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Land policy

In recent years, access to land and natural resources has been a growing concern for developing country governments and donors as it is crucial for:

  • fair and sustainable economic and social development
  • good governance

Land tenure - and land policies - reflect political choices and the distribution of power between the state, its citizens, and local government entities.

Based on recent experience, several multilateral and bilateral donors have drawn up new policy papers on land.

The EU Land Policy Guidelines adopted by the EU Council and Parliament (see Commission Communication on EU Guidelines to support land policy design and reform processes in developing countries and it's annex which contains the staff working paper and the operational EU Land policy guidelines ) are a common framework for the EU to interact with developing countries bilateral and multilateral donors. They include policy and operational sections which serve as practical tools for assessing land issues at national level.

The EU Council Conclusions invite the Commission and the Member States to enhance their collaboration and coordination in support of participatory land policy design and reform processes in developing countries on the basis of the principles laid out in the Communication and in the accompanying operational guidelines, to reflect them in their own development policies and apply them in their development cooperation programmes.

Why is land policy reform needed?

Despite increasing urbanisation, most poor people in developing countries still live in rural areas.

These landless and land-poor families need more ? and secure - access to land and natural resources, to provide greater food security and broader economic opportunities.

What sort of reforms are needed?

  • access to credit and information, markets, agricultural extension and a favourable economic environment
  • land redistribution
  • securing land rights building on local practices and customary tenure systems development of pro-poor enabling frameworks
  • regulation of land markets
  • protection against land-grabbing

How can reforms best be achieved?

Joint action by national governments and civil society bodies combined with consistent support by development agencies.


Sustainable land management

Combating rural poverty in developing countries means reducing inequalities in ownership of / access to productive assets (capital, rural infrastructure and land).

Some countries have traditional land tenure systems that often provide sufficient security and flexibility – but others do not.

The poor need access to land and secure, well-defined and enforceable land rights (regulating access to and use of land, water and other resources) if they are to:

  • manage natural resources sustainably (water retention, pollution mitigation, soil and coastal protection to help prevent environmental degradation)
  • invest in land improvement
  • contribute to economic development.

Stopping desertification

One of the major issues of land management is desertification. Internationally, the main instrument for dealing with this is the UN convention to combat desertification, which seeks to address physical, biological and socio-economic aspects to:

  • stop desertification
  • mitigate the effects of drought
  • achieve sustainable development in affected areas.


Last update: 17/02/2012 | Top