Land tenure Institutions

Land Reform Bulletin: 1997/1
Réforme agraire: 1997/1
Reforma Agraria: 1997/1


THIS ISSUE of Land Reform, Land Settlement and Cooperatives deals with the linkages between rural development and food security. The Rome Declaration and World Food Summit Plan of Action represent without doubt an important benchmark in the international arena. In this context, FAO's priorities will cover the multifaceted issue of food security. After the World Food Summit, FAO has developed many initiatives, one of the most important of which is the Special Programme for Food Security in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries. We have therefore invited the secretariat of this programme to present its activities and current progress to our readers.

This is a very exciting moment for the United Nations system. The keyword is of course "reform". Underlying all the recent efforts to reform the UN system, two major aspects must be kept in mind:

The first aspect has been frequently analysed and there is not much to add to the general perception that the move from a bipolar structure of power towards one in which unipolar supremacy is coupled with a strong, although incipient, process of regional blocs ­p; first emerging as economic blocs but with the potential to become political and military blocs ­p; requires a rethinking of world governance. The second aspect, although also frequently discussed in the developmental community, needs to be put into perspective with the process of UN reform.

Aspirations of full employment, sustained growth, equitable distribution of technological progress and stability emerged in the period following the Second World War. It could be said that the bases of social ethics were dominated by these principles until the mid-1970s, although the focus was already on a strategic approach with various alternatives. There was not yet an open contradiction in the growth/equitable distribution/stability triangle, but there was a need for definitions of attributes and relations in terms of the goal: economic and social development. In developed countries, the welfare state was leading to an active social policy. In parallel, in developing countries, the debate was centred around prioritizing growth for distribution or distribution for growth. During this period, justice was the baseline of theoretical and economic policies.

This post-war consensus has come to an end. The bases of justice are no longer operating in the area of economic morale, but are now developing in the context of political philosophy. The growth/equitable distribution/stability triangle has been replaced by a new order of principles guided by governance, equity and modernization. The theoretical discussion of this new order responds to the crisis and subsequent break-off of the consensus, a clear expression of which is the fading of the principle of full employment, or presenting economic stability and democracy as a dilemma. To summarize, the consensus emerging from the post-war period is no longer relevant. The economical principles based on growth, distribution and stability have shifted from the context of crisis to principles of a political philosophy based on modernization, equity and governance. Such a systematic framework faces the difficulty of having to integrate two contradictory elements: one related to individual rights, the other related to social rights. Modernization is strongly linked with the different types of state reforms which basically imply establishing new frontiers between the public and the private spheres. In its most narrow sense, equity is often seen as equal opportunities, thus establishing a difference between what might be equitable and what might be just. Finally, governance has frequently been approached from a potentially problematic perspective whereby economic stability and democracy are perceived as a dilemma.

Some academics and policy-makers believe that the contradictory elements might be solved by recognizing that "pluralism" is the basic characteristic of societies all over the world. Pluralism means that the presence and role of multiple actors and their influence in shaping the performance of both natural systems and social institutions are recognized. It is essential, it is argued, to understand this complexity without losing the conceptual vision guiding policy at the economic and social levels, without trying to resolve the problem by dissociating scientific rationality from moral judgement. The focus of these theses recalls the principles of freedom and justice in a different context: the freedom of decision-making based on "reciprocity" rather than guided by the economic and political elimination of the principal actors. In this way, the argument redirects the state-society relationship, based on the clear belief that the profile of the state at all levels is built on (not against) society itself, from market support to the recognition of the autonomy of civil society and to the promotion of communities based on solidarity. The hallmark of modern ideological discussion revolves around the state-civil society relationship. It is closely linked to relations with markets, social organization and communities. The articulating concept in this vision would be "solidarity".

The way in which the two major aspects ­p; the geopolitical challenge and the socio-economic consensus ­p; are addressed will have long-lasting consequences for the UN system and, indeed, for world development. On the road to a new development consensus, the issue of food security may play a major role. The tension between efficiency and equity, the relationship between modernization and democratization and the linkages between multiple actors through partnerships and alliances are all present in the conception and the implementation of food security programmes. This issue of Land Reform, Land Settlement and Cooperatives should thus be inserted in the context of World Food Summit follow-up discussions.

Paolo Groppo

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