Who owns it? - Land claims in Latin America: Their moral legitimacy and implications (completed)

The aim of this project is to investigate the legitimacy of land claims by both indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Latin America, and to explore the means that these communities can adopt to vindicate justified land claims.

About the project

Three kinds of argument can support the idea that communities have a legitimate claim to some land or territory.

  • The first argument is based on the idea that because these communities (or their ancestors) were unjustly dispossessed of their land, and are being kept in poverty due to their continued exclusion from the land, the State and persons such as those who currently occupy their land have a responsibility to rectify past injustice, and to reform the current legal order which perpetuates it.
  • The second argument is based on the idea that, because the community is in severe need and the State and affluent persons are in a position to alleviate their need at moderate cost, they have a responsibility to do so.
  • The third argument appeals to the idea that, even if the State and current occupants of the land did not cause or could not have prevented unjust exclusion from the land from happening, they have a duty to compensate the wronged community because they have benefited from these injustices. 


The project will evaluate the force of these three types of arguments in relation to the land claims of disadvantaged persons and groups in Latin America-focusing in particular on Mexico, Brazil and Chile.


The project is run by the Centre for the Study for Mind in Nature. Jemima García-Godos at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights participates as a research partner, mapping out land claims among indigenous peoples and disadvantaged groups in Latin America.


The project is financed by the Research Council of Norway Latin America Programme.

Published May 2, 2012 11:48 AM - Last modified Apr. 1, 2016 2:01 PM