Making Sand into Gold


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Haider Y. Abdulla | - Property Landscape in DubaiThose of you who have visited Dubai in recent years may relate to what I am going to say: Dubai is in the middle of the desert, and its land, not that long ago, was really worth nothing. Now it is one of the most vibrant international cities in the world. All this happened in a relatively short time span.

Behind this impressive development, there was leadership, a vision that was converted into laws and policies, institutional reforms, and human resources development that made it possible. At the center of it all, was land and real estate policies. The Dubai Land Department is one of the best in the World. According to the World Bank Doing Business Report, Dubai ranks No. 10 in the world in registering properties, which far exceeds the ranking of many of the developed economies.

The choice of Dubai to host the first Arab Land Conference is no coincidence.

The conference, to be held from Feb 26-28, 2018, will address some of the most challenging topics in the Arab countries today: how to manage land to reduce conflicts, promote social and economic development and maximize the utilization of land and property for individuals, and the state and society. In other words, how to make Sand into Gold.

The conference is organized by the Government of the United Arab Emirates in partnership with the World Bank, the Global Land Tool Network, UN-Habitat, the Arab League and the Arab Union of Surveyors.

The conference is open to everyone; government officials, academia, students, real estate agents and developers, private sector and civil society. The conference will include high level Ministerial sessions but also will include technical sessions where papers and presenters will be submitted through the website. All papers and presentations need to address land and property issues in the Arab countries. The deadline for the submission of papers is December 15, 2017. Some funding will be available to finance a limited number of participants whose papers or presentation are accepted.

The conference will address very important topics that the region faces: such as access to land for sustainable business and investment; the link between land and housing policies;  education, research and capacity development on land policy, management, and administration; protection of land and property rights of displaced people and refugees to facilitate reconstruction; women, land and property rights; new technologies to support land and real estate registration systems, property valuation and taxation policies.

We will have several roundtable discussions on the side of the conference to discuss some of the important messages that will come out of the conference. At the end, we hope to promote more knowledge sharing, research and capacity development among the Arab countries on this vital topic.

As we all know, land governance, or lack thereof, has contributed to many of the region’s ills. We hope this event will initiate a conversation in the region to address many of the underlying land challenges and unlock its potential to build a better future through unlocking the economic and social potential of the region. In other words, we hope to learn from Dubai how to use sand to make gold.

I encourage you to register, submit a paper or simply come and participate in the discussion. A special invitation to the students and the younger generation to come and contribute.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the conference.


Wael Zakout

Senior Technical Advisor and Global Lead, Land Policy and Geospatial

Godfred Denkyi Nketia
December 06, 2017

The fundamental bedrock of land for sustainable business and investment requires at its heart, the link between land and housing policies; education and research to serve as a frameworks to address this issue. An integrated framework is presented for analyzing and evaluating land use planning to address growing land use pressures, taking into account the socioeconomic and environmental aspects and the effect of land use change on water resources in United Arab Emirates. In land use planning, it is essential to identify the current problems and then to find proper solutions and their implementation with the aim of planning toward long-term conservation and sustainable use of land resources. This identifies areas of land with high value for conserving water resources to help public sector for their planning activities. A general spatial modeling framework using geographic information system (GIS) capabilities and based on land use suitability units is used for evaluating how planning alternatives could affect water resources and best satisfies defined policies. The framework is applied to United Arab Emirates as a case study. This framework is important for making decisions about land and water resource use, managing growth, growing land use pressures and cumulative effects, reconciling competing demands for land, and integrating land use policies. It is anticipated that the policy makers, land use planners, decision-makers, and engineers can benefit from the framework.It is my conviction that if the above statement are adhered to, Lands at the UAE can be sustained.

December 07, 2017

Please send me details of Participation procedures. I am from development sector work as Social Development Specialist in india.

December 07, 2017

Thank you for the comment. You can register to the conference by visiting the web site:

Shawki Barghouti
December 06, 2017

Very timely conference with important messages about the urgent need for land policies responsive to the growing challenges facing the region. There are more than 300 million people in the region where about 80 percent of the land is marginal or desert environment. the region suffers from severe scarcity of land suitable for cultivation and of declining water resources. Large rural migration to urban centers in most MENA compounded by high rate of population growth has forced urbanization into scarce cultivated lands. For example, several experts in Egypt supported by satellite images have documented that expanding population and urbanization has cost Egypt the loss of than 50 thousand acres annually of rich agricultural land in the delta to accommodate increasing demands for housing, factories and business development. Over the last three decades, according to these experts,the already scarce irrigated agricultural lands in Egypt declined by about one million and half acres. The Government has lunched an impressive program to compensate for these losses by investing in the desert to expand cultivation and urban development. This expansion would rely on expensive and risky deep aquifers to extract ground water resources. The intial estimates of the cost of this porgram is close to nine billion dollars.Responsive land policies are urgently needed to guide sustainable development and management of both the old lands and the newly developed desert lands.
Urbanization in most MENA countries is expanding at the cost of significant losses in agricultural lands. Most productive rainfed areas around Amman Jordan have been converted to urban dwelling. Unlike Dubai where the desert has been transformed to impressive urban centers, most countries in MENA region have not adequately addressed the urgently needed land and water policies to guide the growing urbanization and to implement land use planning to protect scarce cultivable land and associated water resources.
The growth of dynamic urban centers such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi are real life successful case studies of urban development in marginal areas without the need to invade already scarce agricultural lands in most of MENA countries.

December 07, 2017

Thank you Shawki for the excellent comment by pointing to a very important point.. how to consider land and water policy in planning of urban expansion and development of an efficient land and property markets that serves the needs of citizens in both urban and rural areas. I hope you will be able to participate in the conference so that we can raise the awareness of this critical point.

Jean Marie Bora
January 03, 2018

Mr Shawki Barghouti, your global wolf on land policy and land reform is a strong framework for achieving the sustainable development goals in the region. You have thought and analyzed everything vertically and horizontally in the framework of integrated development of the agricultural land policy (and you have a good example of success like Dubai). But I wanted to know if you have in study and planning this project? Thank you.

B. Norman Nathan
December 06, 2017

I am the Secretary General of Malaysian Global Business Council and also Deputy President of Malaysia Ghana Busi9ness Chamber PLUS my new appointment of Director for Malaysia Indo-OIC Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
With the combination of all the three organisations we have lots of needs to support these countries on how to convert their "Golden" resources to real Gold and sustainable financial gains.
I would like to attend this conference to meet other like minded people to share our view for the benefit of the "needy".
Thank you and kind regards
B. Norman Nathan
Secretary General - Malaysian Global Business Council
Deputy President - Malaysia Ghana Business Chamber
National Director for Malaysia - Indo-OIC Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

December 07, 2017

Dear Norman, thank you very much for your interest in the conference. Definitely, you are very welcome to attend. In fact, the conference is open to everyone. And I know many people from outside the Arab region will be participating.

mohamed Timoulali
December 20, 2017

Attended the Second Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA-2017), 14-17 November 2017, UNECA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Will be pleased to share informations from Morocco and NA.

Mohamed Timoulali
March 01, 2018

Very successful ALC 2018. Thanks to the organisers.
Following the discussions on UNGGIM Ronde Table, I provide the link to the Africa Action Plan on Global Geospatial Information :…

John Monday
September 09, 2021

I believe that the best discoveries is yet to come. If knowledge will be put together we can convert sand to gold, to build cities in the future.
What is your take on this?