Generating Support for Land Rights on Behalf of Indigenous Peoples

Work with the Rights and Resources Initiative

The Challenge

Economic development in countries containing most of the world’s tropical forests often takes the shape of natural resource extraction. Governments claim more than 60 percent of these forests. They grant large concessions to multinational companies for logging, mining, oil and gas drilling, and large-scale agriculture, ignoring the Indigenous Peoples and local communities who live in and depend on these forests for their livelihoods. While efforts to secure indigenous land rights have gained some traction over the years, the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) hosted a conference in Interlaken, Switzerland, intent on generating significant momentum for the movement.

Our Approach

The first step in building a “moment” for the land rights movement was to create a buzz in anticipation of the conference. Burness worked with RRI to create a Facebook ad campaign that promoted the issue of land rights while counting down the days to the conference. Then, working with key actors in the land rights movement, Burness produced opinion pieces that discussed the issues and promoted the event. Finally, on the eve of the conference, Burness helped RRI release groundbreaking research showing that one out of every three square kilometers given by governments to companies had someone living there.

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Results and Impact

The press coverage, teed up by the social media buzz, created considerable impact. Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg and the Guardian (UK) were among the outlets covering the report release, and the opinion pieces ran in Al Jazeera online, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters Foundation. Additional coverage of the conference was led by an Associated Press feature. In all, more than 200 outlets in dozens of countries ran stories, either producing original reports or running wire coverage. After the conference, Burness produced two videos that documented what took place, capturing the moment for internet audiences. Most importantly, the land rights movement gained new allies in the private sector and civil society, pushing the issue forward.