Investment in Land and Agriculture

From a sustainable development perspective, large-scale international investments in agriculture provide many of the same opportunities and challenges as investments in the extractives industries. However, agricultural and land-based investments also raise unique — and often polarizing — issues. To help address these issues, CCSI focuses on conducting solid research, developing accessible resources and tools, convening nuanced dialogue, and providing useful trainings and requested support.

Our Activities and Projects

+ Coordinating Multi-Stakeholder and Expert Dialogue

  • Negotiation Support to Resource Rich, Low-, and Middle-Income Countries
    CCSI created and manages the Negotiation Support Portal, to improve the accessibility of tools, resources and technical assistance to support host governments' planning, preparing for, negotiating, monitoring, and implementing large-scale resource and infrastructure investments, and to facilitate coordination among support providers and host governments. In addition, CCSI has launched a series of meetings of negotiation support providers to create a forum to discuss common challenges and opportunities and to facilitate greater coordination among support providers.
  • Comparing Lessons Learned for Extractive Industry Investments and Large Land-Based Agricultural Investments
    CCSI has brought together stakeholders to explore good governance initiatives for extractive industry investments and large land-based agricultural investments—in particular, whether, and if so, why, certain good governance efforts may be more advanced in one industry than in the other, and what could be done to further advance governance initiatives in both industries.
  • Cross-Disciplinary Dialogue on International Investment in Agriculture
    Our global food system is in crisis. Nearly one billion people are food insecure, and anticipated increases in food demand confront potential decreases in food supply. These difficult issues require strong dialogue. Important opportunities exist for cross-disciplinary discussions on issues related to agricultural investment, which can help to contextualize efforts and sharpen evidence-based policy proposals. To encourage cross-disciplinary dialogue and collaboration, CCSI has co-hosted a series of working group discussions at the Earth Institute on investment in agriculture as viewed through different lenses, including productivity, sustainability, risks, and rights. CCSI is now working to expand this dialogue to other groups and through other avenues.
  • Columbia International Investment Conference
    Since 2006, CCSI has hosted an annual Columbia International Investment Conference. These annual conferences bring together numerous stakeholders including high-level government officials, corporate executives, investors, academics, and civil society for forward-looking policy discussions of critical issues in international investment for sustainable development. A list of the past Conferences, with links to the programs and materials,... read more
  • Ad-hoc events
    CCSI regularly hosts speakers, roundtables, workshops, and events on a variety of related topics.

+ Policy and Advisory

  • Support in Analyzing Agricultural Contracts
    CCSI assists stakeholders, researchers, and advocacy organizations by analyzing agricultural contracts for human rights, fiscal, sustainable development, and environmental implications.
  • Support to the UN SDSN on the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda
    CCSI provides support to the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) Thematic Group 10 on Good Governance of Extractive and Land Resources. This has included technical support on reports and documents during the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as in the development of potential indicators to measure progress toward the SDGs. In addition, the Center and the Thematic Network have worked together on a number of projects to identify research gaps and generate innovative solutions.

+ Research

  • Community Development Requirements: Domestic Laws, Best Practices, and Community Development Agreements Database
    CCSI has a growing portfolio of activities regarding community development requirements and community development agreements (CDAs) that includes: (i) mapping domestic legal requirements for community development in the context of mining projects; (ii) policy and research on best practices around CDAs and benefit sharing for extractive, agricultural, and forestry projects; and (iii) regularly maintained collection of publicly available community agreements relating to extractive, agricultural, and forestry projects.
  • Land Deal Dilemmas: Grievances, Human Rights, and Investor Protections
    Dealing with land-based investments and the grievances that they raise can be difficult for host governments, who face a complicated landscape of legal obligations and pragmatic considerations. This project examines the different legal frameworks governing what governments can do to address and remedy land-related grievances after investment concessions have been awarded, with a specific focus on government obligations under international investment law and international human rights law.
  • Developing a Collaborative Approach to Human Rights Impact Assessments
    CCSI, in partnership with the Sciences Po Law School Clinic and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, has developed a collaborative approach to human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) of private sector investment projects. Although HRIAs have become increasingly prominent in recent years, one specific challenge is the frequent lack of trust between communities and companies, which often extends to distrust of HRIAs that “the other side” has initiated. A collaborative approach to HRIAs provides an avenue to jointly undertake an HRIA that is considered credible by all sides and that helps to address the power imbalances that often exist between companies and communities around private sector projects.
  • Employment from Mining and Investments in Land for Agriculture
    The employment potential of investments in extractive industry projects and land acquisitions for agriculture is often touted both by governments and by companies in support of investor-friendly policies and large-scale investments in natural resources. CCSI is examining how job numbers are calculated, which factors influence job creation, and the quality and sustainability of these jobs, as well as whether job creation generated from these investments is net positive.
  • Infrastructure Investments Tied to Large-Scale Agriculture Projects
    Infrastructure development is often cited as one of the primary benefits of foreign direct investment in large-scale agricultural projects. Yet it is hard to find specific information on the most common types of infrastructure linkages, or how beneficial such linkages are for communities and host governments. CCSI is examining various strategies used to leverage large-scale agricultural investments for infrastructure development.
  • Addressing Legal Support Gaps Around Land-Based Investment
    CCSI is working to identify and advance concrete steps that can help address legal support gaps in the context of large-scale land-based investment. Under a series of projects, CCSI is conducting research on solutions for overcoming specific obstacles; developing guidance resources; and providing workshops and other opportunities to strengthen the provision of quality legal support that promotes responsible investment outcomes.
  • Land Contracts and Transparency in Land-Based Investment
    Large-scale investments in agriculture and forestry hold diverse and far-reaching implications. Despite their significance, these investments are often negotiated and approved behind closed doors, and governed by contracts that are difficult to access and understand. This status quo is particularly concerning in countries where land contracts play a pivotal role in allocating risks and determining... read more

+ Resources and Tools

  • Directory of Community Guidance on Agreements Relating to Agriculture or Forestry Investments
    While there are a number of existing resources that can assist communities and their advocates in their interactions with investors over land—from negotiating better agreements with investors, to monitoring whether investors fulfill the terms of their agreements—these resources are not always easy to find. CCSI has created a detailed Google document that lists relevant guides and other documents, provides links to the original documents, and includes brief descriptions of their content.
  • OpenLandContracts.org: A Database of Publicly Available Land, Agriculture and Forestry Contracts
    OpenLandContracts.org is the first global repository of publicly available investor-state contracts for commercial agriculture or forestry projects. Users of the website can search contracts by different categories; view summaries of key social, human rights, environmental, fiscal, and operational provisions; compare certain provisions across contracts; and download full contracts. OpenLandContracts.org supports a number of stakeholders, and the platform is available to governments interested in developing country-specific databases.
  • Tool to Assess the Human Rights and Environmental Implications of Land Contracts
    CCSI is developing a tool to assist stakeholders in conducting their own assessments of the human rights and environmental implications of land contracts. This tool will explain the main human rights or environmental issues that may be implicated by the underlying deals, note whether the issues are likely to be included in contracts, describe the relevant human rights norms or environmental standards, and provide an overview of best practices.
  • Community Development Requirements: Domestic Laws, Best Practices, and Community Development Agreements Database
    CCSI has a growing portfolio of activities regarding community development requirements and community development agreements (CDAs) that includes: (i) mapping domestic legal requirements for community development in the context of mining projects; (ii) policy and research on best practices around CDAs and benefit sharing for extractive, agricultural, and forestry projects; and (iii) regularly maintained collection of publicly available community agreements relating to extractive, agricultural, and forestry projects.
  • Researching Transparency
    Large-scale investments in agriculture and forestry hold diverse and far-reaching implications. Despite their significance, these investments are often negotiated and approved behind closed doors, and governed by contracts that are difficult to access and understand. This status quo is particularly concerning in countries where land contracts play a pivotal role in allocating risks and determining the benefits of land-based investment, including for those affected who lack a voice in the negotiation process.
  • Support for Host Country Governments in the Planning, Preparation for, Negotiation, Implementation, and Monitoring of Large-Scale Investments
    CCSI created a Negotiation Support Portal designed to improve the accessibility of technical assistance and of useful tools and resources to assist host governments planning, preparing for, negotiating, monitoring, and implementing large-scale investments in the extractive industries, land and agriculture, and infrastructure sectors, and to facilitate coordination among support providers and host governments.
  • Policy Briefs, Guides and Other Publications
    CCSI produces a number of policy briefs, guides and other publications that are useful resources on topics of extractive industries, land and agriculture, and investment law and policy.

+ Teaching and Curriculum Development

  • Executive Training on Sustainable Investments in Agriculture
    CCSI's Executive Training on Sustainable Investments in Agriculture provides an interdisciplinary approach to addressing the challenges and opportunities of agricultural investments. The program is designed to equip participants with the necessary knowledge and skills to address some of the key challenges posed by international investments in agriculture, and to encourage a rich dialogue about practices from around the globe.