Secure Land Rights for All is a product of both UN-HABITAT’s and the Global Land Tool Network’s, (GLTN) and efforts. The main objective of the network has been to contribute to poverty alleviation and the Millennium Development Goals through land reform, improved land management and security of tenure. It aims to establish a continuum of land rights, rather than just focus on individual land titling; improve and develop pro poor land management, as well as land tenure tools; unblock existing initiatives; assist in strengthening existing land networks; improve global coordination on land; assist in the development of gendered tools which are affordable and useful to the grassroots; and improve the general dissemination of knowledge about how to implement security of tenure.
The book argues that the greatest challenge in providing secure land rights are in urban, peri-urban areas, and the most productive in rural areas. Together these areas face growing demands for land for housing, property development and commercial investment in agriculture.
In urban areas, strategic urban planning is impossible without reform of the land policy implementation, land tenure, land administration, land management, land tax, land redistribution, all of which are inextricably linked.
The book cites cases where it has been virtually impossible to embark on slum upgrading without an adequate land administration system, giving information about the location of state and private land and the location of existing slums. Equally, without such information, it is difficult to service an area in terms of the maintenance of infrastructure and for cost recovery. Finally, even land distribution to the urban poor is impossible without proper information and records.
In urban and peri-urban areas, the authors recommend that a ‘twin-track’ approach is needed increasing tenure security in informal settlements wherever possible and at the same time making additional land available to meet future needs.
In rural areas, insecure land rights are increasing poverty and driving people off the land, and rural land is coming under multiple pressures. They include population growth and increasing fragmentation, land use conversion, commercial investments, environmental degradation due to drought, soil erosion and nutrient depletion, as well as natural disasters and conflicts. If incomes and food production are to be safeguarded, and the growing pressure on urban areas is to be mitigated, the land rights of poor rural people must be made secure; on top of these, robust arrangements for the effective management of land use change, competition and conflict are in order.
A range of policy instruments can help address these challenges, and, as the authors point out, they must be adapted to meet local conditions. It is also important for government officials first to identify those land management and tenure systems that already exist; and in a next step, to build on these systems for the benefit of the poor and vulnerable groups. The poor are major contributors to economic development; pro-poor land policies can maximize this and enable this segment of the population to share in the benefits.
In addition, the book argues that countries need to review current constitutions and laws and root out any discrimination against women, to face the challenge of advancing the lives of women through improving their access to land and their legal empowerment. Where they do not exist, women’s land and property rights need to be promulgated before one can tackle this problem seriously.
The book concludes by making the following observations and recommendations:
Secure land and property rights for land users strengthen economic development, social inclusion and good environmental management.
Secure land rights are the key to the Millennium Development Goals in the quest for poverty reduction and promotion of gender equality.
Security of tenure is often more important for the poor than land and home ownership.
There are many tenure choices offering adequate security for all land users, especially poor women and men in both urban and rural areas.
Policy makers and planners seeking solutions to secure land rights must keep abreast of growing urbanisation, environmental problems and climate change.
Pressures of residential occupation and urban sprawl onto rural land is greatest on city outskirts where town meets country in the so-called peri-urban zone, where government policy needs special focus.
Well functioning, accessible, transparent and accountable land administration bodies are vital components of good, effective governance.
Education, advocacy and awareness of their rights are vital to poor and insecure land users, especially those who face discrimination, like many women and minority groups.
Land rights are political, but too often they do not take into account the interests of the poor and vulnerable.
Governments and city managers must have dedicated political backing and incentives to ensure secure land access for all.
For more information about the Global Land Tool Network log onto: www.gltn.net