Right to Land

Since the onset of the global financial crisis of the last decade and the paradoxical rise in the prices of primary materials, a new “Land Rush” has been underway in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Corporate and other interests have been acquiring land at unprecedented rates for agricultural and mining pursuits. These acquisitions (referred to by many as “land grabs”) very often have immediate and devastating impacts on the Right to Sustainable Livelihood of local communities that rely on acquired lands for their subsistence. Communities and their allies have often resisted these acquisitions in multiple ways, both inside and outside of the courts. In some cases, human rights claims based on international law have been used to advance community rights. PHRGE is examining the long-term viability of using human rights strategies in the regulation of international large-scale land acquisitions, and creating partnerships to align the Law School’s research and other resources with efforts to protect and advance community rights.

Alfred Brownell is a Distinguished Scholar in Resident at the Program on Human Rights on the Global Economy (PHRGE). Professor Brownell is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading defenders of human rights and the environment in Africa. He was awarded the 2019 Goldman Prize for his work protecting Liberia’s tropical rainforests and indigenous communities. Professor Brownell is currently the Tom & Andi Bernstein Visiting Human Rights Fellow at Yale University. He continues to collaborate with PHRGE on land rights issues and to serve as a resource for Northeastern students.

Recent Events

March 29-31, 2021
Securing the Firewall and Connecting the Unconnected: Frontline Defenders Across West Africa

PHRGE was proud to co-sponsor this event, hosted by Yale Law School, on the urgent need to better understand the security challenges faced by human rights defenders, identify gaps in their safety nets, and establish a “a support and response mechanism for frontline grassroots environmental, land, and human rights defenders across West Africa.” The conference was developed in response to a recent report written by Alfred Brownell and several human-rights organizations in West Africa that provides a baseline assessment of safety issues and human-rights defenders across the West Africa region.

  • Highlights

    "Tahoe on Trial: Guatemalan Communities Defend Land and Life"

    On October 26th, Llan Carlos Davila, a community leader from Santa Rosa de Lima in Guatemala spoke about efforts to peacefully halt the development of Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine through popular education, grassroots base building and the organization of six municipal referenda during which more than 50,000 people have voted against mining in their territories. Llan Carlos also detailed the ongoing threats he and other leaders face due to their efforts to defend the results of the referenda and halt Tahoe’s expansion in the region. This event is part of a speaking tour organized by the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA). For more information, see http://tahoeontrial.net.

    "Tapping into the Right to Water: Accessibility, Affordability, and Quality"

    On November 5-6, 2015, the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) hosted its 10th annual Human Rights Institute at Northeastern University School of Law. This year, PHRGE’s Institute convened scholars and advocates to explore how a human rights framework can be applied to water rights advocacy and implementation, with specific attention to accessibility, affordability and quality. The keynote speech, entitled, "Beyond Greens vs. The Poor: A Way Out of the U.S. Water Crisis", was delivered by Patricia Jones, Senior Program Leader on the Human Right to Water at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC).


    "The Human Right to Water and Sanitation: Malmo's 'Sorgenfri' Roma Settlement and Beyond"

    On December 8, 2015, Faculty Co-Director Martha F. Davis will present a seminar at the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, entitled "The Human Right to Water and Sanitation: Malmo's 'Sorgenfri' Roma Settlement and Beyond". She will speak about the eviction of a Roma settlement in Malmo on environmental grounds and offer comparisons to the human rights struggles centered around the right to water in the United States.