Tag Archives: admin

NYT on earthquakes and urbanization

First, on an administrative note, sorry about the recent gap in postings! Its lots of fun blogging but when the wife is on a business trip and the kids come down with a fever, its inevitably one of the first things to go out the window. Temporarily. I have a number of interesting posts in the works, including the long-promised analysis of the new Durable Solutions Framework for IDPs.

In the meantime, it had just occurred to me this morning to wonder when journalists might begin to devote their attention to the many cities (and megacities) beyond Port au Prince that are sitting perilously close to geological fault-lines. Ten minutes later, I opened up the New York Times to discover an article on earthquakes and urbanization that was both terrifying (experts estimate that a quake on Haiti’s scale would kill up to one million people in Tehran) and hopeful, particularly in its detailed description of comprehensive disaster risk reduction measures underway in Istanbul since 2006.

Background on the “Endorois Case”

As background to Chris Huggins’ post (below) on the regional significance of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights recent decision on indigenous land rights in Kenya, readers are referred to the concise and comprehensively hyperlinked overview provided by the Jurist website (hats off to Andrew Solomon for the tip). The decision itself (Communication 276/2003) weighs in at eighty pages but merits the reading – I’ll post tomorrow with some observations on its significance for international law and practice.

Looking ahead from Week One

Thanks again for lots of hits and an enthusiastic response. I’m hoping to keep things lively next week with some commentaries on current HLP/tenure related events including the following:

  • The groundbreaking recent decision by the African Human Rights Commission in CEMIRIDE and MRG International on behalf of the Endorois Welfare Council v. Kenya. I will discuss what this decision may portend for the ongoing development of international law and standards on protection of property rights and …
  • …TN’s first guest blogger, land rights expert and Kenya afficionado Chris Huggins will take up the national and regional implications of the decision. For those of you who have not met Chris, I can commend his homepage, with links to his current publications and his past observations on land conflict in Kenya.
  • I will also devote some attention to the very interesting provisions of the revised Framework on Durable Solutions for IDPs, which address issues ranging from recovery and restitution of property to broader reparations as well as prospective guarantees of an adequate standard of living.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite any other TN readers to consider stepping in as guest bloggers. I’ll be approaching some of you with specific topics in mind in the next days and weeks, but please don’t hesitate to come forward yourselves, particularly where you have insights on an emerging situation or a new report, legal text, court decision, etc. that we should all be aware of.

Finally, watch the space in the right column, as I am now fixing to start uploading lots of links and try to make this site as useful a research tool as possible.

Good weekend!

Welcome to TerraNullius

In my limited blogging experience, first postings are always pretty nervous affairs because (in keeping with the dominant metaphor here) you feel the need to give a grand overview of some terrain you haven’t really mastered yet. With that in mind…

This is a blog about what have come to be known as ‘housing, land and property’ (HLP) issues in the humanitarian and human rights branches but remain more recognizable as housing and land tenure issues in development circles. These are sometimes dismissed as fussy niche issues best left the preserve of technocratic cabals; the likes of surveyers or agronomists or, god help us, international lawyers. However, HLP/tenure issues can be re-framed as central to the world’s most fundamental social and political questions. Put simply, they concern the relationship between people, states and the limited physical territory they share and depend upon for identity and survival.

From this perspective, HLP/tenure issues are profoundly cross-cutting and should be the concern of almost anyone interested in conflict management, governance, rule of law, transitional justice, peace-building, minority and indigenous rights, gender equality, human rights, humanitarian action, disaster response, and development.

The impetus for this blog is the fact that lots of interesting things come across my desk which I rarely have the time to fully process but always try to skim and tuck away for later reference. Keeping in mind the number of people out there who have, against their better judgments, fallen under the sway of HLP/tenure issues, it occurred to me that filing away relevant items (but no privileged work product, of course) in a public and annotated form might might be useful to others as well.

Given the number of debates that persist around HLP/tenure issues and the relatively few fora devoted exclusively to airing them, it is my hope that this blog may also be conducive to the development of shared understandings where possible, and to clarifying debates on opposing viewpoints where not. I would also invite readers of the blog to share interesting anecdotes, texts and inquiries that have arisen in their work in order to circulate them to a wider audience.

As a last point, I sincerely hope no one takes umbrage at the name of this blog. Let me state clearly that I do not desire nor advocate a return to imperial conquest justified by the failure of other people to have their title papers in proper order. I wanted to make some kind of a pun on the fact that a lot of issues in this field remain open and since people like ODI have snapped up all the catchy titles in English, I had to fall back on the old law school trick of doing it in Latin. Terra nullius means ‘land belonging to no one’ and is often used descriptively in places like Antarctica and Marie Byrd Land. However, Australians, Eddie Izzard fans and others will be aware that behind this innocent terminology, sadly, lurks a darker past…

Rhodri C. Williams, Stockholm, 08 February 2010