Large-scale investments in land, agriculture, forestry, and renewable energy projects—and the contracts that govern them—have serious implications for land users, local communities, and the sustainable development efforts of host governments.
OpenLandContracts is a repository of publicly available contracts and associated documents created to strengthen the growing campaign for information disclosure around land-based projects and to demonstrate that contract transparency is both feasible and valuable.
Launched in October 2015, OpenLandContracts was created and is managed by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI). The site includes full text of contracts and related documents (in PDF form), summaries (or "Annotations") of each contract’s key social, environmental, human rights, fiscal, and operational terms, and tools for searching, sharing and comparing contracts and their key terms.
- Host governments and their advisors seeking to negotiate with investors and to monitor contract implementation over time
- Communities and civil society organizations advocating for stronger land governance, greater accountability and participation in land transactions, and more effective project monitoring, capacity development, and technical assistance
- Companies and their analysts and partners conducting due diligence for potential concessions, or seeking to align with international best practices in governance or sustainability
- Researchers, lawyers, journalists and other practitioners looking for contract information or for materials to train peers and local communities about the land, agriculture, forestry and renewable energy sectors
- Governments, ministries or international organizations interested in partnering with OpenLandContracts to host independent contract repositories or to create online links between their own databases and the system’s contracts, summaries, API and metadata. (Learn more below.)
Land contracts define the responsibilities of the investors, governments and other parties, and impact a range of social and environmental issues. But these contracts can be difficult to access and, even when contracts are publicly disclosed, the opportunities to assess key contract provisions and compare them to other contracts are often limited.
This, in turn, can result in a critical lack of knowledge. Host governments lose the opportunity to learn from other countries’ terms and experiences. Communities are less able to hold governments and investors to account, and to assert community rights throughout the lifecycle of a project. And investors risk imperiling their investment if heightened local tensions over land use or land deals result in local conflict or political upheaval.
Making contracts available and accessible to the general public builds a climate of stronger accountability and trust. Contract transparency is also critical for the local communities who are affected by land-based investments, and whose livelihoods depend on the sustainable management of their lands and resources.
Greater transparency around contractual terms is encouraged by a number of guidelines and principles, including:
- CFS, Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (2014)
- FAO-CFS, Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (2012)
- OECD-FAO, Draft Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains (2015)
- French Agency for Development (AFD), Guide to Due Diligence of Agribusiness Projects that Affect Land and Property Rights (2014)
- Land Policy Initiative (AUC-AfDB-UNECA), Guiding Principles on Large Scale Land Based Investments in Africa (2014)
- New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, Analytical Framework: Due Diligence and Risk Management for Land-Based Investments in Agriculture (2015)
- USAID, Operational Guidelines for Responsible Land-Based Investment (2015)
- United Nations Principles for Responsible Contracts (2011)
- United Nations Large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Leases: A Set of Minimum Principles and Measures to Address the Human Rights Challenge (2009)
Work With Us: How Can OpenLandContracts Help Your Organization?
CCSI can provide governments with the technical support to build their own online contract repositories using OpenLandContracts, enabling more efficient disclosure and access for land contracts and other relevant documents.
How do you use land deal information in your work? Can we make the land contracts that matter to you more accessible? Do you have suggestions that will help increase the impact of this repository?
We would love to hear from you. Contact the CCSI team at: firstname.lastname@example.org