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Supporting land policies

1 Fostering ad hoc policies, at the heart of the social contract

Long assimilated with agricultural policies and rural development, land is also considered, in France’s approach, in its urban dimension. In an environment where cities are experiencing unprecedented growth, their ability to meet demand for plots and housing will be decisive in the competitiveness of the regions and their “effectiveness” in the field of economic and social development.

Land policy is aimed at regulating often-competing social forms of land and resource use, as well as modes of accessing and transferring the said land. Underpinning governments’ socio-economic and political decisions, it is a central issue in governance.

In this field, marked by tight competition between users and players, set at the crossroads of history, the economy (fight against poverty, agricultural performance, access to essential services), law, environmental issues and socio-cultural practices (foundations of identity, good citizenship), turnkey solutions end up being of little assistance. Ignoring the informal codes confirmed by centuries of history, they contribute to broadening the divide between the legality and the legitimacy of policies, for the contradictions between positive, customary and religious rights can turn out a source of confusion and conflict.

For this reason, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs supports the implementation of inclusive land policies that refound the social contract. The said policies must be founded in governance principles, territorial dialogue, balance between players’ rights and responsibilities and take into account the historical practices and evolving local rights, from a long-term perspective. The aim is to ensure security in the new practices, as required for economic and social activity, as well as the equity that is ever under threat from ownership and concentration mechanisms. Therefore, French Cooperation is set on fostering land policies that will have an impact on the fight against poverty, sustainable development and the institutional organisation of States.

2 Local land governance

Land control is an essential source of leverage for local policy in regional planning, urban planning and housing. It is, in particular, necessary when planning improvements to accommodate low-income families in the cities, as well as in order to ensure land safety to the economic players in the formal and informal sector.

However, in many developing countries, decentralisation has not yet brought about a transfer of land-related powers to the local authorities. While the co-existence of customary rights and modern law on property and land is implicitly tolerated, it is rarely taken into account in institutions’ development strategies.

France supports capacity-building for local authorities in implementing the aforementioned land-related powers, which, as a foundation of local tax policy, will moreover contribute to their financial autonomy and, thereby, to local development.

Urban growth also invites a forward-looking approach to territories from a territorial governance perspective, taking into account complementarity between urban and rural areas, and sometimes even cross-border areas. The land issue is central to the thinking process about reasoned management of population displacement and urbanisation, sometimes a source of tension. It is therefore essential to consider the land dimension from the perspective of preventing the conflicts that may arise from inequalities and land insecurity, as well as post-conflict reconstruction situations.

French Cooperation is currently working to draft a White Paper on land, intended to formally state its position on the matter.


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All rights reserved - French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development - 2014