Background and Aim
In north west Syria, CCCM interventions often target informal, self-settled IDP sites, including with infrastructure works. Some of these sites are often established on land to which occupants have no legal claim. This brings up a host of housing, land and property (HLP) challenges, especially as CCCM interventions often have a significant impact on the land. Key HLP challenges include the lack of authorization of the landowner(s) to use the land, threats of evictions of beneficiaries, and/or the levying of fees by ‘fake’ owners or armed groups for land use.
Providing infrastructure assistance without obtaining authorization for the intervention from the rightful owner(s) may contribute to dispossession of landowners, forced evictions of beneficiaries, and court cases against CCCM actors, as well as the consolidation of conflict-related land grabbing. For this reason, HLP due diligence has to be conducted before activities are started to clarify ownership and rights to use for land that will be used for project activities. Taking into account the lack of formal legal frameworks and land administration structures in NW Syria, this briefing note aims to assist cross-border CCCM actors in the due diligence process. The checklists included below are a simplification of the NRC Due Diligence Forms.
Definition: Housing, Land and Property (HLP)
Housing, land and property (HLP) refers to the right to adequate housing and the right to protection from forced eviction. All persons, whether they are owners or occupiers, are entitled to enjoy security of tenure that guarantees legal protection from forced eviction, harassment and other threats. HLP rights enshrined in international law include the right to adequate housing, the right to security of tenure and protection against forced eviction and the right to non-discrimination in accessing HLP rights.
HLP Due Diligence
Due Diligence is a process of research, analysis and monitoring to ensure the protection of HLP rights throughout the program cycle. This requires a double focus: To 1) identify rightful landowner(s) of the land and obtain their consent prior to any intervention, and 2) provide the greatest degree of tenure security to beneficiaries feasible in the given context (‘secure enough’ approach).
The widespread displacement and legal vacuum in NW Syria, however, makes it very difficult to verify ownership and claims, and legal proof of registered land ownership is often not available. Conducting HLP Due Diligence supports CCCM actors planning to implement infrastructure works in informal IDP sites in NW Syria in upholding HLP rights of land owners; thus reducing the likelihood that these interventions cause or contribute to land disputes. This in turn will ensure that donor assistance is utilised in a way that protects rights and complies with Do No Harm principles.