Responsible Land-Based Investments: Interview with Amaelle Seigneret | Land Portal

As part of the launch of the Responsible Land-Based Investment Navigator 2.0, the Land Portal spoke with Amaelle Seigneret, Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development, to hear what’s new. The Navigator is meant to help governments, civil society and businesses identify and access guidance most relevant to their area of intervention. It is positioned to be a valuable tool and resource for the Advancing Land-based Investment Governance (ALIGN) project, which works in Sub-Saharan Africa and Indo-Pacific regions. 


 

“The expansion in our target users comes from a need to work with all the actors who play a central role in shaping land relations. For a while, the focus was mainly on the private sector as the main actor responsible for the violations of land rights. Now, approaches to understanding land-based investments, their enablers and their impacts, have become more systemic and contextualized” 

Land Portal: This is the second iteration of the Responsible Land-Based Investment Navigator.  The previous version was mostly focused on the private sector. What was behind the decision to expand the scope of the Navigator’s audience and users?

 

Amaelle Seigneret: The expansion in our target users comes from a need to work with all the actors who play a central role in shaping land relations. For a while, the focus was mainly on the private sector as the main actor responsible for the violations of land rights. Now, approaches to understanding land-based investments, their enablers and their impacts, have become more systemic and contextualized. 

Governments have a big role to play in how land is governed and in regulating investments. And we’re including civil society, because they are key players in a lot of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. Civil society organizations have often counterbalanced a lack of governance by the state, and they’ve been at the front lines of making sure communities have their rights respected. By civil society, we mean those NGOs and networks that work both at the national level, doing advocacy and engaging with government actors or development agencies, and also actors at the local level, such as grass organizations and small NGOs that engage in more community-level work. 

 

LP: The ALIGN project has some specific geographic focus areas, but this Navigator is for anyone, anywhere.

 

AS: The Navigator is relevant for any country that faces land-related issues and where the rights of people aren’t respected. A lot of the material on the Navigator is derived from international law or soft law, so many of these principles are applicable everywhere. It will be most useful for actors in countries that have experienced a surge in land-based investment over the past decades, and where national law and/or current governance practices aren’t sufficient to safeguard people’s rights. 

 

LP: Does the Navigator advance specific types of guidance, or is it more of a universal repository of tools and guidance available, making it really up to the user to see which is best for them?

 

AS: It’s more of the latter, but with an important caveat. All the guidance we have on the Navigator is guidance that has been developed by other actors in the land-related field. The idea was to bring it all in one space. We did, however, make sure that our selection reflects the latest best practice standards in relation to land and land-based investment governance thinking. In that sense, the resources available on the Navigator have been curated. The small selection of material we have under each topic might propose slightly different approaches in dealing with x or y issue, but overall, this guidance will reflect a specific paradigm. 

 

LP: How would you mark success in the next 3-5 years?

 

AS: For the Navigator, it would be great if a lot of users, whether government, private sector, or civil society, found this website to be a useful resource and made use of the material we’re proposing. 

For civil society actors, for example, success would mean that they will have better tools to prepare communities and to engage in advocacy for the protection of land rights. More broadly, success would mean concrete changes, for example, in the way companies approach investment and engage in more responsible practices. For governments, this could mean reforming their land and investment frameworks based on a rights-centred approach. Achieving this is beyond the scope of the Navigator alone, of course, but its use as part of projects such as ALIGN could contribute to the promotion of a rights-centred discourse and better governance practices. 

 

LP: what do you think the biggest challenges are to this Navigator being successful?

 

AS: Aside from visibility, we’re keeping in mind that it might be difficult for some kinds of users to use the site because it’s only in English. In Sub-Saharan African for example, a lot of countries are francophone, and there are lots of other languages being spoken in the regions where the Navigator would be relevant. I would see that as a main limitation. Also, if we’re targeting small NGOs or local organizations in remote places, they might not necessarily have the internet connection to access the Navigator. 

 

LP: Are there any plans to include other languages down the line?

 

AS: Not currently, but that would be very valuable. Many of the resources we have on the Navigator do exist in other languages. 

 

LP: Anything that you’re especially proud of for this new version of the Navigator?

 

AS: I think expanding the scope of the audience was a great idea. There’s a lot of value in having material targeting audiences that intervene in very different ways around land-based investment in one place. Here, a civil society actor can access material on a wide range of issues, and they can even see what the guidance on this topic says to governments and private sector actors. That can be very useful to design their intervention, they could for example share this material or make its content available to these other actors in a new format. So by making one platform available to governments, civil society and private sector actors, we are creating a space for greater collaboration between these different parties. 

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