The governance of land has profound impacts for communities, governments, and the private sector. Land governance and use can also have direct impacts on climate change. Yet in practice, information regarding land-use and governance is often not made publicly available—especially in the context of large-scale land investments. Contracts granting large-scale forestry or agricultural concessions are usually negotiated behind closed doors and frequently not publicly disclosed. Similarly, illegal logging and land use is often not detected early enough for public authorities to respond before lasting damage is done.
In accordance with the aims of the Open Government Partnership, greater transparency can help to empower citizens, fight corruption, and ensure that resources are sustainably managed for future generations. In the context of land investments, transparency can also help local communities to influence decision-making, and can play a crucial role in minimizing the adverse impacts of such investments on the human rights and the environment.
This webinar profiled two tools seeking to bring greater transparency to the governance and use of land in the context of land-based investments. The first, OpenLandContracts.org, is an online repository of publicly available contracts for large-scale land, agriculture, and forestry projects. The repository makes land contracts easier to find and understand, informing public authorities, empowering communities, and supporting increased transparency around land investments. The second tool, Global Forest Watch, is an online forest monitoring and alert system that provides information needed to better manage and conserve forests, including timely and precise information and alerts about the status of forest landscapes worldwide. Both tools serve a variety of stakeholders, including governments, communities, civil society, the private sector, and the general public.
The webinar was aimed at stakeholders, including representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector, who work on, or are interested in, transparency around land use, land governance, and land investments. It included a discussion on current trends, opportunities, and challenges regarding land transparency and land investment, including how OpenLandContracts.org and Global Forest Watch can be used by different stakeholders to increase transparency and improve the implementation of land investments, before engaging in an interactive Q&A session with audience members. The webinar built on last year’s OGP conference panel on “Improving Openness and Transparency in Land-Based Investments.”
Yuliya Panfil, Property Rights Investments Team, Omidyar Network
As an associate at Omidyar Network, Yuliya sources and manages investments for the Property Rights initiative. Prior to joining the firm, Yuliya was a land governance and legal advisor at USAID, where she oversaw USAID’s responsible land-based investment practice and led USAID’s private sector and donor engagement on land and property rights issues.
Sam Szoke-Burke, Legal Researcher, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Sam works on CCSI’s focus areas of land and agriculture, extractive industries, and human rights and investment. Prior to joining CCSI, Sam worked as a legal consultant for the Land, Environment and Development project at the Legal Assistance Centre, Namibia, where he worked with various indigenous communities on legal claims relating to land and natural resources.
Jessica Webb, Civil Society Engagement Manager, Global Forest Watch, World Resources Institute
Jessica leads efforts to ensure that civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world have access to the information and evidence they need to sustainably manage forests and promote accountability among decision-makers. She also manages the GFW Small Grants Fund. Jessica has a decade of experience working with international CSOs on issues including sustainability standards and certification, community conservation, ecotourism, access to education, and spatial analysis for conservation project planning.