Interlaken Group participants are leveraging their networks to support spaces for multi-stakeholder dialogue and collaboration at the national level. As more companies and investors have adopted and developed policies to respect land rights in their supply chains and portfolios, critical opportunities to leverage private sector support for secure land rights are arising in upstream supply chains. However, there are relatively few platforms or forums in which upstream producers and portfolio companies, local civil society, and developing country governments can engage with one another. Interlaken Group-catalyzed initiatives at the national level provide critical opportunities for buyers and investors, local producers and portfolio companies, civil society, and host government representatives to engage with one another in an atmosphere of mutual trust and collaboration to access learning and best practice on land rights, identify opportunities to collaborate, and pilot solutions.
At present there are ongoing initiatives in Lao PDR, Kenya, and Malawi.
The Government of Lao PDR recently opened 600,000 hectares of degraded rural lands for reforestation under tree plantation investments, an amount greater than all existing tree plantation investment areas in Laos combined. While this represents a rural development opportunity given the growth in timber export markets and presence of global forestry companies already operating in the country, policies and regulations requiring environmental and social due diligence have been unevenly applied, which has put responsible investors at a disadvantage. Additionally, rural peoples relying on many of these areas for shifting agricultural purposes lack secure tenure rights. Responsible private sector actors, along with development partners and civil society representatives, share a common interest in achieving a coherent policy framework to safeguard rural communities and privilege responsible investment over business-as-usual operations.
Leveraging its multi-stakeholder composition, the Interlaken Group convened diverse stakeholders and experts to collectively identify and document policy coherence issues in the enabling environment for responsible plantation forestry. Collaborators are now working together to advocate for strong standards with respect to ESIA procedures and other regulatory measures, which provide social protection for vulnerable rural communities living in newly opened concession areas. A coordinated multi-stakeholder voice speaking in support of policy and regulation that respects local rights and requires appropriate due diligence procedures is well situated to influence policy makers seeking to attract responsible investment in the sector.
Private sector leaders from Burapha, Stora Enso, Mekong Timber, Ikea, and New Forests have supported this initiative. NGO collaborators include Mekong Region Land Governance Programme, Village Focus International, RECOFTC, and Earthworm Foundation. Development partners have also lent their technical expertise, including leaders from the FAO, World Bank, IFC, and GIZ.
In 2016 the Kenyan parliament enacted the Community Land Act (CLA), a framework for legally securing the customary tenure rights of local communities. This development came in the wake of local conflict driven by investment in and subsequent expansion of large infrastructure projects. While the CLA provides a legal basis for communities to have their customary tenure recognized by the state, implementation of the Act has been delayed due to lack of both political will and capacity for implementation within the local, county, and national governments. As a result, tenure risk threatens to continue to undermine investment and foment conflict.
Investment in large-scale infrastructure projects in Kenya has led to displacement of communities from their customary lands, while conflicts and legal disputes that have emerged from this displacement have also created risk for investors and companies. Interlaken Group participants have emphasized the difficulty of finding a unified community voice with which they can engage, underscoring the value add of Interlaken Group-led convenings that create a safe space for dialogue between civil society, the private sector, and local government.
Community Land Action Now! (CLAN) is a grassroots initiative founded in 2018 to advocate for fast and fair implementation of the CLA. The group uses their network to ensure that communities in every county are made full partners in the various steps required to apply the law. The group benefits from the participation of Kenyan CSOs and international organizations. The group is currently in dialogue with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to identify areas of collaboration between communities and investors to scale up implementation of the CLA, mitigate tenure risk, and promote responsible investment – including by rights-holders themselves – in community lands.
The Government of Malawi recently embarked on an ambitious agenda to reform its land regulations, passing a suite of ten new tenure laws between 2016 and 2018. Among these was the Customary Land Act (CLA). Implementation of the CLA has implications for existing land-based investments and concessions, ongoing land-related disputes with communities, and the sustainable investment agenda. Large-scale pilots of rural land registration are underway and supported by the World Bank and FAO. Private sector production of sugar, and other commodities, are linked to regional and global supply chains and the related sustainability commitments of buyers and investors.
The Government of Malawi actively seeks to promote and expand investment in the agriculture sector to drive economic growth, improve rural livelihoods, and reduce poverty. Yet despite progressive new policy and legislation, rural land rights in Malawi are frequently unclear, undocumented, or contested between private sector landholders and communities. There is appetite in Malawi from companies, communities, and government to identify opportunities to integrate alternative models of production into supply chains that are inclusive of local land tenure realities and directly involve community production of commodities. Yet despite compelling experience, there are few forums in which these stakeholder groups can dialogue to identify new strategies and collaborate to implement them.
The Interlaken Group, with support from the World Bank, FAO, and DFID, catalyzed the Platform on Large Scale Land Based Investment (LSLBI) in 2018. The Platform brings together representatives from government, companies, communities, traditional leadership, and civil society organizations (CSOs), and is currently chaired by Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The purpose of the Platform is to provide space for dialogue for profitable, responsible, and inclusive large-scale land-based investments in Malawi. The Platform seeks to achieve the following outcomes:
The Interlaken Group provides coordination and steering support to the Platform, with leadership from Coca-Cola, Illovo Sugar, Landesa, Oxfam, Columbia Center for Responsible Investment, and others.
Learn more about the platform.