by Esteban Leon
Much has been written and discussed in recent years about land issues by persons both expert and not so expert (and I include myself in the last group). However, in spite of the new literature, on-going debates, and variety of recommendations on issues such as land use and planning, land access, land administration and security of tenure, land remains one of the most controversial and challenging components of sustainable recovery from disasters.
In recent years, the humanitarian community has looked inward, learning from their past experiences providing emergency responses for the ever-increasing number of populations suffering from crises worldwide. The humanitarian reform process has helped broaden the community of practitioners, reinforced global and country-based coordination systems, and initiated new and better means of ensuring integrated and robust humanitarian programming among concerned agencies.
“Natural disasters” are the consequence of natural hazards impacting human vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are ‘built’ by many different factors, and exacerbated by the lack of applied disaster risk reduction programming. Good land use planning and regulation could have minimized the effects of many of the disasters the world has suffered in the last decades. Good land use planning and regulation would have also facilitated the recovery of affected communities from disasters. Nowhere has this been more evident that in the devastating disaster Haiti recently suffered and the world has witnessed.
Recognizing the rights of communities affected by natural disasters (to non-discriminatory access to property, to adequate housing including security of tenure, etc), UN-HABITAT together with FAO and as part of a framework response prepared by the IASC Cluster Working Group on Early Recovery (CWGER) have produced a guidance for practitioners on “Land and Natural Disasters”. The main objective of the Guidelines is to provide an approach for addressing land issues in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, facilitating early recovery and reconstruction of affected communities from the earliest opportunity.