Syndicate content

Land

Land Tenure: What have we learned four years after approving a set of international land tenure guidelines?

Gregory Myers's picture
Asilya Gemmal displays her land certificate, given by
the Ethiopian government, with USAID assistance.
“Congratulations, today your baby is four years old,” Iris Krebber, DFID/UK recently emailed me. Iris was not referring to a child, but rather the Voluntary Guidelines for the Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forest (VGGT), an agreement I had the challenging pleasure of bringing to life by chairing a UN negotiation process that resulted in the first globally agreed recommendations for addressing land, fisheries, and forests governance. Often colleagues don’t remember my name, but they call me “the land guy,” which I suppose is better than the “dirt guy.”

The call for an international set of guidelines came from many quarters between 2008 and 2010, but was largely driven by concerns raised in international fora by civil society, member states, development partners, and the private sector. These concerns primarily pertained to food security (and specifically food price spikes) and access, and rights to land and other resources by small, medium and large scale producers as they impact investments in food production systems.  

One of the more notable concerns driving the development of the Guidelines was related to large scale land acquisitions (including what some organizations may sometimes refer to as “land grabbing”). Through a technical process FAO developed the initial draft of the Guidelines, and then initiated a process of input and consultation over two years before the document was given to the UN Committee for World Food Security (UN CFS) for negotiation.

As the subject of land rights can be very political (no international guidance can address the plethora of land challenges from Latin America to Africa to Asia and beyond with one-solution fits-all-problems), and civil society organizations, member states, and the private sector often have different views and needs in achieving their respective objectives, you can imagine it was not an easy task for CFS to agree to a set of guidelines.

Improving access to agricultural land for the internally displaced

Ifeta Smajic's picture
Credit: International Crisis Group

An estimated 38 million people worldwide are forcefully displaced within the boundaries of their own country. In the majority of cases, internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in protracted displacement. For IDPs fleeing rural areas, loss of land, productive assets and sudden shift towards a non-agricultural lifestyle can be stagnating.

Georgia has some 270,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For them, sustainable livelihoods remain a challenge - 80% of the IDPs in Georgia are unemployed compared to a 15% unemployment rate nationwide (2013 figures).

Many Georgian IDPs would like to engage in agricultural production, but suffer from lack of access to sufficient land for pursuing agricultural livelihoods.

Supporting land rights helps us build stronger, more prosperous communities

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Land is an incredibly valuable asset that represents many different things. Land is, first and foremost, a place to call home. For many, it also serves as a critical means of production that they depend on for their livelihoods. Finally, land is inextricably linked to a community's history and culture.
 
Yet, as important as land ownership may be, 70% of the world's population still lacks access to proper land titling or demarcation. This carries a host of negative consequences: when people have to live with the constant threat of potential eviction, they are more likely to remain or become poor, and cannot invest in their land with confidence.
 
Conversely, stronger land rights can be a powerful tool for economic development and poverty reduction. That is why the World Bank is working with client countries to build legal and institutional frameworks that effectively protect land tenure - including for vulnerable groups such as women and indigenous peoples.
 
In this video, World Bank Practice Manager Jorge Muñoz describes in greater depth how the institution is bolstering land tenure around the world as part of its mission to eliminate poverty and boost shared prosperity.

Now's the time to make value-based property taxation happen in Europe and Central Asia

Mika-Petteri Torhonen's picture
Photo: Kyrgyz Republic – Mika Torhonen
The World Bank has supported land reform, land administration, and land management projects in 24 countries in the Europe and Central Asia region (ECA) since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union and Central European socialist countries. This has been a period of catalyzed, unprecedented political, economic, and social changes and also a remarkable success story in creating private property rights, and developing land registration and cadastre systems. The results are becoming visible. According to the 2016 Doing Business Index, 7 of the 10 best- performing property registers are found in ECA countries. It is time to think next steps and how to best utilize these data repositories for development.

How to help communities protect their lands

Rachael Knight's picture
Kenya Land Alliance facilitates a meeting
with the community of Chara, in Tana
River county

The scale of the global land grab is staggering. While international actors have made excellent progress establishing complaint boards, issuing principles for responsible investment, and securing commitments from multi­national corporations, these protections do not chart a clear course of action that communities can follow to protect their lands and natural resources before an investor arrives seeking land. 

The problem is that once an investor arrives to “consult with” a community, it may be too late.  After a deal has been made in capital city conference rooms or in clandestine meetings between chiefs and company representatives, communities are forced on the defensive. At this point, all they can do is try to mitigate the negative impacts of investors' plans rather than assertively proclaiming their legal rights, demanding that the investor abide by FPIC principles, and then choosing whether to reject the investment or accept it on terms that ensure that the community benefits and prospers.

Meanwhile, many of the “investors” grabbing land are national or local elites unaccountable to international  institutions  –  the cousin of the President or the nephew  of the Minister – who operate with complete impunity, protected by powerful connections to government, the judiciary and the police. Such individuals do not answer to shareholders or complaint boards, and are not the least bit concerned with principles of corporate social responsibility. If a community’s land claims  are unrecognized or undocumented – and if the community’s leadership is weak or corrupt – the easier it is for these elites to manipulate their power to claim what land they want.

To have a fighting chance against elites’ bad­faith actions, communities must proactively take steps to know and enforce their rights, prevent their leaders from transacting land without community approval, and seek legal recognition of their land claims.  And they must do so before elites and investors arrive. 

An office on four wheels brings land administration services to isolated populations

Victoria Stanley's picture
 State Committee on Property Issues of Azerbaijan Republic
Photo: State Committee on Property Issues of Azerbaijan Republic
I recently had the opportunity to see the mobile offices run by the State Service for the Registration of Real Estate (SSRRE) of the Republic of Azerbaijan.  These mobile offices provide the same services any citizen can receive in a physical SSRRE office, but they literally come to you.

Property registration is a very important activity in Azerbaijan which has transformed from a planned economy to a market economy over the past decade. For most citizens their property is the largest asset they own, so being able to register that property in a secure real estate registry is very important. However, there are many reasons that can prevent property owners from visiting an office, whether it be distance, old age, or disability. That’s why SSRRE decided to take the office out on the road. 

Learning the lessons of land protection from Africa’s justice advocates

Rachael Knight's picture

Looking out onto irrigated fields, NigeriaRural communities across Africa face a variety of threats to their customary and indigenous land and natural resource claims. The drivers of these threats are diverse: increasing foreign investment, national elite speculation, rising population densities, climate change, and national infrastructure mega-projects, to name a few.
 
The introduction of such external destabilizing influences often sets off a cascade of resulting intra-community challenges. In most communities, the challenges are multiple and overlapping: the divisive tactics of investors may pit community members against one another; state infrastructure development may claim the communal areas communities depend upon for their livelihoods and survival and create intra-community conflicts over scarce resources; elites seeking land may make back-room deals with leaders, undermining community trust of local leaders.
 
Land rights advocates and practitioners are frequently called upon to support communities facing such issues. However, when practitioners engage deeply with these communities, it often becomes clear that a multiplicity of factors and trends have weakened the communities’ ability to respond effectively to the conflict or threat – therefore requiring use of a variety of simultaneous strategies to ensure successful outcomes. The threats and trends are often directly and cyclically linked, with negative trends exposing communities to additional threats.

Blog post of the month: “We are looking at gold and calling it rock”: Supporting communities to calculate the replacement costs of their communal lands and natural resources

Rachael Knight's picture

Boundary tree planting committeeEach month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In May 2015, the featured blog post is " “We are looking at gold and calling it rock”: Supporting communities to calculate the replacement costs of their communal lands and natural resources".

Across Africa, Asia and Latin America, investors are increasingly approaching rural communities seeking land for logging, mining, and agribusiness ventures. In response, international and national advocacy organizations are stepping forward to provide support to communities in negotiations with investors, often with a focus on ensuring adherence to international laws such as the right to free, prior, informed consent (FPIC).[1] Yet even in situations when investors have followed FPIC principles and conducted a formal “consultation” to seek community consent to their proposed business venture, these consultations are generally conducted in a context of significant power and information asymmetries. Communities are frequently pressured by high-level government officials to consent to deals that they do not fully understand or desire. Community members may not be aware of the rental value of their land on the national market, the expected annual profits the investor will gain from the venture, the overall net worth of the investors’ company, and other financial information critical to negotiating a fair contractual agreement, including the value they themselves are deriving from their common lands. As a result, they have difficulty calculating an appropriate rental cost that leaves them in an equal or better position than before the investment.

“We are looking at gold and calling it rock”: Supporting communities to calculate the replacement costs of their communal lands and natural resources

Rachael Knight's picture
Members of the Sihan Clan planting a boundary tree, Rivercess County, Liberia

Communal land, forests, and water sources are essential to the survival of many communities around the world. However, investors seeking resources may negotiate contracts that do not include rental payments. To address this imbalance, Namati and its partners designed an activity to empower communities to grasp the inherent value of their common areas to them, so that they can reject inequitable contract offers and negotiate contracts that will lead to community prosperity.

Across Africa, Asia and Latin America, investors are increasingly approaching rural communities seeking land for logging, mining, and agribusiness ventures. In response, international and national advocacy organizations are stepping forward to provide support to communities in negotiations with investors, often with a focus on ensuring adherence to international laws such as the right to free, prior, informed consent (FPIC).[1] Yet even in situations when investors have followed FPIC principles and conducted a formal “consultation” to seek community consent to their proposed business venture, these consultations are generally conducted in a context of significant power and information asymmetries. Communities are frequently pressured by high-level government officials to consent to deals that they do not fully understand or desire. Community members may not be aware of the rental value of their land on the national market, the expected annual profits the investor will gain from the venture, the overall net worth of the investors’ company, and other financial information critical to negotiating a fair contractual agreement, including the value they themselves are deriving from their common lands. As a result, they have difficulty calculating an appropriate rental cost that leaves them in an equal or better position than before the investment.

Reflections from Hells Gate National Park

Jan Mattsson's picture

​​​​​​Jan Mattsson visits Hells Gate National Park, KenyaJan Mattsson, a member of the Inspection Panel, describes his fact finding mission to Kenya and the truism that every case is unique and every case is complex.

I was recently appointed a Panel Member of the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, and I am blogging from the Rift Valley, Kenya where I am participating in my first fact finding mission related to a complaint filed by Maasai communities. The project in question is the Kenya: Electricity Expansion Project, which was funded by both the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB) and has financed the construction of a geothermal plant within the Hell’s Gate National Park.

The project is geared to addressing Kenya’s growing demand for electricity, as only one out of four Kenyans have access to the national grid.  As with all countries, the growth of the economy and social development efforts relies on a reliable supply of electricity. The use of geothermal energy has the advantage of reducing the dependency on fossil fuels and being climate friendly, as well as lessening dependency on hydro-power resources in Kenya.
 


Pages