Human Rights Law Centre

Blended Finance and Human Rights

Protecting the Past, Preserving the Future was granted GCRF funding from the Rising From the Depths Network to commence in June 2019. Together colleagues from HRLC and Kabarak Law School will comparatively examine the socio-legal implications of two infrastructural projects directly impacting the marine cultural heritage (MCH) of coastal areas in Kenya and Madagascar.

Both infrastructure projects partially rely on development funds, used to attract further private sector investment. This private-public partnership (PPP) financing model raises a number of unanswered legal questions. Through the lens of human rights, including the right to culture, this project will investigate the impact of this development finance model and how the MCH and local communities relying on it can be protected.

Protecting the Past, Preserving the Future: Blended Finance and the Protection of Marine Cultural Heritage in Lamu Port (Kenya) and Tolagnaro (Madagascar)

Project team

  • Principal Investigator - Dr Daria Davitti
  • Co-Investigator (Kenya) - Mr Joseph Agutu Omolo
  • Co-Investigator (UK) - Ms Laura Wills
  • Research Assistant (Kenya) - Ms Lucianna Wambui Thuo


In 2014, the construction of a 32-Berth port in the designated UNESCO World Heritage site of Lamu, Kenya, began. This development project is part of the Kenyan Government’s Kenya Vision 2030 Strategy that aims to establish Kenya as an industrialising middle-income nation by 2030.

Since construction in Lamu commenced, however, the project has faced significant resistance from local communities regarding the interference with their traditional fishing waters and in turn their livelihood and traditional cultural practices.

Additionally, construction has caused significant harm to the local environment and MCH. Whilst examining the MCH impacts of Lamu port, the project also explores one of its less well-known aspects, that is its development finance dimension. What are the implications of financing an infrastructural project of these dimensions through PPPs? What are the applicable legal frameworks? How do different branches of law interact in the structuring of the development finance architecture behind the project? How does this affect, if at all, human rights protection?


The creation of a large QMM mining project in Tolagnaro, Madagascar, raises questions regarding its impact on local fishing communities, with their sea-dependent identity, as well as Tolagnaro’s unique marine biodiversity, coastal forest and the related intangible MCH.

Significantly, Madagascar is the only East African party to the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Informed by the findings of the Lamu case study and guided by consultation with local stakeholders, our work in Madagascar will assess how our overall research findings may be transferred to different settings and look at whether the law can be better used to preserve MCH and prevent further loss for these communities.

Using the findings of our work in Kenya, we will create an advocacy and engagement toolkit to help affected communities and other stakeholders when taking part in discussions about the design, involvement and implementation of similar projects. Through work with local Malagasy stakeholders, the toolkit will be testing in this different setting to ensure its transferability.


Human Rights Law Centre

School of Law
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

+44 (0)115 846 8506