The Arab region is undergoing a decade of profound change, where noticeable progress and positive transformation in some countries is clouded by the spiraling into social unrest and violent conflict of other countries. There is an increasing realisation that the way land is accessed, used and controlled is a key element of sustainable social and economic development, peace and stability, and realisation of human rights.
Good land governance is an important area of attention for the Arab region. The increase in armed conflicts and social unrest witnessed in the past decade is rooted in various issues, including land. Land administration in the Arab countries is still largely using conventional approaches hence the need to introduce the concept of “fit-for-purpose land administration” in order to meet the needs of people and their relationship to land, to support security of tenure for all and to sustainably manage land use and natural resources.
Women in the Arab region (especially those affected by conflict, displacement and migration) are widely acknowledged to be lagging behind their access to land and property rights. Desertification, land degradation, drought, and water scarcity are historical land-based resources challenges in the region, now being made more severe because of climate change and increased population pressure. Following the global trends, large scale land based investments are an increasingly appearing issue on the land governance landscape of the region, leading to inequity in distribution of benefits amongst all stakeholders, including the urban poor.
The Arab Land Initiative
In September 2016, a group of Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) Partners led by UN-Habitat and the World Bank convened the ‘Expert Group Meeting on Fostering Good Land Governance in the Arab States’ in Amman, Jordan. Attended by 35 experts from 10 Arab countries, the meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the most pressing land-related issues in the Arab states, formulated a joint vision for change and developed a road map for action. The event was hosted by the Global Land Tool Network, UN-Habitat, World Bank, and the Urban Training and Studies Institute and enjoyed the support of the Jordanian Ministry of Municipal Affairs. A study tour to the Jordanian Department of Land and Survey also enriched the discussions and deliberations.
Vision: All the people in the Arab countries enjoy equal and affordable access to land, peace, stability and economic growth, to be achieved with good land policies and transparent, efficient and affordable land administration systems.
The meeting reached the conclusion that increased coordinated efforts are needed to tackle land governance effectively. The key thematic issues to be addressed are:
- Land administration
- Land use
- Technological and smart solution
- Women and land right
- Land policies
- Land and conflict
- Land and climate change
- Youth land rights
- Housing and Land Property rights
- IDPs and refugees land rights
Discussions also highlighted on how capacity development, advocacy, knowledge creation, and regional cooperation and are key avenues to improved land governance. The emphasis was put on the need to strengthen existing institutions, organisations and individual capacities for the region to be better able to address its land challenges in a cost efficient and timely manner.
At the meeting, a road map for action was developed, including a list of short term and medium/long term actions to be carried out in partnership and with resources pulled from the different participating organisations. These are:
- Share the report of the event including contacts and presentations (available in English and Arabic)
- Establish a multi-partner task force to lead the first steps of the work ahead, with a Secretariat and a Focal point (contact the Secretariat)
- Establish an e-platform / web site to share information and knowledge among land governance stakeholders of the Arab region
- Develop a database of existing resources, institutions, networks, experts and trainers, capacity development courses and initiatives
- Organise an Arab Land Governance Conference
- Resource mobilisation
- Carry out land policy assessments in selected countries
- Carry out initiatives at regional or country level led by participating organisations
Medium / Long term
- Resource Mobilization
- Capacity Development – Prepare a capacity development strategy for the region and identify and implement priority capacity development initiatives (e.g. short training courses, master courses, curriculum development to be adopted by Arab universities to strengthen existing undergraduates and post-graduates programmes / establish programmes, learning exchanges between governments / departments / universities, e-learning, etc.)
- Knowledge Creation and Sharing – Carry out evidence based applied research, critical review of practices, disseminate knowledge, foster learning and sharing, develop material and ensure regular interactions.
- Advocacy– Joint advocacy / awareness campaigns on good land governance, including at technical and political levels
- Monitoring – Tracking processes and progress on land governance (e.g. strengthen the monitoring of the SDG indicators, data disaggregation in existing data collection mechanisms, etc.)
- Regional Land Centre – Establish a new or develop the capacity of an existing regional institution to create a regional land centre. This can consolidate a number of streams of work (data bank / etc.)
- Establish Coordination among land governance networks and other organisations that have roles to address violent aspect related to land and conflicts (e.g. mines, etc.)
- Twinning Arrangements – Establish twinning arrangements among Arab countries, universities, professional bodies, etc.
- Technical Assistance – Establish a technical assistance mechanism that allows individuals and organisations in the region to access customised and specialized assistance on land governance challenges
- Country Level Actions – Further develop or establish land governance initiatives at country level
1. CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT
Capacity development is at the heart of the Global Land Tool Network approach, as it enables partners to have a stronger impact, a better outreach and more successful outcomes when implementing their land and tenure security work. GLTN has been implementing its capacity development work in the Arab States through key partners: the University of East London, UN-Habitat, the Urban Training and Studies Institute and the Arab Union of Surveyors. Some key activities carried out are:
- Development of a training course on land, property and housing rights in the Muslim World;
- Series of training events on land, property and housing rights, including Somalia in 2011, Kuwait 2012, Egypt 2013, and Jordan 2014.
- A global competition in 2013-14 on Good Practices for Tenure security in the Muslim World, led by UN-Habitat, UEL and IIUM, aiming at identifying good practices and lessons learnt.
- Pro-poor and gender responsive land tools and approaches were also presented by GLTN Partners UEL, UTI and UN-Habitat at the Surveying and Development Conference, organised by the Arab Union of Surveyors in October 2015.
- A training event for UN-Habitat and key partners on the implementation of pro poor and gender sensitive land tools and approaches is planned for 2017.
2. ADAPTATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF GLTN LAND TOOLS AT COUNTRY LEVEL
The Global Land Tool Network and UN-Habitat are working with partners to adapt and implement land tools and approaches in the countries. Initiatives are ongoing in Iraq, Sudan (Darfur) and Somalia, while light support is being provided in other countries in the region, mainly through the UN-Habitat Regional Office for the Arab States and the UN-Habitat relevant country offices.
In Iraq, GLTN and the UN-Habitat Iraq office are supporting the return of vulnerable communities displaced by conflict in the Sinjar governorate through the use of the Social Tenure Domain Model.
In Darfur, GLTN and the UN-Habitat Sudan Office are collaborating in supporting the return of displaced communities and increasing the tenure security of returnees and host communities through of fifty villages. Capacity development and awareness raising of Darfur and Sudan land stakeholders on land governance is also a key aspect of the engagement.
3. INCREASING WOMEN ACCESS TO LAND
Despite limited consolidated data, women in the Arab region are widely acknowledged to be lagging behind their access to land and property rights. This poses concerns for the full realisation of their human rights and well-being and has a negative impact on the social economic development, food security, climate change and peace and stability in the whole region. Particular attention needs to be drawn to women affected by conflict, displacement and migration, whose – and whose children – survival, protection from physical violence and capacity to recover from the conflict are closely dependent on access to land and housing.
GLTN partners have been working on women access to land in the region for the past few years. Two main events were organised on the theme including a Brainstorming on Land Tools to Increase Women Tenure Security in the Muslim World (UN-Habitat, UEL, IIUM, UTI – Cairo, March 2014) and a Practitioners’ Group Meeting on Increasing Tenure Security for Women in the Muslim world (UN-Habitat, UEL, and UTI – Amman, October 2014). Building on the outcomes of such events and on the work done by the Network on the Islamic Land Mechanism, a set of Guidelines to increase women access to land in the Muslim world are being developed. The Guidelines are expected to be finalized in 2017 in collaboration with relevant experts and partners from the region should be involved in their peer review and finalization.