Will multinational corporations someday end up owning all our land?

Hundreds of years ago, European colonists took possession of much of the surface of our planet through unsubtle means: murder, subjugation, and their special move, bringing horrific new diseases. Nowadays, the wealthy and powerful expand their domains less confrontationally, but the effects can still be pretty harmful. Interests in rich countries — mainly multinational corporations (MNCs) make deals with local governments to attain land for their own big-money projects, sometimes evicting locals from their traditional homes and farmland, and contributing to food insecurity. Over the past 10 years, almost 800,000 square miles of land has been bought or leased (eight times the size of Britain), mostly in Asia and Africa.

While MNCs and local governments say the foreign investment helps people in developing countries, the BBC points out "this is not always the reality, and human rights organisations have highlighted cases where tens of thousands of people have been forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands to make way for foreign investors."

So for the past three years, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has been working to try to prevent these "land grabs" from happening. This being the UN, they've arrived at a set of voluntary, non-binding guidelines that will depend on national governments to enact them — and in many cases, those governments have been part of the problem. Still, the agreement at least sets out some common goals for defending universal human rights. If we want to avoid the kind of corporation-dominated world that is the backdrop for so many cyberpunk stories, this is at least a start.

Image: Wikimedia Commons