Land and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: A new global standard for land administration

by Douglas Batson

Douglas Batson joined the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) as a political geographer in 2004. He previously worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Department of Justice, and is now retired from the U.S. Army Reserve. Batson wrote on “Snow Leopards and Cadastres: Rare Sightings in Post-conflict Afghanistan” in Land and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, and provides an update in this guest-posting.

My chapter in Part 3 of Land and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding begins with an overview of the challenges faced by U.S. and coalition forces in rebuilding Afghanistan during the 2000s, and specifically the need for a cadastral system that records the array of relationships between people and land. It also discusses the problems of refugee resettlement in the context of the post-war population explosion and the environmental destruction from decades of conflict. The discussion of secure tenure to land describes local initiatives including dispute resolution and management of land resources. It concludes by underscoring the potential of the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM) to record heretofore undocumentable, orally defined forms of customary land tenure.

Shortly after the completion of my chapter, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) took up the LADM as a draft standard. I had the opportunity to advocate full adoption of the LADM as an ISO standard to the U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee. This effort included addressing concerns about the cost of conforming 3,100 disparate U.S. county-level Land Administration Systems (LAS) to a new global standard. The LADM’s value, I argued, lies less in its utility for the U.S. homeland, than in its relevance for U.S. security, diplomacy, and development goals, in a context in which 75% of the world’s people-to-land relationships, or 4.5 billion cases worldwide, are not documented. This situation clearly invites land disputes, land grabbing, and violent conflict.

In the end, my prediction in Land and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding concerning the LADM becoming the first global standard for land administration was off by a few months (see page 255). On 1 November 2012, the LADM was unanimously approved as ISO Standard 19152. The U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) subsequently published my monograph entitled “Ground Truth in Building Human Security”, which featured the LADM and its pro-poor offshoot, the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM), as well as new land governance metrics for those charged with peacebuilding who lack specific training in relevant fields such as economics, agriculture, rule of law, or land administration.

In the monograph, I attempt to explain the significance of the LADM breakthrough in Land Administration Systems (LAS). First, I point out the fundamental contribution LADM makes regarding capturing the full complexity of customary land tenure systems (page 37):

Following a decade-long design process and creative approaches to find common denominators in LAS, the LADM uniquely captures evidences for layered, overlapping, group, and secondary land rights. Thus, all people-land relationships may be represented and human security measurably improved. In slum or customary areas increased human security relies on forms of tenure far different from individual freehold or other formal land rights.

Many customary land rights cannot be described relative to a land parcel. Therefore, new forms of spatial units not topologically-based (sketch map-, text-, or point-based, or unstructured boundary lines) are, for the first time, with the LADM determinant in a LAS.

Further on in the monograph, I point out the crucial implications this feature of the LADM has in conflict management settings (page 39):

 The LADM is a low-cost tool for increased action by international actors, host nation governments, and civil society institutions for managing land, water, and natural resources. As a peacebuilding tool, the LADM is a boon for participatory and community mapping; it demarcates property boundaries and brings peoples’ secondary land rights and even their land disputes to the fore. The LADM identifies relationships between people and land independent of levels of formalization or the legality of those relationships.

The LADM can contribute to poverty reduction, as the land rights and claims of the poor are brought into the formal system over time; it opens new land markets, and aids development by equipping communities with land management skills, helping them deal with the future challenges of population pressures and climate change.  Again, the LADM signally improves human security by potentially including every human being in some form of LAS.

The Cultural Knowledge Consortium (CKC) invited me to discuss my PKSOI monograph and field-work in Ghana as a guest on its CKC Speaker Series. “Ground Truth in Human Security” was recorded on 14 August 2012 and appears on YouTube (45 minutes). In my presentation, I elaborate on the nature of latent land conflict as a central driver of instability world wide as well as the potential for LADM to provide an effective means of resolving such conflicts.

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2 responses to “Land and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: A new global standard for land administration

  1. Pingback: Announcing a new book and guest posts on post-conflict land management and peacebuilding | TerraNullius

  2. Pingback: Land and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Customary governance, property rights, and state building in Afghanistan | TerraNullius

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