Chronicle Open letter to The World Bank

Sir,

In the past decade, an unprecedented scramble by foreign investors for land in developing countries has seen an area the size of London change hands every six days. But scandalously weak regulation has failed to ensure this is done properly, leaving poor communities at risk of having their land grabbed.

Land is crucial for poor people to grow food to eat, make a living and work themselves out of poverty. But, from Guatemala to Ghana, land grabs have stripped people of their homes and the land they rely on for their survival, often violently. The lack of compensation means that many face an unbearable struggle to piece their lives back together.

We know about the gold rush and the oil rush. Now we have a modern land rush: a hidden scandal of the 21st century that we must stop. In Africa, an area the size of Kenya has been acquired for agriculture by foreign investors in a decade. In Liberia, 30 per cent of the country has been swallowed up by land deals in just five years. With food prices rising sharply again, a new wave of land grabs could be unleashed as investors seek to make a profit. Protections are needed. Fast.

The World Bank is an adviser on land deals and an investor in land. It also has a remit to tackle global poverty. In this influential position, we as Oxfam Ambassadors and supporters are calling on it to help prevent land grabs by temporarily freezing its own land investments. This would provide time to improve standards and set an example for others to follow.

The World Bank can make a difference, and so can we by demanding that it acts now.

Aminatta Forna, UK/Sierra Leone, writer
Angelique Kidjo, Benin, singer
Anjum Anand, UK, food writer and TV chef
Baaba Maal, Senegal, singer
Gael Garcia Bernal, Mexico, actor
Hari Kunzru, UK, writer and journalist
Henning Mankell, Sweden, writer
Kamila Shamsie, Pakistan, writer
Kristin Davis, US, actress
Livia Firth, Italy, founder of Eco Age
Paul Theroux, US, writer
Peter Capaldi, UK, actor
Rahul Bose, India, actor
Robin Ince, UK, comedian
Rokia Traore, Mali, singer
Tim Butcher, UK, writer and journalist
William Boyd, UK/Ghana, writer

If you want to help stop land grabs taking poor peoples homes, sign up to Oxfam’s petition

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