Housing, land and property rights and peace agreements: Guidance for the Myanmar peace process (February 2018)



  1. Any successful outcome to the peace process in Myanmar will invariably need to address the wide range of housing, land and property (HLP) rights issues that are central components in all of the unresolved conflicts in the country. At least superficially, there is growing evidence that various actors engaged in the peace process are increasingly recognising that the resolution of HLP rights issues will be critical towards building the foundations needed for the long-term peace and stability of the country. The agreement of ten key land and environment principles at the May 2017 Panglong 2 Summit by the government and ethnic negotiating armed ethnic groups provides an important basis for further agreement on HLP issues as the process unfolds. This paper aims to bolster this process by providing a brief overview of how HLP matters have been addressed in other peace processes throughout the world over the past 25 years, some of which may prove inspirational to peace negotiators in Myanmar. There is a wide range of experience about how and in which manner HLP issues have been included in peace agreements, and HLP issues are increasingly recognized for their multi-dimensional impacts upon conflict. Indeed, HLP issues can be the cause of conflict, a consequence of conflict, and an important means for securing a sustainable peace following conflict. HLP concerns and the human rights and other considerations attached to them are now widely agreed to form vital ingredients in the quest for long-term economic vitality and social stability following conflict. As a result, HLP issues are growing in prominence and are now viewed as key considerations in conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives.

  2. Despite the fact that virtually all recent major peace processes and post-conflict periods of reconstruction in other countries have sought to structurally address the severe HLP consequences of the conflict concerned, there is a significant risk in Myanmar that because of the deep vested interests attached to so many of them, HLP issues will be perceived as too sensitive or complex to be properly addressed in any eventual agreement. It is important, therefore, to foster awareness about HLP issues among those engaged in, or supporting, negotiations and planning for the post-conflict period. Without adequate preparation of all stakeholders involved in, or supporting, the negotiation process, a national level settlement may be undermined by local level HLP grievances and conflicts. In the alternative scenario, in which there is no national level agreement, an alternative strategy for sensitizing actors to HLP risks and opportunities will nonetheless be required.

  3. This briefing paper is designed to assist and build the capacities of those engaged in formulating an eventual peace agreement concerning the ongoing conflicts in Myanmar with options on how best to address the myriad HLP issues in the country based on similar experiences in other countries. It explores some of the fundamental HLP issues common to most conflicts, how these have played out in the Myanmar context, and how other countries have addressed these in various peace agreements and negotiated settlements. It aims to facilitate discussions between stakeholders about which types of mechanisms may be most appropriate for Myanmar, as the quest for peace continues.