Land tenure Institutions

Posted September 1998

Bertinoro II
Second FAO High-level Technical Seminar:
Private and Public Sector Co-operation
in National Land Tenure Development

University Residential Centre
Bertinoro, Italy
21-25 September 1998
The Bertinoro Initiative | Bertinoro I | Bertinoro II | Bertinoro III


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations announces the second high-level technical Seminar on the theme of Private and Public Sector Co-operation in National Land Tenure Development. The Seminar, which will be held at the University of Bologna Residential Centre in Bertinoro - Forli (Italy) with financial support fron the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be open to participants from nations of the Black Sea Region.


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. Another sizeable group of member nations are searching for ways to integrate communal/traditional and tenure systems into national economies in ways that are compatible with structural adjustment and economic reform. In addition, most member states with active land markets are undertaking major rebuilding programmes to convert manual land registries and cadastres to take advantage of advances in digital technologies.

The need

All three of these processes will rely to varying degrees on modern LIS [Land Information Systems]. Thus, taking advantage of the latest technology necessary to achieve overall cost-benefit returns while providing necessary services to the public requires very large initial investments. This leaves many member states in a quandary of how to achieve the level of services needed to stimulate active market participation in the public at large, 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 question is especially important to countries whose national budgets and administrative infrastructures are already limited. Does it make sense in such situations for Government to give up some of its future revenue to have a private sector provider undertake the work. That is Government gives up something [possible revenue from fees, etc.] to speed up the process.

The argument in favour of private sector approaches is that efficiencies in both cost and timelines of service are felt to derive from the market competition between competing survey, conveyancing, legal and financing services. The cost of keeping pace with the rapid growth in technology (GPS, digitalisation and information technology, just to mention a few) is borne by private firms staying competitive.

On the other side is the argument that it is a fundamental responsibility of government to provide its citizens with precise information on landed property. In this case government has to assume the cost of the latest technology at a scale sufficient to provide timely service to all who need it.

FAO member nations demonstrate a wide range of examples of public sector and private sector responsibility for the above institutions and functions. At one end is the United States where the private sector has primary responsibility for most of them. Real estate agencies, mortgaging institutions, the property surveys and even the conservancy of land titles [title insurance companies] are largely the responsibility of the private sector. This could be contrasted with member nations such as Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden where a national, comprehensive land information system [LIS] is the institutional and functional filter through which all land transactions must pass.

These two distinct models both represent effective solutions to specific national social, political, economic and historical conditions. Neither solution is better or worse that the other. What is important is they both reflect local demands and capacities. The challenge facing other member nations is to identify and implement those solutions that respond to their own situation.

Responding to the challenge

The seminar

It is proposed that FAO organise in concert with a small number of member nations an international High-level Technical Seminar on the theme of Private and Public Sector Co-operation in National Land Tenure Development for the countries of the Black Sea sub-Region. This follows a seminar on the same theme held in April 1997. The first Seminar was organised for the Member Nations of Eastern and Central Europe. It received sufficient acclaim as to its assistance for participating countries to warrant providing the same opportunity to an expanded number of FAO's member nations. It is proposed that the Seminar have two specific foci. The first would be to explore member country experience in private and public sector development of land tenure institutions. The second would be on working groups examining specific technical areas.

The outputs of the working groups will be a series of policy decision models that governments could use in making choices in contracting with the private sector (outsourcing) to carry out different tasks and functions. The conclusions of the Seminar will be in the form of a planning matrix.


FAO will seek partnership support from a select number of member countries with active private and public sector involvement in land tenure and land administration. In addition, FAO would welcome the participation of other UN agencies and development banks. Finally, it is proposed that leading experts from the private and public sector will provide the technical inputs to the individual working groups. This would include, but not be limited to demonstrations of available technology, presentation of examples, cost-benefit analysis of differing approaches and serving as animators of discussion.

The Working Groups would be the main technical sessions of the Seminar. The number proposed is four, covering the following areas.

Due to the exploratory nature of the proposed Seminar, it will be limited to approximately 10 member nations. In the interest of logistics and also to reflect major national programmes currently underway, these countries would be largely drawn from the Black Sea sub-Region.

  • See also Programme of the seminar

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