White faces in fatigues – I’m sure that’s just what most Mozambicans were hoping to see upon their shores. After all, it certainly isn’t the first time. Ever since the Portuguese started planting trading posts and forts on what was known as the Swahili Coast around the year 1500, an arrival of armed whites has never really ended well for the locals. Now, if half a millennium late to the party, America recently shipped an army special forces detachment to the country.
Amidst a worsening climate crisis, the Oakland Institute’s new report, Driving Dispossession: The Global Push to “Unlock the Economic Potential of Land,” sounds the alarm on the unprecedented wave of privatization of natural resources that is underway around the world. Through six case studies—Ukraine, Zambia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Brazil—the report details the myriad ways by which governments—willingly or under the pressure of financial institutions and Western donor agencies—are putting more land into so-called “productive use” in the name of development. “The fact that most of the land on our planet, especially in the Global South, is public land or land held under customary tenure systems is seen as an obstacle to exploitation and economic growth,” said Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute and the lead author of the report. “Governments are being pushed to adopt the Western notion of private land ownership to give corporations access to natural resources—land, water, and minerals—just the opposite of the drastic shift we need to win the struggle against climate change."