Following the Money: An Advocate's Guide to Securing Accountability in Agricultural Investments | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
November 2014
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... Large-scale agricultural investments – in plantations, processing plants or contract farming schemes, for example – have increased in recent years, particularly in developing countries. Investment in the agriculture sector can bring much needed support for rural development, but communities have also witnessed significant negative impacts. Some of the most serious involve local landholders being displaced from their lands and losing access to
natural resources critical for their livelihoods and wellbeing. Instead of contributing to rural development, ill-conceived investments can undermine people’s rights to food, to water or to decent work.

Improving accountability is essential in ensuring that investment processes respond to local needs and aspirations and respect human rights. Yet many deals struck between
companies and governments to establish agricultural ventures are not fully transparent, making it difficult for the public and local communities to scrutinise projects before they materialise on the ground. Despite international human rights law and best practice
requiring full transparency, public participation, and free prior and informed consent of local communities, civil society participation is often missing and once negative impacts have occurred citizens may struggle to have their voices heard or hold the company or the government to account. Weak governance is often accompanied by limited accountability to citizens.

Yet, despite these challenges, many citizens have been able to hold companies and governments to account. For this to happen, local communities and the organisations that
support them have to get organised, get informed and be strategic.

Supporting affected communities to get organised so that they can collectively challenge or influence the project is essential to any successful advocacy. Success can take a long time – sometimes involving years of struggle – so ensuring strong community solidarity is key. Communities should be aware of their rights and what laws, regulations and policies are in place to protect them. An organised and informed community can then begin to devise a sophisticated advocacy strategy to achieve their goals.

Usually the first step is to take complaints directly to local authorities, national authorities or the business operating on the ground. But when these approaches have limited success, communities and their supporters should not give up. There are other strategies that can be tried which reach beyond the borders of the project and the country where it is located.

Behind most large-scale agricultural projects is a web of global actors that make the project possible. These actors include banks and companies that are funding the project and the companies that are buying the produce being grown or processed by it. All of these actors are necessary to the project’s success, and all are aiming to earn a
profit from it in one way or another. They all have a relationship with the business operating on the ground and have the ability to influence it. All of these actors have some responsibility to ensure that the project does not harm communities.

Knowing who is financing the project, who is buying the produce and who else is making the project possible and profitable – in other words, ‘following the money’ – opens up a range of opportunities for improved accountability. We call the web of actors involved in a project an ‘investment chain’. Within this chain there are ‘pressure points’. If affected communities can identify the strongest pressure points and take actions directed at effectively influencing key actors in the investment chain, they are more likely to achieve their goals.

Understanding investment chains and pressure points, and effectively making use of them, can prove difficult. This Guide provides information, practical tips and exercises on how to map an investment chain behind a project, identify the strongest pressure points along the chain and then devise effective advocacy strategies that leverage those points. It explains what you need to know, the challenges you may face and the strengths and weaknesses of a range of advocacy options. Examples are provided from cases around the world where communities have tried to ‘follow the money’ and have used a number of strategies to hold investors and governments to account...

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 
Emma Blackmore Natalie Bugalski David Pred

Every year millions of people are displaced from their homes, lands and livelihoods in the name of development.

Disenfranchised from decision-making, poor and marginalized communities are forced to shoulder the costs of development and are thrust into deeper poverty.  This crisis is fueled by unaccountable political and economic institutions that promote harmful investment, trade and development projects that fail to safeguard people’s rights, preserve common resources and distribute benefits equitably.

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