My Contributions to the Current Debate


Contributing to CAO's compliance investigation into the Wilmar-3 case. Download a public report from CAO's website.


The Business Case for Transparent Land Deals, presentation at World Bank Conference, Washington, April 2013 / download paper

Transparency in International Land Deals, presentation at Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit, London, March 2013

The Business Case for Transparent Land Deals, presentation at PIEL Conference, London, March 2013


Holding Actors Accountable for Large Scale Land Transactions, presentation at Global Soil Week, Berlin, November 2012

Comments made at the end of session on Accountability at the Global Soil Week, Berlin, November 2012

On Setting up the DSF, letter, September 2012

A Biomass Dispute Settlement Facility, Presentation, The Hague, September 27, 2012.

The Settlement of Disputes on Land Rights, study commissioned by Oxfam/Novib and IDH, May 2012

Agricultural Commodities that Respect Land Rights and Food Security - How to Include Land Governance Issues in Sustainable Commodity Standards, paper presented at the 2012 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty (Washington, April 23-26, 2012)

Agricultural Commodities that Respect Land Rights and Food Security, report of a High Level Workshop of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague February 20. 2012.


Land Governance and Food Security Issues in Commodity Standards,  Interim Report to SDC Bern, Leiden, July 1, 2011.

Report on the World Bank Conference Pre-Meeting, April 18, 2011, Annexe 1 to the interim report to SDC, see above.

Notes after the ILC Meeting, Bern, April 13, 2011, Annexe 3 to the interim report to SDC, see above.

Land Use and Food Security Criteria in Commodity Standards - what is their potential contribution, Facilitator's introduction to session TH07, ISEAL Conference, Zürich, June 9, 2011.


Land Issues in Voluntary Standards for Investments in Agriculture, paper presented at The World Bank Annual Bank Conference on Land Policy and Administration, April 26-27, 2010.

NGO Pressure

NGOs play a major role in addressing land related issues in financial standards and commodity standards. A few examples:

NGOs and multilateral organisations work together in

Grievance Procedures

Grievance procedures contribute to the effectiveness of land related criteria in commodity/financial standards. Three examples:


Human Rights in Commodity Standards

Private Sector Responsibilities

John Ruggie's  (Human Rights Council) framework distinguishes three principles:

  • The State duty to protect against human right abuses by third parties, including business;
  • The corporate responsibility to respect human rights;
  • The need for more effective remedies.

According to the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights, land rights and food security are part of universal human rights, which the private sector must respect. In the case of investments in agricultural production, two groups of players bear special responsibilities for respecting land rights:

  • financial players who invest in land and agriculture;
  • players in commodity supply chains (for food and bio-fuels)

My work for SDC was on the second category. I am now working on the first category as well.

Land Rights in Commodity Standards

Private sector companies have clear responsibilities for respecting human rights (see text frame on the right). Sustainable commodity standards can be an important trigger that strengthens the private sector's responsibility for land related issues.

oil palm

Experience with FSC, RSPO and IFC

Experience with implementing land related criteria in commodity standards is basically limited to FSC and RSPO, but this experience point at strengths as well as weaknesses in applying these standards. Recent RSPO-related cases in Indonesia and FSC-related cases in Uganda and elsewhere show that, although the contribution of certification in itself is still modest, conflicts after certification create momentum for addressing land rights issues. They illustrate the overwhelming importance of bottom-up grievance procedures, which, in the context of commodity roundtables (RSPO, FSC) and IFC have created the stage on which the land-related criteria in commodity standards have evolved from dead text into living realities.

Compliance with IFC Performance Standards

IFC's investment in the palm oil (processing) sector was heavily criticised by NGOs, mainly for violating human rights and destroying biodiversity. Complaints filed with IFC's compliance department (CAO) eventually resulted in a moratorium on palm oil investments, the development of an IFC/World Bank Palm Oil strategy and the use of better management tools. Nevertheless, problems with palm oil investments (investments in Wilmar) continued after lifting the moratorium. On the basis of the evidence presented, CAO decided to do a compliance investigation on Wilmar-3 in 2014. Results were published in May 2016. As a consultant to CAO, I have contributed major elements to that report. See: and . It was concluded that there are still interpretation problems with IFC's performance standards on supply chain responsibilities.