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Expect conflict when leasing inhabited land to business - report

by Thomson Reuters Foundation | Katie_Nguyen1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 30 October 2014 00:01 GMT

Illegal gold miners work in a mine at a deforested area in Puerto Luz in the Amazon region of Madre de Dios, Peru, Sept. 11, 2012. REUTERS/Miguel Bellido/El Comercio

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93 percent of 73,000 mining, energy, logging and farming concessions analysed had people living on them

LONDON, Oct 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Conflict over land is inevitable in countries like Indonesia, Brazil and Peru where indigenous people and local communities live on tens of thousands of mining, oil and gas, logging and farming concessions, a report said on Thursday.

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) said more than 93 percent of the 73,000 concessions analysed in eight countries - Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Indonesia, Liberia, Mozambique, Peru and the Philippines - had people living on them.

"When governments sell the land, forests and other natural resources out from under the people who live there, local conflict becomes inevitable," said Andy White, coordinator at RRI, a global coalition working on forest policy reform.

"The companies and governments implicated need to first fully respect and involve indigenous peoples and forest communities in all aspects of proposed investment, not as bystanders who can be pushed aside," he said in a statement.

At least 40 percent of land in Peru, the host of the next round of global climate change talks in December, has been handed over by the government to the private sector for timber, mining and oil and gas operations, RRI said.

Indonesia has also "signed away" a huge chunk of its land - 30 percent - for large-scale agriculture, timber and mining activities, while in Liberia the figure is 35 percent, it said.

Experts say policies to end deforestation are essential for curbing climate change. Forests absorb climate-changing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and protecting them could help reduce the worst impacts of climate change, scientists say.

RRI also says careful management of natural resources such as forests and rainforests would prevent local conflicts.

Three-quarters of conflicts arising from this kind of development concession occurred at the start of a project or when the project expanded, it said.

Another pattern it identified from research by the Munden Project - consultants focusing on climate change, land use and development - was the lack of compliance with laws on developing natural resources, leading for example to the contamination of local sources of drinking water.

A third type of conflict is triggered when the rights of the people living on the land are disregarded or when they are not consulted on major projects.

"Property rights in many emerging or frontier markets are dysfunctional to the point that ownership of land can be granted without the knowledge or consent of the people who live or depend on that land," said Leonardo Pradela of the Munden Project.

"Generally tied to their land for many generations, these people have little interest in moving to urban areas and are practically impossible to relocate. Yet the conflicts generated by attempts to push them aside generate the worst kinds of financial risk: hidden and potentially ruinous."

(Reporting by Katie Nguyen; editing by Tim Pearce)

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