Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > 2013 > The Global Theft of Land: Human Rights, Dispossession, and Destruction

The Global Theft of Land: Human Rights, Dispossession, and Destruction

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  • Date and time: Wednesday 6 February 2013 Fred Pearce
  • Speakers: Megan MacInnes, Fred Pearce, Dr Subir Sinha
  • Chair: Professor Chetan Bhatt
  • #LSELand

The forcible expropriation of land from people by states and  corporations – ‘land grabbing’ – is occurring on a phenomenal scale and affects every continent and most countries of the Megan MacInnes‘South’. Land grabs and the forced displacement of populations, including through state and corporate violence, have been justified through economic development, human development, the extraction of natural resources, the use of land for economic growth, among many other factors. Yet deforestation and land  grabs in Indonesia, slum clearances and land grabs throughout India, environmental Subir Sinhadestruction and population displacements in the Amazon and in various countries of southern America, and massive land grabs, including through natural resource mining across the African continent, have created misery and havoc on a large scale for many populations. In some places, land grabs have gone hand in hand with environmental destruction, conflict and war, forced labour, child labour, illegal expropriation of natural resources, widespread poverty and serious violations and abuses of human rights.

This event explores land grabbing as a global phenomenon that some writers have described as a new form of ‘primitive accumulation’ and ‘accumulation by  dispossession’. The origins of land grabbing and its consequences for human rights, including indirect causes related to environmental destruction and climate change, are discussed.


Megan MacInnes heads up Global Witness’ land campaign. She has more than ten years experience working on governance of land and natural resources in Southeast Asia, and lived in Cambodia for seven years working with grassroots, local and international organisations on land and natural resource governance policy and dispute resolution. She has published extensively and has been a Board member of two local Cambodian organisations.

Fred Pearce is a freelance author and journalist. He has been environment consultant of New Scientist magazine since 1992, reporting from 67 countries. He also writes regularly for the Yale e360 web site in the US, and the Guardian newspaper in the UK. He won a lifetime achievement award for his journalism from the Association of British Science Writers in 2011, and was voted UK Environment Journalist of the Year in 2001. His recent books include The Landgrabbers, Peoplequake, The Climate Files, When the Rivers Run Dry and Confessions of an Eco Sinner. They have been translated into 20 languages. When the Rivers Run Dry was listed among the all-time Top 50 Sustainability Books by the University of Cambridge’s Programme for Sustainable Leadership. 

Subir Sinha lectures and writes on the history of international development and on poor people's movements in India around the question of natural resources. His recent essays are about the transnational fishworkers' movement, agendas of justice arising from poor people's movements, the relation between civil society and the poor in the context of contemporary capitalism and democracy, and emerging forms of political subjectivity of those displaced by on-going forms of primitive accumulation in India.

Audio recording

An audio recording of the event is online here.