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23 March 2018

International statement regarding the World Bank project “Piauí: Pillars of Growth and Social Inclusion”

The World Bank’s project “Piauí: Pillars of Growth and Social Inclusion” (project no. P129342) supports a land titling program in an area that is witnessing high levels of land grabbing, land conflicts and environmental destruction, which are linked to the expansion of monocultures into the region known as MATOPIBA, and the Brazilian Cerrado more generally.

The World Bank’s land program in the State of Piauí, Brazil, is a license for land grabbing International Statement

The World Bank is financing a land titling, or “regularization” program in the Brazilian State of Piauí, where large areas of land have been grabbed from local communities and illegally occupied by agribusiness. Local communities, including communities of descendants of runaway slaves (quilombolas) as well as indigenous peoples, are being violently displaced from their traditional lands and face contamination of water and soils, increasing violence against community leaders, deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

The escalation of land grabbing in Piauí and the northeastern part of the Brazilian Cerrado is directly related to the inflow of hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign pension funds, university endowments and other financial companies that are acquiring farmlands by way of Brazilian intermediaries. Internal documents show that the World Bank is aware of the extent of land grabbing in the area.

Through a 120 million USD loan, the World Bank thus supports a land titling program that risks sanctifying these land grabs and paving the way for a new rush of ’legalized’ land grabbing, with more catastrophic social and environmental consequences.

As the World Bank hosts its annual Land and Poverty Conference in Washington D.C., from 19-23 March 2018, Brazilian social organizations and their international partners and supporters are calling for the Bank to suspend its support for the land titling program in Piauí and to respond to the demands of affected communities.

The World Bank project contains no concrete safeguards to ensure that it actually secures people’s tenure rights against dispossession by local agribusiness and speculators, and to guarantee that it does not formalize the dispossession of communities in the context described above. As such, the project does not close the gaps of the state of Piauí’s law on land regularization and is not in line with the UN Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (Tenure Guidelines).

The Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office intervened on December 18, 2017 by issuing a formal recommendation to the World Bank to suspend the land program and to adopt
measures to remedy the violations of the land rights of traditional peoples and communities that have already occurred. The World Bank has yet to respond.

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