Secure land tenure and property rights are fundamental to shelter and livelihoods, and a cornerstone for the realisation of human rights and for poverty reduction. Secure land rights are particularly important in helping reverse gender discrimination, social exclusion of vulnerable groups, and wider social and economic inequalities linked to inequitable and insecure access to land.
The Millennium Development Goal 7, Target 11, commits the international community to improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020. However, rural urban migration, natural increase and expansion of urban centres all contribute to rapid urbanisation resulting in the constant increase in the number of slum dwellers.
It is now well-recognised that secure land and property rights for all are essential to reducing poverty, because they underpin economic development and social inclusion. Secure land tenure and property rights enable people in rural and urban areas to invest in improved homes and livelihoods. They also help to promote good environmental management, improve food security, and assist directly in the realization of human rights, including the elimination of discrimination against women, the vulnerable, indigenous groups and other minorities.
We are now seeing important changes in land policies, which reflect these principles in a variety of countries across the world. Today, however, land resources face multiple pressures and demands as never before, and developing countries still lack the tools, systematic strategies and support necessary to deliver secure land rights for all.
Sound land policies should protect people from forced removals and evictions, or where displacement is determined by legitimate processes as necessary for the greater public good and is carried out in conformity with national and international norms, ensure they have access to adequate compensation. Another critical dimension is ensuring gender equality, because women face such widespread discrimination in questions of land and property. Yet when women enjoy secure and equal rights, everybody benefits. Also, a secure land rights for all citizen contributes to conflicts reduction and improvement in environmental management as well as household living conditions.