USAID LAND TENURE and PROPERTY RIGHTS PORTAL

Commentary

By Anthony Piaskowy, Communication and Urban Specialist for USAID's Land Tenure and Property Rights Division

Last week, USAID hosted three experts in the urban land tenure sector at a launch event of its new issue brief on Land Tenure in Urban Environments. Consultant Geoffrey Payne, Habitat for Humanity International's Liz Blake, and UN-Habitat's Remy Seitchiping all spoke about the importance of addressing land tenure challenges in cities to solve development challenges across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. The conversation builds on the many urban tenure presentations at the World Bank Annual Conference on Land and Poverty two weeks ago, and those taking place this week at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia.

Remarks by the panelists and narrative in the issue brief reinforce the idea that land tenure issues present complex challenges. Solutions to these challenges are often nuanced, but do not need to be large - in terms of scope or money. In many cases, incremental activities are effective at increasing the perception of tenure security, which is often enough to improve lives and livelihoods.

Solutions for increasing tenure security include leveraging training, information awareness, organization and technology. Secure land tenure and property rights generate benefits for vulnerable communities, private sector investors, government and civil society advocates. These efforts also build greater municipal capacity and improve the provision of key services, which are priorities in USAID's Urban Services Policy.

Together with its partners, USAID will work to address land tenure and governance issues in the increasingly urban developing world. Read the issue brief on Land Tenure in Urban Environments and if you have any questions, contact us or send a tweet via @USAIDEnviro or @USAIDEconomic.

 

Congressional Briefing hosted by Congresswoman Betty McCollum on March, 28 2014
Remarks by Dr. Gregory Myers, Land Tenure and Property Rights Division Chief, USAID (as written)

First, I would like to thank Congresswoman McCollum for hosting this event and ActionAid for organizing and bringing all of us together for this important briefing. I would also like to thank Congresswoman McCollum’s staff for their attention to these critical issues.

Background
For 18 months, I had the honor to Chair, on behalf of the United States, the Open-Ended Working Group that negotiated the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (commonly known as the VGs). The VGs were negotiated through a broad and inclusive participatory process – under the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) – that involved governments, civil society organizations and the private sector. The VGs were unanimously endorsed by 96 member countries in May 2012. With endorsement, the global community demonstrated their recognition that improving land and other resource governance systems is a strategy for improving food security, promoting sustainable development, limiting conflict, and reducing extreme poverty.

While the development and endorsement of the VGs represents an important achievement, their ultimate value will be determined by their implementation and by measured improvements in the lives and livelihoods of women, men, children and other vulnerable people around the globe.

Where we are now
Having had the opportunity to participate in these negotiations, and managing the largest global bi-lateral program supporting the VGs, I would like to offer an assessment of what has been achieved thus far and what remains to be done.

In the almost two years since the VGs were adopted, much progress has been made. The VGs have become ‘the’ guiding doctrine for emerging economy governments to develop laws and policies that strengthen the protection of property rights for women and men. Donors and development agencies, including USAID, are beginning to align their land and resource governance programs more closely with the principles and practices outlined in the VGs.

Today, in 32 programs across 25 countries, USAID is deploying over $300 million in programs that implement many of the principles and practices outlined in the VGs. These programs help to clarify and strengthen the land tenure and property rights of all members of society -- enabling broad-based economic growth, gender equality, reduced incidence of conflicts, enhanced food security, improved resilience to climate change, and effective natural resource management.

For example, in Ethiopia, USAID is building on the success of a series of programs that strengthened property rights of smallholder farmers by expanding the program to a traditionally vulnerable group: pastoralists. Over the past six years under this program, USAID-supported certification efforts led to the issuance of more than 500,000 land certificates to over 230,000 households. Under these programs, boundaries are clarified and validated by neighbors and community members prior to certification, reducing the likelihood of future disputes. The certificates, which can be transferred to descendants, give holders the right to use and profit from the land. This arrangement represents an important shift from the previous system, which was marked by frequent land seizures, redistribution, and declining agricultural productivity. Evidence from evaluations by the World Bank and the Government of Ethiopia suggests that household productivity increased measurably in areas where certificates were issued. In one region where the certification program was implemented, crop yields increased by 10 to potentially 40 percent per acre with no other inputs. USAID’s Ethiopia program is closely aligned with the principles outlined in the VGs.

The brief and infographic that we handed out have additional information about how USAID is supporting implementation of the VGs and making secure land tenure and property rights a reality for people and communities around the world.

The way forward
What comes next? While USAID and other development organizations have made progress supporting implementation of the VGs, more remains to be done. At the global level, we need, first, more specific guidance on how to implement the VGs. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is contributing to the development of technical guides and training programs that support VG implementation. This is a good start.

We also need better coordination and information sharing among development partners. All too often our development efforts are hampered by a lack of coordination among relevant partners striving toward common goals. The VGs represent an ambitious global agenda; achieving success will require coordinated action by civil society, governments and the private sector.

Last year more than 25 donors and development organizations came together to form the Global Donor Working Group on Land. One of our first objectives was to develop a common platform for sharing data and best practices on land programs that support the VGs. USAID led this initiative. Over the past year, we managed a project that collected information on the land and resource governance programs funded by members of the Global Donor Working Group on Land. The result of this effort is a comprehensive database of 445 programs, funded by 16 donors and development agencies, being implemented in 119 countries, with a total value of over $2 billion.

This information can help stakeholders identify opportunities to coordinate activities and leverage resources for greater impact. The database initiative also provides stakeholders with a platform to share knowledge and best practices, potentially improving the efficiency and effectiveness of current and future programs that support the VGs.

We can bridge the gap between what the global community has agreed to and what is understood and pursued at the ground-level in developing countries. At the local level, we need to experiment with new investment models that will promote smallholder agriculture and/or create opportunities for smallholders to link with commercial investors in ways that are secure and profitable for all.

The development community should also recognize that the private sector plays a key role in the success of implementing the VGs. The private sector is moving forward—in consultation with civil society, host country governments, and donor organizations—to develop better practices for acquiring land for commercial agriculture, extractives, and biofuels. Last year, The Coca-Cola Company negotiated an agreement with Oxfam to respect local property rights along its supply chain, and PepsiCo has recently agreed to do the same. The global community, with U.S. leadership, is in the process of developing guidelines for the private sector: the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (known as the RAI), which are also being developed under the UN Committee on World Food Security. These principles will provide a framework to guide global corporate social responsibility initiatives, and individual investment contracts covering all types of investment in agriculture. In other words, the RAI will provide a framework for the private sector - much in the same way the VGs provide a framework for the public sector. Responsible investment in agriculture can lead to improvements in food security and economic growth.

Another possible next step could be the development of a globally-accepted certification standard – as was done with Fair Trade Coffee or the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. An industry certification, whether added to existing commodity standards or organized as a stand-alone initiative, could set an acceptable expectation for how companies will invest and conduct business with respect to land rights in emerging economies. Certification of land-based investments could also help build the private sector expertise required to effectively manage land throughout supply chains. Such a scheme could also empower civil society to monitor investments in a more systematic way and allow consumers to reward companies that behave responsibly and apply pressure to those that do not.

Conclusion
USAID appreciates civil society organizations bringing the issue of land tenure to the attention of policy leaders in the US. We welcome this opportunity to share progress and challenges with you and our colleagues on the Hill. To help ensure a stable world -- where market-based democracies thrive and trade expands, where we create jobs- at home and abroad -- we must focus on empowering every global citizen to make individual decisions about how they will acquire, use, enjoy, and dispose of property. The Voluntary Guidelines help all actors design and implement policies and programs that make secure property rights a reality.

 

USAID Land Tenure and Property Rights Division Chief Dr. Gregory Myers's Remarks from Partners’ Support to the Voluntary Guidelines & Land Governance: Exploiting Synergies & Measuring Impact. Remarks posted as written

The United States Government's contributions to Ethiopia’s land administration reform began in 2004 with methodologies to promote more precise second level registration. During the course of two pilot projects, USAID-supported certification efforts led to the issuance of more than 500,000 land certificates to over 230,000 households. These certificates give holders the right to use and profit from the land. Evidence suggests that household productivity increased measurably in areas where certificates were issued. In one region where the certification program was implemented - the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) region - crop yields may have increased between 11 percent and 40 percent per acre with no other inputs.

In fact, these certification programs were so successful that the Government of Ethiopia scaled up the programs nationwide and solicited the investment of other bilateral and multilateral donors, including the UK - who are investing in the expansion of second level certification in Ethiopia. (Our partner, the U.K. is investing + or - 50 million pounds, while Germany with the EU is investing $3 million euros).

Thus far, the US has focused on improving property rights for smallholder farmers in the highland regions. For the US, the next challenge is to extend this same type of security to pastoral communities in the lowlands. Through USAID’s new Land Administration to Nurture Development (LAND) project, we will develop experimental approaches to secure the property rights of up to 15 pastoral communities by 2019. In addition the program will focus on training and capacity building for land administration.

The United States believes the new multi-stakeholder partnership between the governments of Ethiopia, Germany, the UK, and the US provides a model for greater coordination that will improve the effectiveness of our investments in securing land tenure and property rights in Ethiopia. We believe that this will accelerate progress toward achieving food security. We applaud the Government of Ethiopia for its commitment to strengthen rural land governance, and experiment with new models. We also welcome the opportunity to collaborate more closely with our partners, and we hope to see more of these partnerships developed in other countries in the future.

 

USAID Land Tenure and Property Rights Division Chief Dr. Gregory Myers's Remarks from Partners’ Support to the Voluntary Guidelines & Land Governance: Exploiting Synergies & Measuring Impact. Remarks posted as written

Madam Chair (Rachael Turner), thank you for the opportunity to speak today. On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank the U.K. Department for International Development for their excellent leadership as the inaugural Chair of the Global Donor Working Group on Land. We look forward to working with the incoming Chair of the Working Group—the Government of Germany.

I am here to introduce a new initiative: a comprehensive database and map of land governance programs that are funded by members of the Global Donor Working Group on Land. As we have heard, The Global Donor Working Group was officially launched last year to promote greater coordination on land and resource governance.

One of the primary goals of this group is to support implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. From 2011 to 2012, I had the honor to Chair the negotiations of these Guidelines. Some of you in this room were part of those negotiations and know the efforts required to produce an agreement that was endorsed unanimously by 96 member countries, civil society and the private sector.

While the development and endorsement of the Voluntary Guidelines was an important achievement, their ultimate value will be determined by their implementation and measured in improved development outcomes for women, men and children around the globe. Delivering on this ambitious agenda in countries across the developing world will require coordinated action by donors and development agencies, civil society organizations, governments and the private sector.

In order for the Global Donor Working Group to identify opportunities for synergy and achieve greater coordination, we had to first develop a clear understanding of who is doing “what - where” in the land sector. To that end, the United States worked with the Global Donor Platform and members of the Global Donor Working Group on Land to lead a data collection and visualization initiative on the land and resource governance programs from 16 bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors and development agencies, including the development agencies from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the European Commission, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Bank.

The result of these efforts - negotiated through the Global Donor Working Group on Land - is a database of approximately 231 active programs in 103 countries with a total value of approximately $2.9 billion. The database contains information on the location, duration, funding, and scope of each program, as well as information on what specific aspects of the Voluntary Guidelines are addressed by each program’s activities. The database also allows donors to include links to supplemental resources, such as reports or program websites, and points of contact for each program.

An interactive map of the information in the database clearly displays where different donors and development agencies are working and what they are working on with respect to land and resource governance. This information can help us and other stakeholders better coordinate these programs and leverage our collective resources for maximum impact. As we have heard throughout this session, better communication and coordination among development partners can help us avoid unnecessary duplication, share lessons learned, leverage limited resources and most importantly amplify the impact of our development efforts.

While this initiative is an important step in the right direction, it is only one step. Our next endeavor could be to consider how we link this data to other sources of information: such as demand for land tenure reform, and/or capacity to address land tenure challenges, or with data sets illustrating the locations of large-scale land transactions or overlapping land use rights. Several data sets like this already exist, however, these data systems often use different standards and are incompatible with each other. One vital task we should consider is how to develop common data standards and shared platforms for all types of land and resources rights data and tools. If we do this, we may more fully realize the benefits of the Voluntary Guidelines, resulting in more robust economic growth, better food security and nutrition, and reduced conflict.

 

A guest post by Robert Oberndorf, Resource Law Specialist, Tenure and Global Climate Change Project

Recent rapid changes in Burma have led to concerns related to the land tenure and property rights (LTPR) of smallholder farmers and communities throughout the country. The limited harmonization and dated nature of the overall legal and governance frameworks related to land use management and tenure security in the country adds to these concerns. The Government of Burma is well aware of the concerns being raised, and recognizes that issues relating to LTPR threaten the fledgling democracy in Burma and the social stability of the country.

In order to properly assess and begin addressing the problems relating to land use management and law harmonization in the country, the Government established a multi-ministerial Land Use & Land Allocation Scrutinizing Committee (Land Scrutinizing Committee) in 2012. One of the primary tasks of the Land Scrutinizing Committee is to develop a comprehensive Land Use Policy for the country, which would ultimately help to guide effective implementation of existing legal frameworks and also lead to the development of an “umbrella” Land Law for the country that would address many of the law harmonization issues that currently exist. It was a very promising sign that, in late 2012, the Land Core Group of the Food Security Working Group, in cooperation with Government, donor and private sector representatives, conducted a multi-stakeholder National Dialogue on Land Tenure and Land Use Rights. This multi-stakeholder dialogue resulted in recommendations being generated for inclusion into the National Land Use Policy.

USAID, in close coordination and cooperation with other donors and civil society stakeholders, has provided technical assistance to the Land Scrutinizing Committee during the development of the National Land Use Policy. As part of this assistance, USAID has been helping the Committee capture lessons learned and experiences with land tenure reform processes from regional neighbors in ASEAN. Guidance has also been provided on ways to incorporate international best practices, such as those reflected in the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, into the National Land Use Policy. It is hoped that the efforts of donors, NGOs, CSOs and other stakeholders working on land issues in Burma and elsewhere in the region will be used to inform the ongoing National Land Use Policy development process without jeopardizing the development of a policy that is carefully tailored to the unique cultural, historical, political and legal traits of the country.

This research is presented as part of a session on interventions to improve governance and sustainable management of land at scale during the 2014 World Bank Land and Poverty conference on Tuesday, March 25 at 10:30 am.

Further Reading
 

Pages

The information provided on this Web site is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.
See USAID http://www.usaid.gov/who-we-are/agency-policy/series-500.