Land Reform Efforts in the DRC Should Look to the Voluntary Guidelines

A recent article from IRIN news discusses land and conflict, as well as some potential opportunities for land reform, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the article, “land disputes are key drivers of conflict in eastern DRC, and they hinder development across the region. Some researchers argue that agrarian conflict, rooted in issues of land rights and citizenship, is the principle cause of the Kivu region’s wars.”

International donor agencies have begun working to address land issues in DRC, focusing primarily on mediating land disputes and registering land claims, but progress has been slow. According to the article, mediation projects lack coherence, coordination and sustainability, while assisting the registration of land claims has had limited results.

The DRC, which is faced by weak resource governance, conflict, instability, corruption, and poverty, could benefit greatly from a revised legal framework for land. Increasingly, the DRC government appears willing to address land issues – the article notes that the DRC government and UN Habitat recently worked out a ‘road map’ for reform of the land law and land governance.

This is a case where international donors, government and civil society organizations should consider the Voluntary Guidelines (VGs) for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security as a means to address land and resource rights. The VGs – which were adopted in May 2012 by the UN Committee on World Food Security – establish principles to guide countries in designing and implementing laws that govern property rights over land, fisheries and forests for agricultural and other uses. The VGs create a favorable architecture for policy reform that can address conflict, gender, access and rights. The VGs could also help to address the overall problem of coordination of reform efforts.

Click here for more information on the VGs.


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