Evidencing the restitution landscape: Pre-emptive and advanced techniques for war-torn land and property rights reacquisition

Pacific Europe, North Africa, East Africa, Middle East,
McGill University
Mozambique Syria, Colombia, Sierra Leone,

The enormity of civilian population dislocation during armed conflicts, and the importance--yet difficulty--of reattaching people to lands and properties subsequent to conflict, presents large challenges for peace-building and recovery. Land and property restitution significantly influences the prospects for social, economic, livelihood, security and political recovery. Both the international legalities concerning housing, land, and property (HLP) restitution, and the logistical ability of the international community to physically return people to locations of origin are robust. However the national HLP tenurial arrangements that are able to legitimately and legally reattach lands and properties to their rightful owners, renters, and occupants, as well as recognize specific rights, reconnect groups to homelands and provide tenure security, continue to be highly problematic. This is particularly the case where no HLP documents existed prior to dislocation. The lack of recognized forms of evidence or proof of ownership, membership, occupancy, or rent is in most cases a primary problem in quickly and effectively restituting HLP assets. Deriving restitution programs for doing this after a war ends is an expensive and protracted endeavour--with the prolonged nature of the process often creating additional problems. This article describes ten techniques for deriving, protecting and using forms of evidence attesting to HLP claims early in a conflict, as opposed to subsequent to a conflict. In several ways this may result in a certain pre-emptive effect on some forms of dislocation.

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