FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Ensuring rural development through better access to land for women in the Western Balkans

Woman harvesting raspberries in Serbia.

In late 2015, the world pledged to transform our future by committing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which foresees reforms providing women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, in accordance with national laws.

This gave further impetus to the joint work of FAO and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development on ensuring gender equality in land ownership and control in the Western Balkans that is being presented today at a virtual conference.

The event, co-organized by the International Union of Notaries, showcases good practices and lessons learned from eight years of collaboration in the Western Balkans region and provides an opportunity to look into the future and share plans for continued action on gender equality in land ownership and control.

In 2013, the sex-disaggregated data produced by each country and territory indicated low levels of female land ownership, in some places as low as three percent, and not more than 30 percent in most cases. However, under the joint FAO and GIZ collaboration, women’s ownership of land has increased significantly since then.

The conference “Gender equality in land ownership and control in the Western Balkans: Looking back, looking ahead” thus reflects upon and raises awareness of the progress made. In particular, the event offers a new understanding of how regional cooperation involving national actors and development partners can support the achievement of SDG targets, including, but not exclusively, SDG 5, on achieving gender equality.

“The gender land initiative in the Western Balkans has led to more secure property rights for women that increase their resilience in the face of economic, social, environmental, and health challenges, and also contribute to women’s empowerment,” said Nabil Gangi, FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia, in his welcoming address. “This was made possible by the productive collaboration between FAO, GIZ, and the International Union of Notaries who have joined forces building on each other’s advantages and collaborated closely with the local agents of change.”

“Equal access to land is a key factor for women’s economic success and empowerment,” emphasized Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, in her opening speech. “Western Balkan countries have adapted their legislation and provided incentives for registration of the land titles for women; sensitization and training campaigns have been organized for notaries and for civil servants in relevant authorities in order to facilitate the enforcement of the women’s rights. We can be proud of what we have achieved together. The German Development Ministry is happy to continue its support to Western Balkan countries’ work to foster women’s land rights and empowerment.”

Guaranteeing women’s equal rights to land ownership and control also supports economic efficiency in rural areas and the realization of a range of other SDGs, including poverty reduction (Goal 1), food security (Goal 2), and the welfare of households, communities, and countries (Goals 3, 10, 11 and 16, among others).

The initiative facilitated not only the achievement of the global goals and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land (VGGT), but also the collection of sex-disaggregated data for stocktaking and reporting on specific SDGs, as well as to support informed decision-making.

Bringing together decision-makers from multiple areas and land agencies, in addition to notaries and other partners, the virtual conference showcases perspectives from the ground through presentations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo1, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia for mutual exchange and learning.

1 References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).

11 November 2021, Budapest, Hungary