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Land is more than a precious commodity. It feeds us. It protects us. It gives us hope, a feeling of being rooted in the here and now, and a sense of the possibilities in whatever lies ahead.
Indeed, there are few human emotions quite like the attachment to—and ownership of—a parcel of property in one’s community. Often handed down through generations, land provides identity, security and sustenance, and is home.
Imagine someone taking it all away from you, just like that—for reasons that aren’t explained to you.
Even with your family standing around you, you might feel more bereft than ever. Your soul has been stripped. You have been robbed. Violated. You’ve no idea what the future holds now.
Your land is gone. And, quite literally, you might go hungry as a result.
How do you make sense of that? More important: what, if anything, can you do about it?
In parts of the world, being uprooted from one’s land is a daily reality. Some countries in Latin America, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, for example, are rife with land disputes as the state or other actors usurp millions upon millions of hectares.
What’s often happening is that wealthy, opportunity-seeking investors and speculators from around the world are acquiring vast tracts of property, in collusion with local governments and in defiance of local laws and established human rights principles.
At the same time, states may take land from ethnic groups they dislike or dispute land ownership by widows or female children.
A result? Illegal or unfair “land grabbing” often results in political unrest or open violence that can lead to further human rights abuses, such as arbitrary detention or imprisonment and torture, in addition to the personal costs to individuals and families that are uprooted and left homeless.
When land rights are violated, access to relevant legal information is an important first step on a path to securing justice.
That’s why many legal professionals, business executives, policymakers, academics and others are supporting efforts to advance the availability of local statutes—and not just in transition nations or those emerging from conflict.
LexisNexis is a partner in those efforts. Through its Rule of Law Now initiative, it collects, publishes and disseminates local laws, making them accessible to all.
It also helps communities establish legal frameworks related to land rights. Overcoming a lack of land registries or systems for land titles, as well as data and technology limitations and vague or nonexistent legislation and regulations concerning land ownership in some countries, is a valuable contribution.
Indeed, for many landowners whose rights are at risk, and those who support efforts—often at great risks—by individuals to retain or receive fair compensation for what should be rightfully theirs, the power of knowledge can make a profound difference.
Join the conversation about today’s hot topics at This is Real Law.
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