Many stakeholders are concerned about large-scale land acquisitions. Communities, civil society organizations, and donors are worried, but so too is the private sector. A story from the CSR Asia notes the risks investors may face when they negotiate rights to use or purchase land. The story relates one example from Vietnam of a property development that actually won an Asia Pacific Property Award earlier this year for “best practices in the real estate sector across the world.” Unfortunately, the development was built on lands expropriated from locals who were irate about their loss – so angry that their protest march had to be broken up with tear gas and thousands of police. The story points out that: “[i]n Vietnam, it is estimated that 80 percent of all complaints filed to the government are related to land disputes and recent years have seen a growing number of protests by residents who are not happy with the compensation provided. Of course, land and potential disputes are not specific to Vietnam.“ Very true. Around the world, but particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, the number of such disputes is rising. To better address these concerns, and the risks they represent, the story suggests companies take the ISO 26000 Standards on Social Responsibility into account as well as the IFC’s Performance Standards. The story does not mention the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, but this new international agreement advances principles related to the recognition and respect for customary and informal land rights and for the land rights of women and vulnerable groups. Working in collaboration with local people to develop a more accurate and nuanced picture of the local property rights environment, and finding ways to direct more benefits towards communities, is essential for concerned and responsible investors.
October 18, 2012