Custodians of the Land, Defenders of our Future: A new era in the global land rush

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Since 2009, Oxfam and others have been raising the alarm about a great global land rush. Millions of hectares of land have been acquired by investors to meet rising demand for food and biofuels, or for speculation. This often happens at the expense of those who need the land most and are best placed to protect it: farmers, pastoralists, forest-dependent people, fisherfolk, and Indigenous Peoples. We are now entering an era of implementation as contracts are increasingly signed and work on projects is started. Up to 59 percent of these deals cover communal lands claimed by Indigenous Peoples and small communities. Yet only a fraction of deals have involved any real dialogue with local communities. The potential for escalating conflict is huge. Oxfam’s latest land rights campaign focuses on cases typical of the escalation we can expect. We are in the midst of the single biggest attack in the world today on people’s identity, rights, livelihoods and security, as well as our environment. They cannot afford to lose this fight, nor can we. This publication is a contribution to the Land Rights Now campaign. For more information, please visit www.landrightsnow.org
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  Custodians of the land, defenders of our future   A new era of the global land rush  This publication is a contribution to the Land Rights Now campaign.For more information, please visit www.landrightsnow.org  Since 2009, Oxfam and others have been raising the alarm about a great global land rush. Millions of hectares of land have been acquired by investors to meet rising demand for food and biofuels, or for speculation. This often happens at the expense of those who need the land most and are best placed to protect it: farmers, pastoralists, forest-dependent people, fisherfolk, and indigenous peoples. LAND RIGHTS IGNORED The most comprehensive analysis of land deals - to be published next month - shows that we are now entering an era of implementation as contracts are increasingly signed and work on their intended projects started. This means we will see their full implications in the years to come. Up to 59 percent of these deals cover communal lands claimed by Indigenous Peoples and small communities, meaning that millions are affected. Yet only a small fraction of deals have involved any real dialogue with local communities. The potential for escalating conflict is huge. Oxfam’s latest land rights campaign focuses on cases typical of the escalation we can expect. Women left behind. Rights ignored. Entire communities evicted from their homes. We are in the midst of the single biggest attack in the world today on people’s identity, rights, livelihoods and security, as well as our environment. They cannot afford to lose this fight, nor can we. A Garífuna girl in the streets of the community of Vallecito, Honduras. These lands have belonged to her people for centuries, but are now under threat from palm oil plantations.  Miriam Miranda (above) leads a group defending the lands of Afro-Honduran communities against theft and exploitation, called the ‘Fraternal Organization of Black People of Honduras’ (OFRANEH). More than 100 land rights defenders have been murdered in Honduras in the past six years—including Miranda’s close friend, Berta Cáceres. At the World Bank Group’s 2015 Spring Meetings, Oxfam proudly hosted Miranda so that she could lobby against the World Bank’s support for the palm oil plantations affecting the lands of her people. That same year, OFRANEH won the US Food Sovereignty Prize for its struggle to reclaim control of their food systems. ‘Without our lands, we cease to be people,’ Miranda told an interviewer. ‘For us, the struggle for our territories, our commons and our natural resources is of primary importance to preserve ourselves as a people.’ She added, ‘I want to talk about the role of women in defending life, culture, and territories, opposing a model of death that grows stronger each day. We are at the front of the avalanche of attacks. Everywhere throughout Honduras, like in all of Latin America, Africa, Asia, women are at the forefront of the struggles for our rights, against racial discrimination, for the defence of our commons and for our survival. We’re at the front not only with our bodies but also with our force, our ideas, our proposals. We don’t only birth children, but ideas and actions as well.’‘If the problem is global, we have to have a global response.’ 1 Governments and powerful business interests are marginalizing up to 2.5 billion women and men from their lands. 2 It is the single biggest attack in the world today on people’s identity, rights, livelihoods and security, as well as our environment.A diverse campaign of terror and displacement is taking place across many countries, driven by greed and impunity. People are being beaten, forcibly evicted, intimidated, disenfranchised, criminalized, tricked, discriminated against, and denied their rights. Experts from Global Witness track the assassination of land and environmental defenders. In 2015, more than two land or environmental defenders were killed each week, almost half of whom were from indigenous communities. 3 The attacks on the custodians of common lands are helped by weak and pitiless governments, and dodgy lending. Big businesses are reaping the profits—from mining and logging companies, to agribusinesses and speculators. The prize is land – and the resources that lie above and below it: forests, minerals, water and the very soil itself. For every win in their existential struggle for recognition and safety, indigenous peoples and other groups who depend upon common lands suffer crushing This briefing is dedicated to Berta Cáceres and other land rights defenders who have been killed for their cause. It sets out the struggle as epitomized by Miranda, the Garífuna people she represents, and the thousands of other indigenous and community groups fighting for their land rights around the world.
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