How to facilitate effective engagement with the private sector to promote responsible investment? How to elaborate a strategic action plan to talk with private sector enterprises or with actors from the enabling environment to influence the policies, laws, regulations, institutions, and norms shaping land-based investments?
This guide provides practical guidance for multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) and national land coalitions working to advance people-centred land governance, on whether and how to engage with the private sector to promote Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI).
Engaging the private sector in responsible agricultural investments
Why this guide
There is growing pressure on land and local communities, in a context of climate change, poverty and inequality and other social and environmental challenges. This is largely caused by increasing numbers of large-scale investments in agriculture that continue to be approved and implemented with scant regard for the environmental and human rights impacts.
Consensus-based, global principles on land tenure and on RAI, such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGTs) and the CFS-RAI principles, establish expectations for people-centred governance of land resources and land-based investments. These principles are voluntary and non-binding. Nevertheless, they have established new expectations on governments and the private sector to respect socially legitimate land rights. As a result, there is growing interest in how private companies and governments can operationalise these global principles to ensure that private investments not only do no harm to host communities’ and local people’s rights, lives, and livelihoods, but also have net positive impacts. The potential to facilitate effective engagement with private sector companies or to influence the enabling environment to create new requirements on companies is relevant to civil society and other actors concerned with defending legitimate local land rights and supporting sustainable development opportunities for rural communities.
Engage with or seeking to influence the private sector on RAI is not always easy, and MSPs face a number of challenges and constraints, including a lack of incentives for companies to engage or regulations requiring and pressuring companies to engage. Irresponsible practices by companies leads to land-related disputes and conflicts, negative impacts on local communities, existing land uses, tenure systems and other local conditions, and disabling policy and regulatory environments, but civil society often lack resources and operating space to challenge companies or to work constructively with them and have limited experience of the latter.
To support them, Land Collaborative partners – ILC, Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and the Mekong Region Land Governance Project (MRLG) – organised and commissioned the delivery of a virtual Learning Cycle on “Engaging the private sector”.
The Learning Cycle, which involved selected MSP and MAP members from 12 countries (Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Laos, Liberia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Vietnam), was facilitated by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich (UoG), UK. It used an approach based on a participatory Social Learning methodology involving collectively creating knowledge, identifying case studies and lessons learned, and sharing experiences in an environment of trust and a spirit of collaboration.
HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE
The guide, codeveloped as part of this joint learning process, aims to disseminate beyond participants the principles, approaches and strategic actions identified by the group to increase awareness of potential strategies for MSP engagement of the private sector. It includes case studies and practical examples of the application of such strategies.
The guide is organised in five steps:
Step 1: Understand private-sector engagement and responsible agricultural investment
Related to this step, the guide offers a first introduction to understand RAI and a conceptual framework to navigate the complexity involved, including types of actors, institutions and rules of agricultural investment and related land governance processes. It helps to identify potential entry points for engaging the private sector and other stakeholders on RAI issues at country level. It also explains how to conduct an in-depth situation analysis and define clear principles to guide the platform as explores potential engage with or influencing of the private sector.
Step 2: Consider different approaches to private sector engagement
When assessing how to engage with or influence private sector actors or to try and influence the enabling environment, it is helpful for MSPs to identify the main differences between the various approaches and relevance to the specific context. The possible options include advocacy, collaborative social learning, and capacity strengthening. MSPs may decide that they need to combine different approaches.
Step 3: Explore potential strategic actions that reflect wider MSP objectives
There is a range of potential strategic actions for engaging the private sector, which can be broadly classified as direct or indirect. Direct actions focus on engagements with specific individual companies or groups of companies, with the goals of changing their policies, management systems and practices to improve the outcomes for local communities and the environment. Indirect actions focus on shifting the rules of the game, which can determine what types of investments are made, requirements of and incentives for companies,and the impacts they can have. This chapter provides guidance on both kinds of strategic actions.
Step 4: Review platform roles and capacity-strengthening priorities
As part of this step, this chapter indicates and explains specific actions that MSPs can take to build their own capacity to engage and to prepare to build capacity on RAI amongst private sector and other actors.
Step 5: Develop a strategic action plan
Finally, after acquiring all relevant knowledge and information, it is important to understand how to build a detailed action plan to engage the private sector and influence the enabling environment or fill any gaps where an action plan already exists. This chapter offers the relevant guidance.
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