Rural people in developing countries are losing their land and natural resources because of insecure property rights, which are compounded by land acquisitions that fail to meet national or international standards. This is negatively affecting livelihoods, well-being, local environments and ecosystem services. Furthermore, rural people are increasingly migrating to expanding cities, contributing to informal settlements vulnerable to climate change and other environmental hazards.

WRI’s Land and Resource Rights (LRR) initiative aims to ensure secure property rights for rural people and the urban poor. Operating across Latin America, Africa and Asia, we work to strengthen land, resource and property rights as a path to poverty reduction, sustainable development and environmental management.

Herding cattle with mountains in background.

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Learn how the lands of Indigenous peoples and other local communities provide critical ecosystem services that generate local, regional and global benefits such as climate mitigation and biodiversity conservation.

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Our approach includes aggregating and visualizing data, conducting policy and legal reviews and performing cutting-edge research to influence progress on a large scale. We also focus on the connections between land and access to forests, food and water to ensure our approaches to land rights are truly sustainable and equitable. Thinking about the impacts of this work on vulnerable and impoverished communities ensures they are brought to the front of the conversation.

LRR is organized around four cross-cutting areas in land and resource rights issues:

1. Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

Indigenous peoples and local communities often have insecure land tenure, leaving them vulnerable to rights violations. We aim to help Indigenous peoples and local communities strengthen their tenure security as both a human right and a means of sustainable environmental management.

2. The Private Sector

Increasing large-scale land acquisitions are resulting in encroachments on the land and resource rights of rural people. LRR encourages the private sector to improve internal policies and comply with international best practices, ensuring companies and their suppliers do not violate land and resource rights.

3. Sustainable Cities

Urban growth is expected to continue, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent. While beneficial, urbanization also produces informal settlements and other tenure issues that impact a city’s sustainability. By working on urban tenure issues, LRR aims to make cities more sustainable.

4. Procedural Protections

In many countries, land and resource rights are vulnerable to government expropriation without compensation or proper procedural protections. Moreover, private acquisitions can fail to meet minimum participation and transparency safeguards, creating a major weakness in many countries’ policy and legal frameworks. LRR works to understand and improve land acquisition procedures around the world.

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