World Bank plays important role in global land grab

A new report details the role of the International Finance Corporation, a branch of the World Bank, in promoting the growing global trend of large-scale land investments in developing countries by wealthier, food-insecure nations and private investors.

The report [which can be downloaded below] links together two worrying trends in Papua New Guinea; the push by the IFC to reduce barriers to foreign direct investment through laws which will allow the declaration of Special Economic Zones, and the issuing of 99 year leases allowing access to over 5 million hectares of customary land by foreign corporations.

The report reveals the IFC is involved in rewriting national laws to open access to foreign corporations, not just in PNG, but all across the developing world.

The report, titled The role of the International Finance Corporation in Promoting Agriculture Investment and Large-scale Land Acquisitions, explains how the IFC by providing Technical Assistance and Advisory Services (TAAS) to developing sector governments, is seeking to promote private sector development and reduce barriers to foreign direct investment, including facilitating investor opportunities to purchase or lease land.

The report argues that, by increasing investor access to land in developing countries, the World Bank is jeopardizing local food security and the livelihoods of local populations and is displacing large numbers of people.

The report reveals the IFC has dramatically increased its advisory services in recent years and now employs over 1,200 staff (a seven fold increase since 2001). The IFC has specifically focused a large amount of resources on promoting land leasing across the developing world:

"IFC has supported leasing development for years as a core component of its Financial Markets Strategy. Over the past 30 years, IFC has financed 200 leasing projects in 50 countries from US$1.4 billion dollars, has set up or improved leasing legislation and regulations in 60 countries, and has operated 30 leasing technical assistance projects"

The report includes case-studies on the impacts of IFC policies in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia.