Land Deal Dilemmas: Grievances, Human Rights, and Investor Protections

Lead PI:

Unit Affiliation: Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI)

Unknown start date - Ongoing
Project Type:

DESCRIPTION: The responsible governance of land-based investments hinges not only on ensuring that new investments comply with guidelines and standards, but also that existing investments are conducted responsibly, and that related grievances are adequately addressed. Dealing with existing land-based investments and the grievances that they raise, however, can be difficult for host governments navigating a complicated landscape of legal obligations (including under international investment law and international human rights law) and pragmatic considerations.

While there are various steps that host governments can take to address community or citizen grievances arising from investments, little guidance exists for doing so. Rather, more focus has been placed on the ex ante best practices that should be followed before investments are made. While there is no substitute for ensuring at the outset that investments are sustainable, the knowledge gap regarding what to do once investments have been undertaken is particularly concerning given the number of land deals that have been concluded since the turn of the twenty-first century and the growing willingness of investors to have recourse to investor-state arbitration.

CCSI has conducted research to fill this knowledge gap, examining the grievances arising from land-based investments, governments’ relevant legal obligations that may constrain or influence their actions vis-à-vis investors and those who are affected by investors’ actions, and the options available for addressing such grievances. This work has been supported by UK aid from the Department for International Development.

OUTCOMES: Report and briefing note

The full report, Land deal dilemmas: Grievances, human rights, and investor protection, is available here ( A shorter briefing note, Land deals and the law, is available here (

Other materials

CCSI has also developed a training module, which includes a PowerPoint presentation (in .pptx and .pdf form), accompanying presentation notes, and group exercises drawing on hypothetical scenarios of land grievances. All components except the .pptx slides are available for download here ( ), and we welcome their use with proper attribution. Please email if you would like the .pptx slides.

In addition, a full report bibliography is available here (, while a list of examples of community grievances and allegations is available here (


UK Department for International Development


land-based investment investment law investment human rights law training


Sustainable living