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6.1 As a result of recent experiences and research, the means of achieving sustainable management of land and its resources are becoming clearer than they were a decade or two ago. A primary trend at present is to reconcile legality provided by the State with the legitimacy provided by local institutions for the administration of land tenure. The decentralization of land administration often means acknowledging existing rights of access and recognizing local forms of arbitration. However, the State must still play a role by providing the framework necessary to regulate land tenure arrangements, and by promoting secure access to land and more secure transactions.

6.2 Regardless of which legal and institutional forms are chosen, the state should involve local communities and local governments in the administration and management of land and other natural resources. Rather than implying loss of sovereignty, such genuine subsidiarity provides an opportunity to restore the legitimacy of the state as arbiter. In this way, land tenure becomes one of the areas in which a new social contract between the state and the population may be constructed, a matter of necessity in countries where governance is in crisis.

6.3 The politically sensitive nature of land tenure, the strategies pursued by the parties involved, and the specific features of the evolution of developing states compound the complexity of drawing up and implementing land tenure policies. Short-term interventions must take into account this complexity, both in terms of the specific nature of the tenure and of the inter-relationships over time, space and resources that may exist between different rights. Unless they do so they will not lead to long-term improvements nor will they avoid the situation of inadvertently dispossessing people of their rights to land.

6.4 Adjustments to land tenure frameworks can be made in the short term to reduce problems in the existing system and to clarify the issues. It may also be possible to improve matters by enforcing provisions which have previously been applied poorly or not at all, and by establishing an appropriate hierarchy of soundly established arbitration bodies. These positive adjustments may well be appropriate and possible in a project context without waiting for the social and political circumstances and the mobilisation of large scale partnerships necessary for fundamental reform to materialise.

6.5 It should always be remembered, however, that changing land tenure arrangements to improve environmental conditions, to promote gender equity, to resolve conflicts, or to facilitate economic development is more than changing laws or procedures. Such changes may result in fundamental shifts in the power structure within a family, within a community, or within a nation. They may redefine many relationships ranging from that between husband and wife, to that between State and citizen. Those who hold land rights often have power over those who do not. Project designers should remain aware that interventions they propose may have widespread impacts.

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