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Version française de cette page : La formalisation des droits sur la terre dans les pays du Sud. Dépasser les controverses et alimenter les stratégies

Formalising land rights in developing countries : Moving from past controversies to future strategies

A « Land Tenure and Development » Technical Committee publication

Rédigé par : Philippe Lavigne Delville, Aurore Mansion

Date de rédaction : mars 2015

Organismes : Comité technique « Foncier et développement » (CTFD)

At a time when many international institutions and development agencies are supporting the implementation of policies and programmes to formalise land rights, private investments in land are accelerating, and efforts to formulate principles to improve land governance and frame investments in the agricultural sector are increasing, it seemed appropriate for the French Cooperation to clarify its positions and identify concrete measures to translate them into action.

In response to a request from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (Maedi) and the French Development Agency (AFD), the ‘Land Tenure and Development’ Technical Committee initiated a wide-ranging process of reflection, coordinated by Maedi and AFD, to identify the conditions for relevant, sustainable and effective policies to formalise land rights. The objective was to propose a number of pointers to help the French Cooperation and its partners better understand the issues, look beyond the controversies and inform future strategies and practices. This work was based on an assessment of over 30 years of diverse experiences formalising rights in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The main conclusions of this process are presented in this document.

  • It shows that policies to formalise rights raise highly political issues and often contribute to exclusion. They can be powerful tools for greater security, social integration and economic development, but only under certain conditions – in particular, recognising the plurality of norms and rights (especially collective rights), social validation prior to the registration of rights, reliable land management institutions, and a favourable economic environment – which often need to be created and are dependent upon other development sectors.

  • It explains why there is no mechanical link between security of tenure and formalising land rights, or between formalising rights and economic development; why there is no universal model, and why land policies can only be chosen by the State and citizens concerned on the basis of clear development choices. Drawing on experiences in diverse contexts, this paper provides land actors with pointers for formulating inclusive and sustainable land policies (formalising land transactions, taking account of collective land uses and rights, putting in place local mechanisms and simplified procedures, facilitating policy debates, etc.).

This document only marks a stage in the process. The next step is to identify specific responses for particular settings (post-conflict situations, urban and peri-urban areas, etc.) and the possible content of alternative and complementary approaches to formalising rights in the strict sense (land taxes, securing collective rights and common goods, etc.).

Click on the following link to download the document on the « Land Tenure and Development » Technical Committee website :