In low- and middle-income countries, the vast majority of land remains contested, leaving around 2.5 billion people living in rural and forest areas highly vulnerable to poverty, violence and environmental degradation.
Conflicts over land rights are increasing, as corporations involved in large-scale agriculture, resource extraction and energy production increase their activities in these areas. This means more private sector projects are being opposed, and eventually stalled or canceled, leading to more violent outcomes. According to Global Witness, almost four environmental activists are now being murdered each week.
This trend will accelerate as corporations and investors rush to develop clean energy projects in low- and middle-income countries. Last year, a $150 million wind park project in Kenya was stopped over a land dispute between the project’s developer and local landowners.
In this increasingly volatile context, it seems unlikely that the private sector could find common ground with local communities — and the local and international nongovernmental organizations who support them. Yet a small group of stakeholders is convinced of the contrary. Together, they have formed the Interlaken Group, an informal network of individuals coming from corporations, investors, civil society organizations, governments and INGOs, with its goal to turn corporations into allies in the process of securing land rights.