don’t know what to do for our livelihood,” says a farmer from Kachin State in Myanmar. Even before the military coup of 1 February 2021, many inhabitants of rural communities in Myanmar have lived under threat of losing their lands in a battle for resources spurred by ethnic conflict, exploitative land laws, and powerful economic actors. The existence of a legal right to the land does not translate into that right being respected in practice, and people across the country are now working to protect their right to the land. This primer examines why land is such a burning issue in Myanmar, how it relates to debates on development, and what steps people are taking to express and assert their human right to land.
 
Recommended further reading:
 

3. Reclaiming Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the context of global land grabs (2014)

The jury is still out on Free Pior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Will it ‘help’ or ‘hurt’ the cause of agrarian justice? The dilemmas and challenges of using FPIC are already surfacing and warrant closer attention – precisely because of what is at stake: what development, for whom and what purposes, how and where, and with what implications? In this political brief it is argued that FPIC is neither inherently ‘good’ nor inherently ‘bad’ from an agrarian justice point of view. Whether, how and to what extent FPIC processes can lead to outcomes that enhance agrarian justice will depend in part on the specific context in which they occur, and in part on whether and how pro-agrarian justice activists engage with them.
 
Recommended further reading:
 

4. The Global Land Grab (2012) 

Following the 2008-2009 converging financial-food-feed-fuel crises, land grabbing emerged as a major flashpoint in international politics. TNI’s primer is a concise and indispensable critical guide to the global phenomenon of land grabbing. Find out how the global land grab is justified, what is driving it, why transparency and guidelines won't stop it, and learn about alternatives that could enable people and communities to regain control of their land and territories.

Recommended further reading: 
 

5. Competing political tendencies in the global governance of land grabbing (2012)

The emergence of ‘flex crops and commodities’ within a fluid international food regime transition, the rise of BRICS and middle income countries, and the re-valued role of nation-states are critical context for land grabbing. These global transformations, that shape and are reshaped by contemporary land grabbing, have resulted in the emergence of competing interpretations of the meaning of such changes, making the already complex governance terrain even more complicated. We are witnessing a three-way political contestation at the global level to control the character, pace, and trajectory of discourse, and the instruments in and practice of land governance. Future trajectories in land grabbing and its governance will be shaped partly by the balance of state and social forces within and between these three political tendencies. Given that this is a still-unfolding global development, this paper offers a preliminary analysis by mapping under-explored areas of inquiry and puts forward initial ways of questioning, rather than firm arguments based on complete empirical material.
 
Recommended further reading:
 
  • The BICAS (BRICS Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies) working paper series looks at the role of BRICS within the context of emerging agro-commodity frontiers and new investment webs associated with e.g. soy, rubber and industrial tree plantations
  • Protecting Injustice looks at how property regimes around land and natural resources are taking shape in the current conjuncture and who stands to benefit and to lose from these changes