Updated November 1999
GOOD LAND TENURE SYSTEMS are a necessary foundation for sustainable agricultural practices. The on-going liberalisation of the world's political economy has brought to the fore the need for open and transparent markets and market transactions. Thus FAO member nations are creating or extensively re-examining their legal systems, conveyancing institutions, mortgages, surveying, registry/cadastre, land information records and conflict resolution.
Former socialist economies are changing from social property models to those based on individual and private rights. Thus they are creating for the first time, or recreating long abandoned property markets in land and other natural resources. Land registration systems and their supporting institutions are not new. What is unprecedented, however, is the magnitude, and the short time span allowed for their creation. Historically landed property systems developed over many decades in rhythm with changes taking place in the social and economic evolution of a society. The sudden collapse of the centrally planned economies and the rapid integration of Eastern and Central European nations into the international economy meant that the entire land information system of an industrialised nation would have to be reorganised in as short a time as possible. Not only would these systems have to be adapted to a liberal economic and political system, but they would have to be adaptable to the constant change that is the hallmark of the market economy.
Nowhere is this more true than in the agricultural sector. The future of agriculture in the developed economies is anything but clear. This will remain a very dynamic sector for a long time. And as this sector responds and adapts, its supporting land tenure institutions will have to be able to respond to new needs and never before experienced demands.
For this reason, these processes will rely to varying degrees on modern LIS [Land Information Systems] taking advantage of the latest technology necessary to achieve overall cost-benefit returns while providing necessary services to the public. This leaves many member states in a quandary of how to achieve the level of services needed to stimulate active market participation before there is sufficient economic growth to generate the tax base necessary to support national land tenure institutions. Thus, it emerges as a legitimate policy choice with each of the national land tenure institutions:
Is there a role for the private sector and the market?This is especially important to countries whose national budgets and administrative infrastructures are already limited. The argument in favour of private sector approaches is efficiencies in both cost and timeliness of service; on the other side it is a fundamental responsibility of government to provide its citizens with precise information and security in landed property transactions.
There exists a wide range of examples of public sector and private sector co-operation, the challenge that all nation are facing is to identify and implement solutions that respond to their own situation.
The Seminar had two specific foci: to explore member country experiences in private and public sector development of land tenure institutions; and working groups examining specific technical areas. The following working groups were created:
Due to the exploratory nature of the seminar, it was limited to a small number of member nations. In the interest of logistics, and also to reflect major national programmes currently underway, these countries were largely drawn from the Eastern and Central European subregions.
On the last day (4 April 1997) a final discussion on the conclusions, drawn by the different working groups and including the comments/suggestions made by external contributors, was held. The final document will be published here in order to publicize the debates as well the conclusions and recommendations made by the Seminar.
For further information, please contact:
Gustavo Gordillo de Anda
Director, FAO Rural Development Division (SDA)