Monthly Archives: March 2011

Managing pastureland in Central Asia: the importance of locally legitimate law reform

by Elisa Scalise
This guest post was originally posted on Landesa’s Field Focus blog, which provides expert insight on the issues surrounding land rights and international development. Elisa Scalise is a Landesa attorney & land tenure specialist.

I was recently reminded of the importance, and the potency, of locally legitimate law reform (law reform which is based on what is feasible in practice and which can serve the dual purpose of satisfying a national agenda and reflect local needs).

Landesa recently concluded a project in Kyrgyzstan, which sought to develop and then test a community-driven model for managing conflict over pastureland resources. The pilot ayil okmotus, or municipalities, are located along the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border of southern Kyrgyzstan, and contain two Tajik enclaves of Chorkhu and Vorukh.

A bit of background: Relations between ethnic groups in the Kyrgyzstan (and Central Asia) area can be tense, and have erupted into violence on more than one occasion (you might recall the events of June, 2010, in the nearby Jalalabad oblast).

Pastureland is the nexus of interdependence and (sometimes violent) tension between Tajiks and Kyrgyz.  Every Kyrgyz and Tajik household owns livestock, yet there are no pastures in the Tajik enclaves of Vorukh and Chorkhu.  Tajiks rely on Kyrgyz pastures to feed their livestock during the grazing season, and Kyrgyz must cross the Tajik enclaves to access their pastureland.

To address pasture use needs, the Tajiks and Kyrgyz in the pilot area make arrangements for Tajik animals to be grazed on Kyrgyz land.  Yet those arrangements are informal, lack transparency, are not enforceable when breached, and are conducted without the knowledge of national policy-makers and without support of a legal framework at the national level.

Continue reading

Europe and Central Asia housing forum

Another interesting event coming up, this time in Budapest from 4-6 April, the first ever ‘Housing Forum for Europe and Central Asia‘. Certainly an idea whose time has come, given all the ructions in Europe over the last two decades over denationalization, privatization, discrimination and, not least, restitution. Apparently a successful format as well, given that we are now approaching the third iteration of the Asia Pacific version. And some very interesting topics under discussion, not least disaster risk reduction, social sustainability, and attention to vulnerable and marginalized populations.

Week in links – week 12/2011

The current march of historic events continues apace with the aftermath of the Sendai quake still causing headlines and a new chapter in the annals of R2P being written in the skies over Libya. Quite a few bits of less dramatic but very interesting HLP-related news as well, many detailed below.

Some interesting things coming up on TN as well – in addition to a number of individual guest-postings currently in the works, I am very excited to announce that Landesa has offered to periodically cross-post pieces from their excellent Field Focus blog. Look out for a debut piece early this week.

Turning to the news, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) just released their global overview for 2010. The conclusions are sobering, with a new rise in overall conflict-related internal displacement and the consolidation of a number of negative trends such as protracted displacement situations and displacement due to generalized violence (e.g. criminal activities as opposed to ordinary armed conflict).

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, recently submitted his annual report, this year with a plug for ‘agroecology’ – a cultivation technique identified by Mr. De Schutter after an “extensive review of the scientific literature” as most likely to help states “achieve a reorientation of their agricultural systems towards modes of production that are highly productive, highly sustainable and that contribute to the progressive realization of the human right to adequate food.” Kudos to Mr. De Schutter for sparing the rest of us the scientific literature and moving the debate over global agriculture in an interesting new direction.

In the wake of the triple catastrophe in Japan, the New York Times reports on how much of the affected coast was inhabited by elderly persons unlikely to rebuild. In the clinical terminology of climate change, the obvious question is whether the abandonment of many of these obliterated towns and villages will ultimately come to be seen as a form of adaptation to be replicated in other parts of the world. As the Times notes, it is hardly the first time the question has come up:

“We faced exactly the same question after Katrina,” said John Campbell, [a] visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo. “There was a big discussion about whether we should rebuild the Ninth Ward, since it was below sea level, and so on. In terms of economic rationality, it didn’t make any sense, really. But on the other hand, it’s where these people lived, and there were emotional reasons to do it.

Meanwhile the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) released its mid-term review, halfway through the ten year period envisioned for implementation of the Hyogo Declaration and Framework for Action. In an almost morbid quirk of timing, the document was released two days before the catastrophe in Japan, rendering its calls for greater attention to disaster risk eerily antiquated: “…the Hyogo Framework for Action is the world’s only blueprint for staving off losses caused by natural hazards, often overshadowed by news on losses from war, unemployment or inflation.” With all due respect to Col. Ghadafi’s current bout of attention-seeking, this shouldn’t be an issue now.

After quite a lot of coverage earlier this year, the renewed efforts to achieve land restitution in Colombia fell off TN’s radar somewhat. However, things seem to be moving forward – here, NPR reports on how some land has already been returned to displaced owners (it is unclear on what basis this has occurred) as well as on how restitution remains tied to broader agricultural reform goals.

Finally, having cited EurasiaNet earlier on the lengths gone to by Azerbaijan’s IDPs to avoid locally integrating in order to maintain their prospects for return, I have now found a companion piece on Transitions OnLine on how far Armenians in contested territories will go in order to maintain their competing claims:

The people here acknowledge that life in villages is difficult and boring, especially when there is no electricity. But they persevere. “This land needs to be tended,” Khachatryan says. “My children have to plant trees, harvest crops, and have children here to understand this is the homeland and it needs to be kept,” Khachatryan says, lighting the oil lamp with care.

Land in Liberia

by Rhodri C. Williams

I’ve had the privilege of working in Liberia over the last week with colleagues at the Norwegian Refugee Council’s legal advice and information program on post-conflict land and property issues, which, simply put, are legion. Fortunately, the national Land Commission set up to provide advice and chart out policy is both competent and committed, and some real political space exists for tackling the issues.

Problems related to displacement and return still exist. Although a return program for internally displaced persons run by a separate Commission has largely been completed, life outside the Capital is still heavily affected by land disputes that both predate and result from the conflict. In response, NRC’s country program has developed a mediation program meant to provide sustainable resolutions.

NRC has also sponsored a number of reports analyzing these programs and the context they operate in (bottom right on the country page), including Alexandre Corriveau-Bourque’s piece on land encroachment, launched last year on TN. More recently, a reporter sponsored by the International Reporting Project was assisted by NRC in developing an article providing an overview of the topic. Attention has also begun to refocus on land issues in the countryside in light of the new wave of refugees in northern Liberia fleeing conflict in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire.

Lurking behind these issues is the question of durable solutions for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the past conflict in Monrovia who have been unable or unwilling to return. As I discussed in a previous post, some observers have called for greater return to the land in order to unlock the enormous untapped potential for commercial agriculture in the countryside. These calls reinforce a post-conflict emphasis on ‘decentralization’ of the country currently under discussion by the national Governance Commission (they also echo the post-quake strategy of investing in provincial towns in Haiti rather encouraging greater expansion of the capital).

By contrast, the main focus of my current work in Liberia has been to look at the question of how displaced persons now living in Monrovia’s many informal settlements can be assisted in achieving durable solutions in the form of local integration. In this sense, it involves a very practical application of some of the principles now emerging in the ongoing humanitarian discussion about protracted displacement. Most important in the context of Monrovia are questions related to security of tenure and the extent to which the decreasing humanitarian effort and the well-established development actors (national and international) can build on each others’ work.

World Bank land conference next month

The World Bank’s annual conference on land and poverty will be held in Washington D.C. this year on April 18-20. The agenda and other information is available on a dedicated website, which also includes some information on previous years’ events – including a very interesting trove of papers and presentations available under ‘proceedings’.

This year’s agenda includes much of interest, including ongoing treatment of the issue of the ‘global land rush’, this time put in the perspective of urbanization and climate change. There will also be a panel on land in conflict and disaster situations with presentations on Haiti, Colombia, Eastern DRC and Southern Sudan and discussion by TN guest-blogger Barbara McCallin.

Week in links – week 10/2011

First, the weblog equivalent of a moment of silence for the victims of the ongoing disaster in Japan. Six years after their adoption and sixteen years after the similarly devastating Kobe quake that gave rise to them, the Hyogo Declaration and Framework for Action on disaster risk reduction face a gruesomely concrete field test.

Second, on an administrative note, I should announce a likely hiatus in TN postings over the next ten days or so, during which I will be on mission in West Africa. I hope that a few guest-postings may land during that period (and they will be rushed to press) but its likely to be pretty quiet here otherwise.

Moving to news, UN housing rights rapporteur Raquel Rolnik focused on the right to housing in post-conflict and disaster reconstruction settings in her latest annual report. While I have not yet had the chance to review the report in detail, it is interesting to note that the press release focuses heavily on land rights for affected persons. From this perspective, there is likely to be some overlap with last year’s humanitarian guidance on post-disaster land issues (posted on by Esteban Leon here).

The FAO has released a new report on gender equality in agriculture that focuses on women’s unequal access to the various economic opportunities and inputs that would let them compete with men – and the enormous price tag of such bias in a hungry world where women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. If TN readers are willing to overlook one appalling pun (“a level ploughing field”), they will find much of interest.

The New York Times followed up on articles from October  2010 and January of this year with a more recent piece on the complications faced by NATO troops in Afghanistan attempting to compensate villagers for property destroyed in the course of counter-insurgency fighting.

Finally, following up on last week’s posting on the Economist’s special report on agriculture, I should point out that my plug for this week’s corresponding report on ‘property’ may have been a case of irrational exuberance. The new special report is a fascinating read on property as an investment, the ostensible safety of which appears increasingly fragile in an era of recurrent bubbles. Of great interest to me, but perhaps more in my capacity as a mortgage-holder in one of Europe’s few remaining bubble candidates than as a blogger.

World Bank Management Report on Cambodia acknowledges past mistakes and future challenges

by Rhodri C. Williams

Following up on yesterday’s post on the World Bank Executive Board’s consideration of an Inspection Panel report on Cambodia, a full Management Report and Recommendations is available today. All documentation related to the case including the underlying Investigation Report discussed yesterday and today’s Management Report are available on a dedicated page of the Inspection Panel website.

In brief, the Management Report presents a forthright picture of the difficulties encountered in carrying out a complex land administration reform and titling project with multiple objectives in a socio-political context that is difficult to reconcile (to say the least) with classic rule of law principles (for a concise and highly instructive description of the peripheral role occupied by formal law in Cambodia, TN readers are referred to a 2008 Briefing Note by the World Bank’s Justice for the Poor program).

The Management Report includes an interesting set of lessons learned (pages 19-20), including the insight that outsourcing the issue of tenure security for the urban poor to parallel programs without ensuring coordination and nationwide coverage constituted a significant risk factor. It goes on to note the continuing deadlock with the Cambodian government over urban tenure security issues but nevertheless calls renewed efforts, including:

Continue reading

Breaking news: World Bank Board to act on Cambodia report

Frequent TN guest-blogger Natalie Bugalski brought to my attention the fact that the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank will be meeting in about an hour to discuss the findings of the Bank’s Inspection Panel related to Cambodia.

As posted on previously by both Natalie, and myself, the issue under consideration by the Panel had been the compatibility of an ongoing project to develop the Boeung Kak Lake area in central Phnom Penh with the Bank’s operational policies in the context of the $28 million Cambodia Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP).

The Inspection Panel’s report, dated 23 November 2010, confirmed that the Bank’s policies had been breached in several significant respects but also implicitly both recognizes the difficulty and asserts the importance of continuing to engage the government of Cambodia on land issues. However, the Cambodian authorities’ response to proposals to adopt a more sensitive approach to urban property adjudication was to withdraw support for the LMAP and continue evicting the residents of Boeung Kak. As a result, advocates such as Bridges across Borders (BAB) and the Cambodian Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) have appealed to the Board of the Bank to take decisive steps to prevent 10,000 currently pending evictions and promote fair (or at least legal) urban development in the future.

I should be able to publish an update with more details on the Board’s decision on how to act on the Panel’s report shortly. We can also look forward to more detailed analysis in the form of a guest posting by Natalie in the next days. In the meantime, more background is given in a BAB/HRTF press release, currently available in the ‘resources’ section of this blog.

The week in links – week 09/2011

I thought I would begin this one with a plug for a Roger Cohen column. It ostensibly focuses on the unfolding of ‘Obama-ism’ as a nascent foreign policy doctrine, but beautifully makes the point that just as 2001 was seen as interring the spirit of 1989, 2011 may signal an equally new and more hopeful turning point in human affairs. The uplifted tone invites a certain amount of skepticism, but one can also choose to simply indulge in a moment of abandoned optimism.

Events in North Africa have obscured what would otherwise be headline (well at least visible) news from other parts of Africa. Perhaps most notably, Cote d’Ivoire continues its slide toward civil war. Turtle Bay recently reported that South Africa’s contributions to the mediation efforts have been viewed with some skepticism, as it is not clear whether an effort is afoot to impose the type of power-sharing agreement that has worked so brilliantly in Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe itself, political repression by Mugabe’s paramilitaries and displacement continue apace. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has unsurprisingly upheld the country’s draconian land reforms, as reported in ASIL’s most recent ‘International Law in Brief’. Finally, returning to South Africa, the BBC reports this week on a bid by Georgia to poach  white farmers disgruntled by the far less arbitrary but ambitious and problematic land restitution program there.

A year on, BBC also provides a useful followup report on the earthquake in Chile. Although Chile’s relatively advanced state of preparedness spared it from loss of life on anything like the scale seen a month earlier in Haiti, the economic consequences were devastating. BBC points out that the cost of the damage was one-third of all costs caused by disasters worldwide in 2010 and amounted to one-fifth of Chile’s GNP. As in Haiti, the greatest challenge a year on is presented by the need to move survivors from ad hoc shelter arrangements to more sustainable housing.

Clearing the way forward: mine action and post-conflict land issues

by Jon Unruh

 Recently the Geneva Centre for International Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) explored new ground in linking land rights to ‘mine action’. Mine action is essentially all the activities related to demining efforts–certainly taking mines out of the ground but also the related activities of survey, record keeping, education, advocacy, turning cleared land over to government, dealing with local communities, etc.  The Centre commissioned seven studies on the relationship between landmines and land rights (Afghanistan, Yemen, Angola, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, South Sudan, and Bosnia) and then held a workshop in Cambodia on the topic designed to chart a way forward for policymakers.

Coming at the topic from a land tenure perspective I found it all quite intriguing. The studies revealed a lot more connections than I had realized. The spatial aspect of both land tenure and landmines certainly bring the two together in a variety of ways, but so does sequencing of areas to be cleared, strategies of mine laying and clearing, different approaches to dealing with local communities, government demining and legal capacity, and the different ways of operating for domestic and international private, humanitarian and government organizations that engage in a variety of types of demining.

Two of the more problematic linkages are land grabbing that occurs on the heels of demining, and lack of awareness on the part of demining organizations. The first occurs in a variety of ways and to such a degree that some communities do not want their land to be demined because they fear it will be seized, while others purposefully plant mines to deter seizure, demarcate, or otherwise provide for fairly strange forms of tenure security in wartime settings. The second is related to the first in that most demining organizations are very unaware of the land problems they can leave in their wake. With very little capacity to deal with land issues, or even enough awareness to avoid land conflicts that they contribute to or cause, most demining organizations seek safety in their stated and much valued notions of ‘neutrality’.

Continue reading