LIOH’s Statement on Nationwide Movement Calling to Abolish Myitsone Dam Project

All of the large dam projects built in Myanmar have had severe and negative impacts on peoples’ lives, as a growing body of evidence clearly shows. We, Land in Our Hands (LIOH) network, oppose efforts to construct large dam projects, and call for the far-reaching damage to peoples’ lives caused by existing and under construction projects to be fully addressed.

The Ayeyarwaddy River is a major artery of Myanmar’s cultural heritage. We oppose any acts that attempt to place a financial value on the Ayeyarwaddy River, the Myitsone and the larger river basin, whether it is calculated in kyat, dollars, euros or yuan. The Ayeyarwaddy is not for sale!

Plans and actions which support the conversion of the Ayeyarwaddy River and the Myitsone into electric megawatts are insulting to ethnic peoples residing in these areas, and continues to drive the country further from national reconciliation and sustainable peace.

We clearly warn that the five-year government does not have the authority to decide the future of societies living at the Myitsone or along the Ayeyarwaddy River and its basin.

We demand that the current government completely abolish the Myitsone Dam project, and the other 6 dams in the cascade, within its remaining 2-years term.

We denounce the Myitsone project proponents, including the Chinese Government and its State Owned Enterprises, for their attempts to force the project forward in a clear sign of disregard for the will of the people of Myanmar. We demand the immediate abolishment of Myitsone Dam project and the full restitution of land and livelihoods to those who have already suffered displacement and dispossession.

(Download statement in English or Burmese)

The Oakland Institute’s Open Letter to World Bank’ s 20th Land and Poverty Conference

An Open Letter to the World Bank on its 20th Land and Poverty Conference

March 21, 2019

Ms. Kristalina Georgieva
Interim President, World Bank
1818 H Street NW
Washington, DC, 20433

End the Enabling the Business of Agriculture Program and its Land Indicator

Dear Ms. Georgieva,

As the World Bank’s 20th Annual Land and Poverty Conference gets underway, we urge you to immediately put an end to the Bank’s attack on land rights orchestrated though the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project.

The EBA project was launched in 2013 to push governments to adopt measures and policy reforms favorable to agri-business. The EBA ranks countries on the “ease of doing business” in agriculture. It identifies the “legal barriers” for agribusinesses and prescribes reforms to remove them. With the introduction of a land indicator in the project in 2017, the Bank is now asking governments to ease access to land for agribusiness and ranks countries on their “laws and regulations that impact access to land markets for producers and agribusinesses.” The scores countries obtain are intended to condition aid and investment money.

As detailed in our latest report, The Highest Bidder Takes It All: The World Bank’s Scheme to Privatize the Commons, the Bank claims that low-income countries do not manage land effectively and thus recommends the privatization of land and its sale to private interests as a means to achieve economic development. The EBA thus pressures governments to formalize private property rights; ease the sale of land for commercial use; systematize the sale of public land by auction to the highest bidder; and improve procedures for the expropriation of land. While the Bank claims that such policy changes will bring more freedom and equity to land access, our report clearly demonstrates that the land indicator instead represents an unprecedented push to privatize land and facilitate private interests’ access to the commons, to the detriment of billions around the world.

Perhaps most shocking is the EBA’s prescription that developing country governments, particularly in Africa, transfer public lands with ‘potential economic value’ to private, commercial use so that this land can be put to its supposed ‘best use.’ This ignores the fact that over 3.1 billion people – half of humanity – relies on land for their livelihoods, the majority in developing countries. Communally managed resources such as farmland, water, forests, and savannas are essential to the livelihoods of millions of family farmers, pastoralists, and Indigenous Peoples and are generally also valued as ancestral assets with deep social and cultural significance.

Rather than providing solutions to poverty and promoting shared prosperity, as per the Bank’s mission, the recommendations put forth via the land indicator clearly prioritize the interests and agendas of the EBA’s main donors—the US, the UK and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation- and corporate advisors over the well-being of smallholder farmers, pastoralists, and Indigenous Peoples.

Previous Land and Poverty Conferences have focused on the need for evidence-based approaches to land governance. However, the EBA’s land indicator runs counter to prevailing research and evidence. For instance, a comprehensive study by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) involving over 400 scientists and cosponsored by the World Bank and others, widely discredited the supposed benefits of capital intensive, industrial agriculture. The report urged a shift toward agroecological practices that are less dependent on capital and external inputs. The World Bank’s own research staff has debunked the economic efficiency argument that is used to favor the privatization of land and expansion of land markets. The study states that the creation of land markets ultimately leads to land concentration for industrialized agriculture and monocultures in large mechanized land holdings, which are less productive than family farms.

It is time that the Bank comes clean about its true agenda and quits pretending that it is working in service of poverty alleviation. The EBA and its land indicator do nothing to alleviate poverty. It encourages the expansion of large-scale farming, which results in dispossession and loss of livelihoods for the rural poor, while failing to bring promised economic development and food security. It leads to massive environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity while worsening the climate crisis through deforestation and industrial agriculture.

By making land a marketable commodity that must be offered to the highest bidder, the land indicator will shift land from being an essential source of livelihoods and the basis of resilient farming and ecological balance, to an increasingly speculated upon financial asset that will expand corporate agriculture.

Governments should be urged and helped to design food and agricultural policies that put family farmers, pastoralists, and Indigenous Peoples at the centre to address the major challenges of hunger, environmental degradation, and climate change. Instead, the World Bank has launched an unprecedented attack on their land rights and their future.

Since 2014, the multi-continental, 280-organization strong Our Land Our Business campaign has demanded an end to the EBA program because of its bias towards industrial agriculture and agribusiness corporations. Given the serious threat that the new land indicator poses, it is time to terminate this harmful initiative now.


Anuradha Mittal
Executive Director
The Oakland Institute


Letter from UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar Government on VFV

On 21 January 2019, UN Special Rapporteur communicated to Myanmar Government regarding the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law. The letter was composed from the mandates of:

  • the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar;
  • the Special Rapporteur on the right to food;
  • the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; 
  • the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; 
  • the Special Rapporteur on minority issues and the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

Read the full letter HERE.

LIOH’s Additional Questions on LIFT’s “REAL DEV” Programme

LIFT (Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund) has launched a REAL DEV programme that invites partner agencies to work with the Government on land reclamation and reallocation in Magway, to develop a replicable approach and framework for reallocating State land reclaimed from concessionary holders to the rural poor, landless, and others; according to its website and Facebook page; on 14 December 2018.

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (MATA) jointly send the open letter to LIFT regarding its recently launched call for proposal “REAL DEV Programme”; in 24 December 2018. LIFT responded to the open letter on (28 January 2019) with its safeguarding measures and additional steps based on the concerns raised by LIOH and MATA.

Based on the response of LIFT, the concerns have been come out and raised in addition to previous letter. The following is the letter sent to LIFT on 6 February 2019.

6 February 2019

Dear Katy Webley,

Thank you for your clear and detailed response. We appreciate that LIFT has taken our concerns into account, and has taken steps to change the programme to reflect this. Despite the changes, we still have several concerns and questions. Please see our concerns and questions below; 

There is no clear indication that LIFT intends to change their strategy for implementing the programme. The programme will still use the VFV law, and through doing this will strengthen the capacity of department to implement the VFV law through building their technical capacity.  The alterations to the programme made after our discussion, instead of improving it will only strengthen and legitimise the VFV implementation process via the introduction of conflict sensitivity, transparency, and accountability protocols and procedures. We are concerned that although LIFT does not endorse all aspects of the VFV law, your actions in the programme continue to legitimise it. 

Point 1: Stop-go mechanism

  • How will the open, transparent, and participatory process lead to secure land tenure? The tenure is being granted under the VFV law which offers very little tenure security?
  • The establishment of a dispute mechanism is a good step, but it is important to work on the details. Who will be in charge of the process should a dispute arise (GAD, MoALI, DALMS, LARC)? How will a rightful claim to the land be assessed? Under the current land legislation, it is very difficult to prove land ownership, especially in cases where land was confiscated prior to 2012, and where it has been granted as a concession under the VFV law as VFV land.

Point 2: Conflict Sensitivity

  • We very much appreciate that LIFT has taken our concerns seriously around conflict sensitivity, and is taking swift actions to remedy this.
  • We are somewhat concerned about the independent monitoring mechanism, critical friends, and conflict sensitive advisory group. It is important that LIFT contact civil society working in conflict areas who have experience in and knowledge on the conflict context when looking for advice, rather than relying only on larger more centrally established expert peace groups. This will lead to more reliable and context relevant information to support conflict sensitive programme planning and implementation.

Could you share the results of LIFT’s meeting with MoALI on January 14th 2019? Did you raise the concerns of civil society about the VFV law that we shared with you with Ministers, and if so what was their response?

In response to specific questions:

Question 2.

In your response, you state that LIFT has ensured that this implementation will not impact on larger states and regions because you are encouraging MoALI to view this as a unique case, rather than a replicable process. In your response you highlight that the land is State land, returned after the concession recipients broke their agreement with the government. Our concern is that LIFT does not take into account the history of the land concessions, looking at how the land became State land in the first place, who the landowners were before and whether they received compensation, and how the the companies it was granted to were selected.

In response to Question 2 about programme governance and implementation.

Question 2.

In the implementation Committee, what processes will be in place around decision making, especially to ensure that the final decision making powers are not vested in one stakeholder? Considering Myanmar’s political history, we are concerned that the chosen Chairperson will hold disproportionate sway in the Committee, and will be able to make all final decisions without much resistance.

We welcome LIFT’s motivations to improve the attitudes, behaviours, approaches, and to build the competency of those charged with land allocation and registration. This is key to pushing equitable reform in the country, and LIFT is strongly positioned to have a positive impact here. Taking this into consideration we encourage LIFT to establish a clear policy on Myanmar’s land reforms that contributing to peace, sustainability, and equitable reform. This could be achieved through facilitating open and robust dialogue between stakeholders involved in land use and governance, especially the GAD, MoALI, LARC, civil society, smallholder farmers and Ethnic Governance representatives. We also encourage LIFT to recognise the Ethnic Land Governance administrative structures already in place across the country and their associated policies when approaching future programming. By promoting dialogue between those who work with and rely on land across the country, and all of the systems currently in place to govern this, LIFT will much better positioned to promote actual secure land tenure, and programmes that support peace in Myanmar.

With best regards,

Secretariat Team | Land in Our Hands (LIOH)

LIFT’s Response to Open Letter of LIOH and MATA

LIFT’s response to Open Letter of LIOH and MATA

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (MATA) jointly send the open letter to LIFT regarding its recently launched call for proposal “REAL DEV Programme”; in 24 December 2018. LIFT responded to the open letter that it has added safeguards in the development of the project:

  1. Stop-go mechanism: A key element in ensuring that there is progress towards securing land title to beneficiaries, is the inclusion of a ‘stop go’ point in the design of the project. Without an open, transparent and participatory process that leads to secure land tenure, the agriculture development component of the project will not be implement.
  2. There are clear principles outlined in the documentation associated with the call that will guide the process of land reallocation that include an inclusive, participatory and transparent approach that is in line with LIFT’s principle of do no harm. Further, noting the contentious nature of land, the project will develop a dispute mechanism to support those who may have a rightful claim or grievance to voice.
  3. A Conflict sensitive advisor: LIFT is in the process of retaining the services of a conflict sensitive advisor to support its programming.
  4. A call for proposals for Support to Strengthen Conflict-sensitivity: LIFT and Access to Health, both multi-donor funds, have published a call for proposals for technical assistance focused on three key areas: 1) Promoting conflict sensitivity capacity across the funds; 2) Providing best tailored assistance to implementing partners (IPs); and 3) Adherence with NCA and Bilateral Ceasefire Agreements.

In response to the concerns of LIOH and MATA, LIFT has decided on the following additional steps.

  1. An independent monitoring mechanism: we plan to elaborate and request for assistance with such an accountability mechanism for the land projects. This will be actioned as soon as possible.
  2. Critical friends: a small group of specialists working on conflict issues and with particular expertise on the peace process with whom LIFT, as a fund, can consult.
  3. Conflict sensitive advisory group: we anticipate these to be either groups or regular meetings in order to appropriately convene and consult with stakeholders in ethnic states concerning LIFT programming in conflict affected areas.

Read the full LIFT’s response in English and Burmese.

Civil Society Organizations’ Open Letter to LIFT for its call for proposal “REAL DEV”

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (MATA) jointly send the open letter to LIFT regarding its recently launched call for proposal “REAL DEV Programme”; today in 24 December 2018.

24 December 2018

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (MATA) jointly send the open letter to LIFT regarding its recently launched call for proposal “REAL DEV Programme”; today in 24 December 2018.

On 14 December 2018, LIFT (Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund) has launched a REAL DEV programme that invites partner agencies to work with the Government on land reclamation and reallocation in Magway, to develop a replicable approach and framework for reallocating State land reclaimed from concessionary holders to the rural poor, landless, and others; according to its website and facebook page.

Since the government adopted the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFV law) in 2012, peoples from ethnic areas declared that they don’t have vacant, fallow & virgin land but the ancestral lands they have been living, using & managing for centuries. And many civil society organizations asked the government to abolish the VFV law. Although NLD government initiated to amend this law in 2017, it becomes worse – criminalizing the peoples defending their lands and setting the time for registering the lands. Land in Our Hands is continuously supporting for federal land government and customary practices; thus calling to abolish the VFV law. During May, LIOH released a statement at national level reckoning the voices from different states & regions. That workshop and statement is representing over 1,600 peoples and over 400 civil society organizations across the country.

Despite these continuous public oppositions, the Government adopted the amendments to VFV in September 2018. Thus, LIOH launched the campaign against VFV law and also released a joint statement. The statement is endorsed by 346 local organizations. The international community is also supporting the movement of LIOH and issued the concern letter recently.

At this fragile moment, LIFT called proposals for its programme above-mentioned. Although LIFT says “LIFT’s programme is relevant and responsible – perhaps even more so at this time than before”, it is lacking the political sensitivity around land rights and peace building process as wider impacts. In this regards, LIOH & MATA prepared and sent an open letter to LIFT calling to suspend the call for proposals and reassess its operations in Myanmar in accordance with its 12 conflict sensitivity principles.

Open letter to LIFT: (English) (Burmese)

International Community Issued Statement of Concern on VFV

In December 2018, international community issued the statement of concern to express solidarity with grassroots campaign against VFV in Myanmar and called for petition.

Please visit the official petition site or see the letter here.