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Charter Cities and Land Rights

Developments over the last decade have made it possible to advance the human right to land through public international law. Yet, land remains a contentious and unresolved issue for many rural communities and Indigenous Peoples.

The adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) in 2012, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) adopted in 2007, and the 2018 UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) are all significant landmarks in the international recognition of this essentuial right.

Nonetheless, land grabbing, and commodification and accumulation of land through dispossession are an integral and growing part of the global structures that further entrench inequality and hunger worldwide.

The rise of various types of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) have been part of this trend since the 1970s. SEZs are generally accompanied by the promise of human development and poverty reduction. In practice they often become epicenters of land conflicts, linked to increasing land speculation, displacement of communities, and the violation of forest rights.

This FIAN report, What is the right to land in the age of private jurisdictions? provides an overview of the human right to land within the context of the growth of SEZs that strive to establish autonomy from host states or even create private jurisdictions free of any state regulation.

It shows how some of the main promoters of private jurisdictions approach this – taking a closer look at Honduran Development and Employment Zones – and highlights the main contradictions of these models within contemporary understandings of the international human right to land.


Digital technologies cut off access to land