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Securing Land and Property Rights for All

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land_governance Introduction to Land Governance

Land reform is the process of examining and changing laws, regulations and customs relating to land ownership and land tenure. The most frequent types of land reform are government-initiated transfers of ownership, with or without consent of and compensation to the original owners. These mainly concern agricultural land.

In urban areas, redistributive land policies through conventional land reforms, as initiated in the 1970s and 1980s, have achieved limited results, likewise attempts to limit access to land, such as putting a ceiling on property laws. During the last two decades, land reforms in former socialist countries and in most Sub-Saharan African countries have emphasised land privatisation. New Land Codes and Land Laws have put an end to the State monopoly on land and introduced private property, with the objective of stimulating private investment and enabling housing markets to work. Nationwide titling programmes to integrate informal tenures within the formal market usually accompany these reforms. Their impact on access to land for the poor is debatable, and has not as yet been properly assessed.

With a rather different perspective, other countries - such as Brazil - have adopted and implemented de facto land reforms based on a series of ground-breaking constitutional, legal and regulatory measures, aiming to improve access to land for the urban poor through urban land policies, special use concession procedures, expropriation through progressive taxation, and special adverse possession rights.

Those countries that have undertaken large scale rural land reform and redistribution, such as Japan, have been able to lift their GDP in the medium to long term. Many countries such as India have not succeeded in implementing ambitious rural land reform policies and this has affected the GDP of the country by at least 1 percent. Rural land reform has failed in South Africa and new measures are being implemented to speed up land redistribution.


Questions for tool developers

  1. What are the most appropriate legal tools for ensuring speedy, fair and equitable access to land for the poor?
  2. What is the impact of land reforms based upon privatisation and systematic land rights registration on access to land by the poor?
  3. What methodology should be used to assess and evaluate the social and economic impact of land reforms?

Land Governance: Related Documents
  1. Assemblee Generale de la FGF et Universite de perfectionnement des Geometres Francophones d'Afrique Subsaharienne (Fr - 2013)
  2. Community-Driven City-wide Upgrading, Key to Inclusive City Development - Experiences from Asia and Thailand (Eng - 2013)
  3. Handling land: Innovative tools for land governance and secure tenure (Eng - 2012)
  4. Illustration of the Conceptual Framework - Indonesia Case Study (Eng - 2008)
  5. Illustration of the Conceptual Framework - Peru Case Study (Eng - 2008)


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Email: gltn[at]unhabitat.org

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