Useful Resources

CCSI and Namati, Community-Investor Negotiation Guide 1: Preparing in Advance for Potential Investors

This guide sets out practical guidance to help communities and their advisors to prepare before potential investors arrive, and after an investor has approached a community. It covers topics and activities such as visioning a community’s desired future, understanding how valuable the land is for the community, and ensuring the inclusion of all voices within community decision-making, as well as pointers on meaningful consultation, information access, and knowing the community’s rights. The guide is designed to apply to agriculture and forestry projects but may have some applicability to agreements reached in the contexts of extractive or renewable energy projects, among others.

CCSI and Namati, Community-Investor Negotiation Guide 2: Negotiating Contracts with Investors

This guide for communities and their advisors provides practical guidance on the issues to consider when a community has decided to negotiate a contract with an investor. Using example clauses, and guidance boxes for community discussion and seeking legal advice, it describes all of the various sections and clauses that should be in a contract, advises what protective language to try to include in the contract to make it enforceable, and warns against types of problematic contractual language that should be avoided. The guide is designed to apply to agriculture and forestry projects but may have some applicability to agreements reached in the contexts of extractive or renewable energy projects, among others.

CCSI, Requirements for community development in mining laws

This resource includes “requirements for community development” in domestic laws relating to mining or, occasionally, business activities more generally. Such laws include requirements for companies to contribute to the development of, or provide socio-economic benefits to, community members located on or near the concession area. These contributions may include revenue sharing or other monetary compensation, improvements to educational or health services, opportunities for training or other livelihood diversification, and construction or repair of infrastructure, among others. In some cases, legal requirements for sub-national transfers or national funds dedicated to community development are also listed for added context.

CCSI, Directory of Community Guidance on Agreements relating to Agriculture or Forestry Investments (2018)

While there are a number of existing resources that can assist communities and their advocates in their interactions with investors over land—from negotiating better agreements with investors, to monitoring whether investors fulfill the terms of their agreements—these resources are not always easy to find. This detailed directory lists relevant guides and other documents, provides links to the original documents, and includes brief descriptions of their content.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is OpenCommunityContracts.org?

    OpenCommunityContracts.org is a searchable and user-friendly online repository of publicly-available contracts negotiated between local communities, investors, and/or host governments seeking to use their lands and resources for agriculture, forestry, mining, oil and gas extraction, renewable energy, and other natural resource projects. It follows on from two other investor-state contract databases: OpenLandContracts.org (for large-scale land, agriculture, and forestry projects) and ResourceContracts.org (for extractive projects).

  • Who are the partners contributing to the site?

    OpenCommunityContracts.org is an initiative of the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI), a joint center of the Earth Institute and Columbia Law School at Columbia University. The project is supported by the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute.

  • How can I use this website?

    OpenCommunityContracts.org aims to support stakeholders, including communities affected by investment projects, civil society organizations, investor companies, host governments, the media, and development practitioners. The online repository includes: downloadable PDF files of contracts and agreements; basic and contextual information about each agreement; plain language summaries of each contract’s key terms (concerning negotiation, governance and benefit sharing, among other issues); and options to search and download all information about each contract. Our goal is to improve access to and understanding of these contracts in order to assist all stakeholders, and particularly those with limited resources, to understand key aspects of the contracts communities negotiate in the context of investment projects. At this time, contracts and annotations are available in English, French or Spanish, depending on the country of origin. 

    Please note that the summaries included on the site do not provide a legal or fiscal analysis of the contracts or agreements. 

  • How do I search for contracts?

    OpenCommunityContracts.org provides several ways to search for contracts. You can:

     

    • Find contracts by country on the Homepage
    • Use the search bar on the  Search Documents page
    • Search contracts and agreements by Country, Resource, Company, Language, Agreement Type or Industry by using the dropdown menus available on the Search Documents page. 

    Use quotation marks to search for a phrase. For example, to search for the company name Golden Veroleum Liberia, Inc., use “Golden Veroleum Liberia” to return the most relevant results.  

  • Can I download data from the site?

    You can download a master spreadsheet containing the full data (including ‘basic information’ and ‘summary’ fields) for every agreement on the Home page. 

    You can download the PDF file or data spreadsheet of any agreement provided in the repository by clicking on the individual agreement icon. All PDF files are text-searchable.

  • What types of agreements are available on this site?

    OpenCommunityContracts.org provides publicly-available, community contracts and agreements relating to agriculture, forestry, mining, oil and gas extraction, renewable energy, and other natural resource projects. These contracts are for any project between an affected community, a company or investor implementing a land-based investment project, and/or a host government, provided the document has already been published or released in the public domain.

    The agreements are divided into six categories.

      • Benefit agreements involve the company providing things to the community, such as payments, job creation or the provision of infrastructure or social services, in exchange for use of the community’s lands and resources, and/or in exchange for the community’s support for the company’s planned investment. Also known as community development agreements or social agreements, among many other names.
      • Compensation agreements are generally negotiated in response to damage suffered by the community by company operations.
      • Contract farming or outgrowers agreements involve community members who are agricultural producers making a business arrangement with the investor company to produce and sell commodities to the company on specific terms.
      • Indigenous Land Use Agreements are specific to Australia and often function similarly to benefit agreements.
      • Leases involve an individual, family, or community allowing a company to occupy and use lands and resources for a set period of time in exchange for payment and potentially other benefits (such as the benefits typically provided through benefit-sharing contracts).
      • Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) usually set out basic rules for how the parties will interact and what they will try to do, and are often followed by a more detailed contract. MoUs are generally not intended to be binding but can be if made in accordance with domestic contract law.

     

     

     

  • Who are investors, host governments, and local communities and land users?
    • Investors are the foreign or local corporate entity that has entered into a contract with the community and that will be implementing the investment project. As well as corporate entities, an investor can be an individual person, or another country.
    • Local communities are communities located in or near an investment, while land users are individuals or groups that use or rely on the land underlying the investment. Land users may or may not have formal documentation to the land; a lack of documentation does not necessarily mean that they do not have rights to the land.
    • Host governments are the governments of the country in which the investment is being made. 
  • Are there other rules that regulate investments?

    Community contracts are important, but are only one part of the legal framework governing a particular investment project. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the terms, rules, and regulations affecting a particular project, it is necessary to examine a wide range of sources beyond the contract itself, including: the domestic legal framework governing the investment; the host government’s international legal obligations, including environmental and human rights obligations, and international investment treaty obligations; any investor-state contracts relevant to the investment project; and relevant guidelines and principles to which the host government or investor company may have committed regarding such investments. 

  • Does this website explain whether a contract is fair?

    No. This website contains contracts, as well as summaries of key terms. This allows users to review the content of the contracts and to compare the terms of any contract with those in other contracts. In order to evaluate whether the contract is fair, the terms should be analyzed systematically in light of the context in which each contract was signed and the broader legal framework relevant to the contract. 

    Users can learn more about the context of the contract by checking the links listed in the following Basic Information fields for each contract:

      • Reports lists relevant research and media reports about the agreement or the project in general.
      • OpenCorporates ID shows incorporation and ownership information about the investor company.
      • Listings in other databases links to other databases, such as the Land Matrix or FarmLandGrabs.org, which have further information about the investment project
      • Listing of the parent contract at ResourceContracts.org or OpenLandContracts.org links to any related investor-state contract executed for the investment project.

     

     

     

  • How accurate are the summaries?

    The contract summaries are meant to facilitate public understanding of important terms in the contracts. OpenCommunityContracts.org strives to ensure that these serve as neutral annotations rather than interpretations of contract language. The summaries should not be viewed as the interpretations or legal advice. Moreover, neither the summaries nor the full contracts are complete accounts of all legal obligations related to the projects in question; both should be read in connection with applicable laws and regulations.  

    The summaries do not assess the legal status of the documents or any of their constituent elements, and no warranty is made regarding the thoroughness or accuracy of any content on this website or of any documents or websites to which this site links. Should you notice any inaccuracies while using the site, please email us at ccsi@law.columbia.edu. 

  • How complete are the contracts?

    In some cases, contracts available on OpenCommunityContracts.org may be missing pages or may refer to additional documents (Annexes, Amendments, etc.) that are missing from the site. We can only provide and summarize the information that is available to us, and users should be cautious in relying on the contracts listed on the site, as there may be other annexes, appendices, schedules, pages, or relevant documents that were not made public. 

  • What if a contract has been canceled, terminated, or amended?

    While OpenCommunityContracts.org is updated regularly, the information provided on this site is inherently subject to change. In addition, contracts included in the repository may have subsequently been modified or terminated. When modifications have been made public, OpenCommunityContracts.org endeavors to publish and summarize the modifications, so that users may assess for themselves the impact of the modifications.

    OpenCommunityContracts.org provides access to contracts and their related documents in the original form in which they were made public. When contracts and amendments have been joined together in the same PDF, we summarize them together.

  • How do you decide which contracts to post?

    OpenCommunityContracts.org will post any community contract or relevant related document if it has been published or released in the public domain. For purposes of the foregoing, means of publication or release in the public domain include: (a) publication on a government website or in an official government publication; (b) publication on a contracting party’s company website or through its public filings; (c) government release in response to access to information requests; or (d) release online by a non-contracting party.

    Further details regarding our posting policy and the criteria applied by OpenCommunityContracts.org in selecting contracts to publish on the site are available on the home page. 

  • Are the PDF documents ever edited before you post them?

    As a general rule, we post documents in the exact form that we find them. We never make changes to the wording or substance of a document. In the following limited circumstances, we may re-arrange the pages within a PDF contract/document to make it easier to read and understand:

    (i) If the contract/document we are posting is contained within a larger PDF document that has many other documents (such as a civil society report on the project that has the contract as an annex), we will excerpt the contract/document we are posting, rather than posting the full original PDF document. This way the first page of the posted PDF is the first page of the contract/document.

    (ii) If the contract/document’s pages are evidently out of order, we may re-arrange the pages so that they appear in the correct numerical order.

     

  • How should I cite OpenCommunityContracts.org?

    OpenCommunityContracts.org. Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment. Web. [Insert date of access].

  • Where can I send questions and comments about this site? How can I add a contract to the repository?

    Please send any questions and comments to at ccsi@law.columbia.edu. This tool is intended to be a public resource, with input from all groups interested in greater transparency of large-scale investment projects. If you know of contracts that should be included in this growing repository, please email us.

    Disclaimer

    No warranty is made regarding the thoroughness or accuracy of any content on this website or of any documents or websites to which this site links. Should you notice any inaccuracies while using the site, please email us at ccsi@law.columbia.edu.