Securing Land and Property Rights for All

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Land and conflict

Women, walking with what possessions they can carry, arrive in a steady trickle at an IDP camp erected next to an AMISOM military base near the town of Jowhar, Somalia. © UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Land is a key driver of conflict and bottleneck to recovery and is increasingly acknowledged as a critical factor in peacemaking and peacebuilding. Fragile states are often characterized by an absence of land administration, land records and recurring tension between customary land rights and formal legal systems. Often landrelated issues are driving the conflict and contribute to protract it, making it difficult to create stability. Conflicts are often not linear in character and phases of insecurity and partial stability alternate. Overall, land-related issues are often a key cause for relapse into conflict, leading to forced displacement and accelerated migration. The overall perception is that the UN and the development community as a whole are not ‘Fit-for-Purpose’ to support member states and local stakeholders in addressing the above challenges.

Ongoing Work on Land and Conflict

In 2014, the Rule of Law Unit of the Executive Office of the Secretary General requested UN-Habitat to lead the drafting of a Secretary General Guidance Note on ‘Land and Conflict’. Preliminary discussions with a variety of stakeholders and Member States represented in the Peacebuilding Commission illustrated a shared awareness of the global challenges and need for the UN to be made for fit for purpose for an engagement at scale. Conflict prevention and peacebuilding require much more sustained interventions on land throughout the conflict cycle, and a much better alignment of the different pillars of the UN system, in particular the peace and security sector, human rights actors, the humanitarian and development community, and of the broader land sector. It has both rural and urban dimensions.

A draft Scoping and Status Study containing key findings and recommendations on how to engage at scale on land and conflict was developed, in collaboration with a wide range of UN entities, including the Rule of Law Unit of the Executive Office of the Secretary General, DPA, DPKO, UNDP, UN Women, OHCHR, PBSO, UNHCR, UNEP, FAO and IOM. The content of the study aligns with the recommendations coming out of the high level reviews on peace operations, peacebuilding architecture and resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

The key elements highlighted include:

  1. Increased focus on shared root cause analysis as basis for shared vision and strategy;
  2. Integration across peace and security,development and human rights pillars;
  3. Need for continuum of responses throughout the conflict-cycle / peacemaking;
  4. Sustained political solutions and building political foundations;
  5. Build on the Fit for Purpose and partnership mechanisms;
  6. Increased focus on prevention and mediation;
  7. Need for more inclusive processes involving both parties to the conflict, communities, civil society; and
  8. Building capacities.

The game changers proposed were:

  1. Fit-for-Purpose Land Administration which will make it possible to address land issues much more quickly;
  2. The continuum of land rights approach which moves beyond titling to other forms of land rights; and
  3. Building an issue based coalition on land and conflict of UN and non UN actors to operationalize common priorities. Entry points for implementation at country level include land policy, land administration, dispute resolution, land reform and capacity development with a key focus on conflict prevention, mediation and peace agreements and peacebuilding and stabilization plans.


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