Over time, I have collaborated with researchers and practitioners to investigate the global land rush and support responses to it. This action research taught me about the material dimensions of the deals, including their scale, location, crop types, intended markets, varying degrees of implementation, and the way they shook the very foundations of local life, livelihoods and culture. It also highlighted deep-seated tensions between competing visions of agriculture, food systems, territory and society; connections to an evolving global political economy and contested notions of sovereignty and statehood; and the role the law — from land tenure systems to international trade, investment and human rights treaties — has played in facilitating the deals or resistance to them.
Attracting foreign investment while holding transnational corporations to account for any human rights transgressions is by no means an easy feat. It will require that a careful balance be struck between the interests of the host State and its people, and that of private actors expecting good risk-return ratios in pursuit of the bottom line. Although international mechanisms such as the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have long endorsed accountability for transnational corporations, a zero draft international convention to regulate this issue has only recently been developed.