Historic dialogue about land rights: Ploumen gets stakeholders round the table

For the first time ever, businesses, knowledge institutes, civil society organisations and government are meeting together to discuss land rights in developing countries. On Tuesday 26 August at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, some 40 stakeholders will sit round the table, chaired by foreign trade and development cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen.

‘It is extremely important for businesses and NGOs – which were apt to ignore each other in the past – to get talking,’ the minister explained. ‘Only by effectively sharing information and working together can we take steps to promote respect for the land rights of indigenous peoples.’

Many financial institutions and other businesses invest in companies specialised in the large-scale production of palm oil, sugarcane or soya in developing countries, or in major infrastructure projects such as ports, dams or urban expansion. All too often, during the implementation phase, the land rights of indigenous peoples are violated, endangering their survival.

Dutch financial institutions such as banks and pension funds may also have a stake in projects of this kind, directly or indirectly, and thus incur criticism from civil society organisations engaged in helping the indigenous population. On Tuesday, the various parties will meet in a ‘land governance multi-stakeholder dialogue’ and discuss how best to protect the interests of local people while at the same time promoting economic growth.

Besides businesses and NGOs, the government and the knowledge institutes have an important part to play. ‘Conflict situations often revolve around who exactly holds the rights to a particular piece of ground,’ Ms Ploumen explained. ‘Our Land Registry and various universities have a great deal of expertise in this area, so they can help solve or prevent problems.’

The historic meeting will be attended by representatives of banks (RABO, ABNAMRO and ING), pension funds (ABP and PGGM), Coca-Cola, NGOs (Oxfam Novib, HIVOS and Both Ends), Friends of the Earth Netherlands, the fair trade organisation Solidaridad, the African Studies Centre, the Land Registry, the farmers’ organisation Agriterra and the Universities of Twente, Utrecht and Groningen. It will be the first time that so many stakeholders have gathered to discuss this issue.