Innocenti Working Papers

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (IRC) was created to strengthen UNICEF's research capability and to support its advocacy for children worldwide. The Working Papers (formerly Innocenti Occasional Papers), are the foundation of the Centre's research output, underpinning many of the Centre's other publications. These high quality research papers are aimed at an academic and well-informed audience, contributing to ongoing discussion on a wide range of child-related issues.


Commercial Pressures on Land and their Impact on Child Rights

A Review of the Literature

The impacts of the recent food, fuel and financial (3F) crises on children’s rights and well-being are being widely documented. However, from a child rights and well-being perspective little regard has so far been given to a particular socio-economic trend that has been indirectly intensified by this three-fold crisis: the proliferation of what are collectively known as ‘commercial pressures on land’ (CPLs). CPLs essentially refer to large-scale investments in land taking part in large parts of the ‘Global South’, led by multiple structural drivers, and undertaken by a variety of public, private and hybrid actors, both domestic and foreign, operating in diverse sectors. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive review of the existing literature on the political economy of CPLs with the specific intention of mapping the relevant channels of impact on the rights and well-being of children living in rural areas where CPLs are fast-proliferating. Although there are some documented benefits, according to the large majority of the literature reviewed, the twin outcomes of displacement and dispossession are found to be critical negative socio-economic changes resulting from CPLs. In conjunction with a pervasive lack of transparency in the land transfer negotiation and implementation processes, the twin outcomes are in turn associated with a number of transmission channels that can impact the rights and well-being of children in affected rural communities, which mainly consist of: loss of access to land and other essential natural resources such as water; increased risk of insecurity of tenure; loss of livelihoods and sources of income; forced evictions; increased exposure to social conflicts and intra-household tensions; and lack of voice. The review also highlights the importance of bridging and rationalising current data on the scale and impact of CPLs on affected communities, which at the moment tends to be polarised between aggregate level data and those collected at localized levels primarily through small-scale case studies. In the absence of extensive child-centred analyses of the impacts of current manifestations of CPLs, the paper calls for further empirical studies which identify and assess, through a child rights and well-being perspective, the particular ‘structure-agency’ conditions under which reported benefits and negative impacts of CPLs take place, in order to address policy response gaps.


Keywords: commercial pressures on land, land-grabbing, ‘win-win’ narrative, displacement, dispossession, ‘marginality’ narrative, equity
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