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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal International Development Policy Series
Volume (Issue) 6
Page(s) 231 - 248
Title of proceedings International Development Policy Series

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


This chapter aims to contribute to the debate on contemporary ‘land grabbing’ and its impact on human rights. It describes the role played by United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms in monitoring violations associated with large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs), with a focus on UN treaty bodies. A typology of human rights violations associated with LSLAs is presented, on the basis of the assessment that UN treaty bodies have made in examining the impact of LSLAs in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam. Three common threads can be extracted from this assessment. The first relates to the actual or potential human rights implications of the internal displacement and forced evictions caused by LSLAs, which often lead to drastic changes in livelihood opportunities. The second involves the impact of LSLAs on the procedural rights of indigenous peoples, in particular their right to free, prior, and informed consent to policies and activities that directly affect their land, territory and livelihoods. The third concerns the disproportionately negative effect that LSLAs have on individuals and groups who are vulnerable to discrimination and marginalisation, including women, children, indigenous peoples, rural communities, and small-scale farmers. The example of Laos, where we conducted research in 2012 and 2013, confirms the assessment made by UN treaty bodies. The overall conclusion is that human rights are well recognised in international law and that national laws seem to be adequate in many countries, including in South-East Asia. Yet, human rights instruments and national lawsare poorly implemented on the ground, or not implemented in favour of local communities.