DAI's Steven Lawry Invited to Present on Land Rights to European Parliament

April 15, 2014

According to Dr. Steven Lawry, DAI’s Global Practice Lead for Land Tenure and Property Rights, customary land tenure rights provide poor farmers in Africa access to land as a social right. National governments and donor agencies should support efforts that strengthen the legal protections of customary right holders to their land, especially in the face of efforts to convert customary tenure to freehold or private title, he says.

These and other recommendations were offered by Lawry at the European Union Parliament Conference on Property Rights: “Land Tenure Security, the Missing Key to Eradicating Poverty,” in Brussels on April 9. The conference was hosted by Member of Parliament Nirj Deva, and attended by senior African and European government officials, as well as policy researchers and land rights advocates from Africa, Europe, and the United States.

The conference came on the heels of the passage by the European Parliament of a resolution calling for the European Commission (EC) to assist African countries develop property rights reforms, and particularly reforms that promote secure land and property rights, as a key element in the EC’s program of support for the post-2015 development agenda. Lawry, at the invitation of Deva, had commented on a various drafts of the resolution prior to its adoption by the European Parliament in February 2014.

His presentation—”Tenure Policy toward Customary Land Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa”—summarized key attributes of customary tenure arrangements, including that rights are generally secure, inheritable, and constitute one of the few tangible economic assets available to the poor. Customary rights are under threat due to poor constitutional and legal protection, elite-capture, and a long-standing preference for freehold rights in development policy.

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