Most international institutions and donor agencies now recognize that land issues, in particular well organized land tenure systems, are crucially important for economic development and growth, poverty reduction and governance in the developing world. The European Commission and the EU Member States share the belief that borad and equitable access to land is instrumental in promoting peace, reducing rural poverty and discouraging mass migration to urban areas.
They recognize that in many ACP states changes will be necessary to create a policy environment that fosters open agricultural markets, helps to redistribute land from large landowners to the poor, and acknowledges indigenous or customary tenure rights. Land tenure is a politically sensitive issue, but it must be addressed in EU-supported development cooperation strategies if they are to be effective.
In this context, the EU Task Force on Land Tenure was created in January 2002 at a meeting of rural development officials of the European Commission and EU Member States, with two objectives:
- to contribute to the World Bank’s three-year research and consultation process that involved extensive discussions with policy makers, advocates for the poor and land experts around the world, resulting in the policy research report Land Policies for Growth and Poverty Reduction; and
- to formulate ‘EU Land Policy Guidelines’ to support, through the European Commission and Member States’ bilateral programmes, the design of land policy reform processes in developing countries.
The draft guidelines were finalized in December 2003 and focus on how the EU may assist ACP nations in:
- developing a ‘multi-sector’ approach to land tenure rights, economic development, poverty reduction and good governance;
- creating a policy framework for land tenure reform that involves the state, civil society and R&D networks; and
- determining the implications of this framework for donors and development agencies.
The first part of the draft guidelines identifies the links between land and other major policy areas, such as agricultural development and taxation. The second part is more operational in nature, identifying opportunities for changes in land policy, outlining principles for successful land policy design and describing possible donor interventions.
In early 2004, the draft guidelines were submitted to a civil society consultation, facilitated by the International Land Coalition. A report on the results of this consultation was submitted to the Commission on 18 March, and will be reflected in a Communication to be issued later this year. The Communication is intended to initiate a political discussion in the European Council and Parliament on a common approach by the Commission and the EU Member States to assess national land policies and, ultimately, to support an effective, coherent EU response strategy to land reform in Developing Countries.