Sulaymaniyah, IraqIraq is one of the easternmost countries of the Arab Region. It is bordered to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iran, to the west by Syria and Jordan, and to the south by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Iraq is a resource-rich middle-income country. The achievement of sustainable urbanization is one the country’s greatest challenges. In 2020, Iraq counted a population of approximately 40,222,490 million people with country area of 43505.2 (1000 ha), the land area is 43412.8 (1000 ha), agricultural area 9400 (1000 ha), and its forest area is 825 (1000 ha)[1].

Iraq has a unique history as a “powerful engine of regional economic growth and trade, and a global beacon of culture and learning”[2]. In more recent decades, it has endured two successive Gulf wars, economic sanctions, a military intervention and internal conflicts. Political instability, the centralized nature of governance mechanisms, an imbalanced allocation of resources and a lack of investment in infrastructure, environment and social services have impacted on the country’s ability to develop its economy and support the needs of the population[3].

Overview of Iraq’s land-related situation

The current land systems in Iraq are greatly influenced by social and political insecurity and multiple waves of forced displacement over the last years, which have contributed to land tenure insecurity and land use conflicts.

Land tenure – In Iraq, land tenure administrations have deep historical foundations, however, the current land registration and recording systems are greatly influenced by conflicting policies and ideologies that control its programs and reforms. The Iraqi land tenure administration, in both the rural and urban sectors were under massive influence from conflicting policies and ideologies of the Iraqi state and even religious rule that controlled its programs and reforms [4]. These same factors (weak governance) eventually caused social legitimacy and legal insecurity for land tenure administrations[5]. Land registration and property rights in Iraq have deep historical foundations reaching back to the Hammurabic period. However, the current land registration system owes more to the 400-year Ottoman occupation of Iraq and the subsequent interval under the British mandate[6].

Land value –The land value is based on market speculation. There is no institutional approach to land valuation or institutional mechanism for defining the land, it mostly relies on old laws. The land administration system remains a centralized system. Land registration is administered locally, but the benefits of this registration are not realized at the local level. Every five years the taxes authority publishes a brochure that includes estimation for land values for different land uses (residential, industrial, commercial).

Land development - Many governorates in Iraq were severely damaged due to the conflicts. In response to this, Iraq MoP has launched, the plan for the reconstruction and development of damaged Iraqi cities (2018 – 2022) with a budget of USD.100 billion[7].

Land use –Citizens’ participation in local land-use issues is limited, and land registration does not raise local revenue through property taxation. Land use decisions are not adequate and not enforced. Given the current land registration system, it is possible that devolution could enable local revenue generation and citizen oversight of land use.[8] The most challenges facing land use management are related to the lack of documentation and the outdated plans particularly in the rural areas. The absence of state mechanisms to control and enforce the land use decisions are the results of the unsecure social and political situation in the last decades.

Land dispute resolution – There is no comprehensive data on land disputes in Iraq and the Ministry of Justice in Iraq does not produce public statistics by case type which makes it impossible to map the frequency and types of land disputes in Iraq. Tribal law has a very significant role in managing land and property issues, including dispute resolution.

Key intervention

The successful collaboration between UN-Habitat’s Iraq Programme and Global Land Tool Network has created improved knowledge on tenure practices in urban areas with the Government, civil society and international actors, recognizing a “continuum of rights” approach for the urban poor.

Under the project “Support to Housing, Land and Property Rights for IDPs in Nineveh,” UN-Habitat Iraq, in partnership with Global Land Tool Network, provided training on land administration and management databases to local counterparts on Social Tenure Domain Model and legal support and advice on land- and conflict-related issues.

Further, under the “Housing, Land and Property Rights of Yazidis in Sinjar District, Iraq” project, GLTN has been working in close collaboration with UN-Habitat Iraq country office to facilitate the sustainable return of the Yazidi community to their original home and the recognition of their property rights.


Key documents and links

List/links of the main projects, documents, reports, publications, articles

  • Safeguarding evidence of housing, land and property rights of Syrian refugees
  • Restoring Values: Institutional Challenges to Providing Restitution and Compensation for Iraqi Housing and Land Rights Victims
  • Land Registration and Property Rights in Iraq
  • Housing, Land and Property (HLP) Issues facing Returnees in Retaken Areas of Iraq  
  • A Preliminary Assessment of Housing, Land and Property Right Issues Caused by the Current Displacement Crisis in Iraq
  • Unexplored dimensions: Islamic land systems in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, and Somalia 

    List/links of main event in the country

  • Capacity building to address land and property rights for IDPs and Returnees in Northern Iraq
  • [1] , FAO, 2016

    [2] Common Country Assessment 2009

    [3] United Nations Development Lessons Learned Evaluation 2011

    [4] Al Rashid, 2005; UN-Habitat, 2010b

    [5] UN-Habitat report, 2012; Shaikley, 2013

    [6] USAID, 2005

    [7] UN-Habitat, 2018

    [8] USAID Iraq Local Governance Program Land Registration and Property Rights in Iraq January 2005



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