Land tenure is the relationship, whether legally or customarily defined, among people, as individuals or groups, with respect to land. Rules of tenure define how property rights to land are to be allocated within societies. They define how access is granted to rights to use, control, and transfer land, as well as associated responsibilities and restraints. In simple terms, land tenure systems determine who can use what resources for how long, and under what conditions.
It is now well-recognised that secure land and property rights for all are essential to reducing poverty, because they underpin economic development and social inclusion. Secure land tenure and property rights enable people in rural and urban areas to invest in improved homes and livelihoods. They also help to promote good environmental management, improve food security, and assist directly in the realization of human rights, including the elimination of discrimination against women, the vulnerable, indigenous groups and other minorities.
Lessons learned about the relationship between property rights and economic growth:
- Secure property rights are a critical component of economic development and social stability. Inappropriate property rights and institutions can undermine growth, erode natural resource bases, and catalyze violent conflict. Conversely, strong property rights systems, which are viewed as legitimate, transparent, and negotiable, can lead to increased investment and productivity, political stability, and better resource management.
- Effective land tenure reform cannot take place without simultaneous land reform. Transparent land and property registration must be secured by State Cadastres.
- Too often, land tenure and property right reforms are measured in terms of outputs rather than impacts (e.g., measuring the number of land titles which have been issued as opposed to focusing on market performance and investment increases, reduced conflicts, or improved sustainable management practices). This focus on outputs prevents policy makers from fully understanding the benefits of property rights reform programs.