LANDac, the Netherlands Academy on Land Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development, is about to enter its second phase. LANDac II be launched on 26th October 2016 at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague and will continue until 2021. We will continue to work on the broad range of issues related to land governance and development, promoting the link between land governance and inclusive, sustainable development, in particular in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda.

With this goal in mind, LANDac’s Annual International Conference 2017 will look back over the decade since the land grab “hype” began, analysing the processes of transformations that have taken place in those locations where investments have been made and revisiting our understanding of the implications of these investment flows for food security, rural livelihoods and local development. We will also look forward in assessing new challenges in the field, such as land governance in the context of climate change and increasing urbanisation, and land in relation to the SDGs, using existing knowledge to set the land agenda to 2030 and ensure no one is left behind.

This conference follows on from the LANDac Annual International Conference 2016, which connected rural land debates and the urban agenda. The departure point for the 2017 conference will be the all-encompassing SDGs, with the overall aim being to explore how land governance can contribute to meeting these targets, and ultimately help to end poverty in all its forms everywhere (Goal 1). Providing people with secure and equal access to land is fundamental in realising this objective, and is particularly relevant in the Goals below, which give an outline of the themes that will be explored in this conference.

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

A major driver of the global land rush thus far has been the food security concerns of food insecure nations. Conversely, many of the countries subject to large-scale land investments also face domestic food shortages and extreme hunger. This is no longer a predominantly rural concern, but rather a national dilemma. Increasing urban expansion is giving rise to new forms of urban agriculture – but concurrently, cities are expanding into traditionally agricultural land. What are the consequences of this expansion for local food security? How can agriculture meet the growing demand for food in cities in sustainable and innovative ways? 

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Infrastructure development is crucial for combating poverty, climate change and social injustice. A lack of adequate services in a country can have a strong negative impact on the economy, living standards and on the overall wellbeing of the population. However, infrastructure – particularly mega-infrastructure – development requires vast swathes of land which may have served other important purposes previously. How can we ensure that infrastructure development is inclusive even in the planning and feasibility stages? And what constitutes adequate compensation for those who are displaced by mega-projects when there is no alternative?

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

An ever-increasing urban population requires a renewed commitment to sustainable urbanisation in the form of Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda. Rapid population growth, land scarcity and financial speculation have resulted in an unprecedented surge of investments related to land in and around urban centres, yet this aspect of the global land rush has thus far received scant attention. Who are the new investors, and what is their link to the rural investments that came before? As well as fostering inclusive growth within existing urban areas, it is important to support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas – the global land rush is particularly evident at the peri-urban fringe where the most perceptible expansion of cities is taking place, and is even triggering the emergence of new urban hubs in predominantly rural areas where major investments have been made. What new opportunities – and vulnerabilities – do emerging urban areas produce?

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

The link between climate change adaptation and sustainable development is self-evident. Yet adaptation and mitigation measures are rarely the technical, apolitical processes as which they are framed; rather, they can create (or exacerbate) competing claims and influence access to land and other natural resources. Mitigation strategies such as biofuels and REDD frequently result in the appropriation of resources for export and carbon capture. How can we make communities more resilient to climate change without infringing local land rights?

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Land and the ecosystems and biodiversity to which it is home are valuable tools for poverty alleviation but they cannot play a role if they are degraded or unsustainably used. Protection areas, where access to a certain location is restricted based on its natural or ecological value, have arisen as a result of this. However, such methods of nature conservation can also be seen as “green grabbing”, where existing users are alienated from land or resources on environmental grounds. How can land be governed in both a socially and environmentally sustainable way? Do we really need to “sell nature in order to save it”?

The conference will be followed by the Annual Summer School “Land Governance for Development” from 3rd to 14th July 2017 at Utrecht University.

LANDac is a partnership between Dutch organisations initiated in 2010 in response to shared concern for increasing land inequality and new land-related conflicts in the wake of the global land rush. The network comprises researchers, policymakers, development practitioners and private sector representatives in the field of land governance; together, we strengthen linkages between actors, conduct research on new pressures, competing claims and best practice, and disseminate knowledge to promote responsible, equitable and sustainable development in the Global South.

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