Justice and security

Land Disputes, Land Tenure Registration and Access to Justice in Fragile and Conflict Affected States: Questioning our Assumptions

Wageningen University

Formalizing land rights, through land tenure registration (LTR), is seen as having potential to significantly contribute to increasing agricultural productivity in Africa, notably by improving land tenure security, enhancing access to credit, creating conditions for land-based investment and fostering land markets. A recent trend is formalization in fragile and conflict affected settings (FCAS). In these contexts, the immediate objective is to address high levels of land disputes, because high levels of disputes, as observed in FCAS, can be disruptive and impede development, peace and security. 

Theories of change (ToC) underpinning LTR programs tend to be based on the idea that it helps to prevent disputes and, more generally, to make land rights less vulnerable to contestation. This improved security, in turn, is assumed to create the conditions for increased investments, access to credit and productivity. In practice, however, these assumptions do not necessarily hold.

This practice brief puts focus on the often-disregarded access to justice (A2J) dimension of sustainable land governance. It brings together lessons learned by academics, practitioners and policy makers regarding the interfaces between land disputes, LTR and access to justice. It notably assesses sets of assumptions to be found in ToCs underlying these programs: assumptions regarding the causes of land disputes and the ability of LTR to remove these; assumptions related to the way in which land disputes are handled during the LTR process; and assumptions regarding the emergence of disputes following LTR and the links to A2J. A final section provides recommendations for donors and practitioner organizations that want to provide support to LTR.

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