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Land policy in developing countries

Land policy is of special importance in developing countries, where land-based activities provide income, employment and export earnings. The European Union (EU) therefore contributes to the implementation of balanced and equitable land reforms.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 19 October 2004 – EU Guidelines to support land policy design and reform processes in developing countries [COM(2004) 686 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The European Union (EU) supports land policy reforms in developing countries. To this end, the Commission provides guidelines to target the action of the Commission and EU Member States in this area.

Land reforms give rise to public policies on the distribution and use of agricultural land. Such reforms have implications in several areas, such as the fight against poverty, environmental management, market regulation, good governance, and democracy. They should be based on national consensus, and supported by rural organisations.

Land policy support

The EU focuses on certain aspects of land reform, in order to:

  • guarantee the security of land rights, through effective institutions and by taking into account both traditional and informal land access schemes;
  • analyse existing rules and practices, as well as land conflicts and modes of transfer;
  • establish innovative land access schemes, beyond the allocation of land rights, and by taking into account village, family or individual rights;
  • support the reform of land administrations, in particular to implement simple and transparent procedures, opportunities for appeal in the event of dispute, and actions to increase public awareness;
  • promote land rental markets, which are more accessible to the poor and less susceptible to the risks associated with farming. Such measures are subject to the existence of appropriate contractual rights.

Development assistance

Official Development Assistance allocated by the European Union and its Member States can be used to support public debate, and the preparation and implementation of reforms. It should also facilitate the implementation of thematic projects (research, environment, social development, etc), and reform evaluation actions.

National reform processes should include civil society and minority groups in a participatory process. Furthermore, reforms should focus primarily on areas where inequality persists.

The EU should also participate in the creation of partnerships, in order to prioritise common approaches, the sharing of experience, as well as facilitating coordination with international donors.

Finally, to be effective, European assistance should comply with certain principles:

  • providing solutions that are specific to the local social and institutional context;
  • establishing partnerships with the competent public authorities and stakeholders from civil society;
  • conducting regular political dialogue and encouraging coordination with the competent authorities;
  • supporting long-term processes;
  • supporting equality between men and women concerning the control over and use of land resources;
  • conducting public information and awareness-raising campaigns;
  • supporting research;
  • protecting the most deprived members of the population, and in particular indigenous peoples.
Last updated: 26.10.2010
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