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Land Policy: Securing Rights to Reduce Poverty and Promote Rural Growth

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Overview

Modern, efficient and transparent land administration systems are important in reducing poverty, and promoting growth and sustainable development. Security of property rights is central to preserving livelihoods, maintaining social stability, and increasing incentives for investment and for sustainable, productive land use. Making land rights transferable allows the landless to access land through sales and rental markets or through public transfers, and further increases investment incentives. Since the late 1960s, the World Bank has provided financing, technical help and training to strengthen national land administration laws, policies and investment programs.

Challenge

Two principles of land tenure policy stand out in the quest for growth and poverty reduction:

  • The importance of tenure security. Security of property rights (whether through titling or customary use) and the ability to draw on local or national authorities to enforce those rights are central to preserving livelihoods, maintaining social stability, and increasing incentives for investment and for sustainable productive land use.

  • Land access and transferability of rights. Making land rights transferable allows the landless to access land through sales and rental markets or through public transfers, and further increases investment incentives.

Approach

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA) have invested in strengthening land policies and administration systems in member countries for over four decades. The current World Bank approach emphasizes policy dialogue, research, investment and operational support for the resolution of land tenure issues. The World Bank also facilitates the sharing of best practices across countries and regions. In addition to project-specific support, the World Bank continues to use its technical expertise to work with governments to strengthen their land administration institutions and assess the policy framework for large-scale land acquisition, and uses its analytical base to provide information.

Results

The following examples illustrate the kinds of results achieved through IBRD and IDA support for modernization of land administration programs over the past 40 years:

  • In Thailand, a series of three IBRD-financed land titling projects during 1985-2001 helped the government produce over 5 million title deeds, directly benefitting an estimated 20 million people (approximately one-third of the national population at the time).

  • In Bosnia and Herzegovina the Land Registration Project (FY07), assisted in the development and adoption of new service standards in order to help improve services, transparency, speed and accuracy of registrations. Registration took many months prior to commencement of the project in 2007, but now 80 percent of all transactions are resolved in five days or less and mortgages are registered within a day in 16 of the 47 courts, including Sarajevo.

  • In Indonesia, under the Reconstruction of Aceh Land Administration Project (FY05), IDA supported post-Tsunami recovery efforts in Aceh through rapid community mapping, and land registration and titling. The project also introduced the concept of joint titling and gender recording. A total of 222,628 land title certificates were distributed to land owners after the tsunami, out of which 63,181 were given to women either individually or as joint owners with their spouses.
    In Colombia under the Natural Resources Management Program (FY94), IBRD helped 58 Afro-Colombian and indigenous community councils gain title to 2.4 million ha of land for households comprising over 100,000 people.

  • In Sri Lanka the North East Housing Reconstruction Program (FY05) assisted in the reconstruction of 31,200 houses in the North East region over a four-year period. This has facilitated the return of displaced populations in the northeast, and the regularization of land titles to targeted beneficiaries.

  • In Malawi the Community Based Rural Land Development Project (FY04) built on the new land policy adopted by the country in 2002 with IDA support. By May 2010, 15,000 poor families had access to land. Gross margins per hectare have risen ten-fold for hybrid maize from the pre-relocation baseline.

Bank Contribution

Since 1990, the World Bank has supported 76 projects with land administration as a major theme in 48 countries with total assistance amounting to some US$3.6 billion. In addition, some 228 projects in 78 countries addressed land policy issues as a secondary theme. In some cases projects focused solely on land issues; in others, land issues were one of several components of broader investment programs. Some projects supported specific investments, while others disbursed against policy and institutional reforms.

Partners

The World Bank has partnered with regional development banks, UN organizations, bilateral donors, national and local governments, and civil society organizations, in an effort to advance knowledge and support the modernization of national land policy and administration systems. It has also encouraged considerable cooperation among developing countries themselves, often making it possible for government officials and technical staff involved in successful land administration projects to share their experiences with peers in other countries.

Toward the Future

Land and property often account for between one-half to three quarters of national wealth. From this perspective, clarifying land ownership and occupation, and the distribution and value of land resources, as well as designing appropriate laws, regulations and institutions, are very important for growth, poverty reduction, and sustainable development. A supportive legal framework and effective arrangements for land administration are as important to the development process as are sound laws, regulations and institutional arrangements for labor and capital. As climate change and other factors place increasing pressure on scarce natural resources, countries are facing the need to accelerate efforts to modernize land administration systems to ensure that they have accurate data on land resources, occupation and ownership, and that this information is organized in ways that can be easily updated and shared across institutions involved in development, post-conflict and post-disaster planning.

Work in the area is increasingly addressing governance challenges, including instruments such as global performance standards and user surveys, in parallel with further analytical work. The World Bank is joining forces with partners to seek lower-cost land administration technologies and services (e.g., in land surveying, titling, registration, alternative conflict resolution mechanisms) to ensure the coverage and sustainability of its work in the poorest areas.

The World Bank will continue to work with countries on diagnosis, policy dialogue, operational and financial support in an effort to establish land administration systems that help protect the rights of the poor, induce better national resource management, increase investment, and help shift towards a more diversified economic structure.