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Responsible land-based investments in the Mekong region

A comparative analysis of the legal frameworks of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam










de Andrade Correa, F. and Jansen, L.J.M. 2021. Responsible land-based investments in the Mekong region – A comparative analysis of the legal frameworks of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam. Rome. FAO.




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    The 2008 global food price crisis, and the resurgence of food prices in 2010-2011, caused both widespread concern and expectations. On the one hand, countries whose food supply depends on procuring food from international markets saw food price spikes as threats to their national food security. On the other hand, investors saw in these price spikes an opportunity to make profitable investments in agriculture. Either as threat or opportunity, food price spikes raised interest in Africa, whose lands are fertile and have unrealised potential. Concerns of a possible land acquisitions in Africa, and in particular the impacts of Large-Scale Land-Based Investments in Agriculture (LSLBIA) on local communities, became prominent policy and academic themes. Unfortunately, quantifying the phenomenon has proved hard due to the difficulty of finding empirical evidence. As a result, debates are either theoretical or based on anecdotal evidence. This publication thus explores a different path, and explores the reasons why entities from China and South Africa were interested in investing in African agriculture. This publication examines the reasons why investors were interested in Africa, and the relationship that these bear to The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (the ‘Voluntary Guidelines’ or ‘VGGT’). While primarily aimed at governments, the VGGT also contain important provisions that are applicable to the private sector. They focus on helping investors pursue their projects in ways that recognise and respect legitimate tenure rights and human rights. In addition, the VGGT also contain provisions and encourages good practices for responsible investment in land, forests and fisheries. The VGGT are a valuable tool for helping investors minimise risk while also safeguarding the rights of local communities. China and South Africa represent important sources of LSLBIA in Africa, although the bulk of such investment comes from western countries. Their investment may intensify in the future for a variety of reasons. First, China has the third largest land area in the world but its expansion through additional land use is limited. Second, the dual agricultural economy of South Africa is preventing commercial farming located in well-endowed areas from expanding into remote, resource-poor areas where small-scale subsistence-based production is prevalent. This publication assesses the extent to which selected investors from China and South Africa and the governments of those countries have adopted the best practices represented by the VGGT in relation to LSLBIA in
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    Support to Strengthen Governance of Tenure through the Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure Of Land, Fisheries and Forests in Tanzania - TCP/URT/3702 2021
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    Land has played a critical role in the development of the United Republic of Tanzania, with the roots of land tenure frameworks, issues and conflicts dating back hundreds of years Current land laws in the country are seen as progressive policies and legislation recognize the equal rights to land of men and women, including unregistered rights under customary laws, and any transfer of rights requires the consent of local people In practice, however, land tenure rights are disputed among village, district and national administrative authorities, and conflicts over land are common, widespread and sometimes violent Policy deficiencies and contradictions, weak policy and institutional frameworks, and poor governance have together resulted in tenure insecurity The country has recently updated its National Land Policy 1995 and made significant investments in land programmes In recognition of FAO’s role as a neutral partner and of its broad expertise in land tenure and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security ( in particular, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania requested FAO to provide support to the process of implementing the new National Land Policy The VGGT set out principles and internationally accepted standards for responsible practices They are a framework that actors can use when developing their own strategies, policies, legislation and programmes They allow government authorities, the private sector, civil society and citizens to judge whether their proposed actions and the actions of others constitute acceptable practices In November 2017 in collaboration with MLHHSD, FAO held a technical workshop on the implementation of the VGGT in the country, at which the Government ensured its support to FAO Areas defined as important were the regularization of customary land, the resolution of land conflicts, including through Alternative Dispute Resolution ( methods, land use planning and land based investments.
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    The Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure (VGGT) state that responsible investments should do no harm, and safeguard against dispossession of legitimate tenure right holders. They also embody international legal provisions requiring the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from Indigenous Peoples to any project that may affect them. This course explains the underlying principles of FPIC, and sets forth practical actions that government agencies, civil society organizations, land users and private investors can take to ensure that FPIC is integrated into their operations.

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