Land Use Policy Reform in Burma: Engaging Stakeholders & Regional Lessons

A guest post by Robert Oberndorf, Resource Law Specialist, Tenure and Global Climate Change Project.

Recent rapid changes in Burma have led to concerns related to the land tenure and property rights (LTPR) of smallholder farmers and communities throughout the country. The limited harmonization and dated nature of the overall legal and governance frameworks related to land use management and tenure security in the country adds to these concerns. The Government of Burma is well aware of the concerns being raised, and recognizes that issues relating to LTPR threaten the fledgling democracy in Burma and the social stability of the country.

In order to properly assess and begin addressing the problems relating to land use management and law harmonization in the country, the Government established a multi-ministerial Land Use & Land Allocation Scrutinizing Committee (Land Scrutinizing Committee) in 2012. One of the primary tasks of the Land Scrutinizing Committee is to develop a comprehensive Land Use Policy for the country, which would ultimately help to guide effective implementation of existing legal frameworks and also lead to the development of an “umbrella” Land Law for the country that would address many of the law harmonization issues that currently exist. It was a very promising sign that, in late 2012, the Land Core Group of the Food Security Working Group, in cooperation with Government, donor and private sector representatives, conducted a multi-stakeholder National Dialogue on Land Tenure and Land Use Rights. This multi-stakeholder dialogue resulted in recommendations being generated for inclusion into the National Land Use Policy.

USAID, in close coordination and cooperation with other donors and civil society stakeholders, has provided technical assistance to the Land Scrutinizing Committee during the development of the National Land Use Policy. As part of this assistance, USAID has been helping the Committee capture lessons learned and experiences with land tenure reform processes from regional neighbors in ASEAN. Guidance has also been provided on ways to incorporate international best practices, such as those reflected in the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, into the National Land Use Policy. It is hoped that the efforts of donors, NGOs, CSOs and other stakeholders working on land issues in Burma and elsewhere in the region will be used to inform the ongoing National Land Use Policy development process without jeopardizing the development of a policy that is carefully tailored to the unique cultural, historical, political and legal traits of the country.

This research is presented as part of a session on interventions to improve governance and sustainable management of land at scale during the 2014 World Bank Land and Poverty conference on Tuesday, March 25 at 10:30 am.

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