Arab champions commit to work together to improve land governance in the region

The first Arab Land Conference – held from 26 to 28 February in Dubai, UAE – marked the beginning of a new era for the land sector in the region. Over 300 delegates from 13 Arab countries met and discussed ways to deliver on social and economic development priorities by addressing underlying land-related challenges.

Hosted by the Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the conference was co-organised by the Dubai Land Department, the Global Land Tool Network, UN-Habitat, the World Bank, the League of Arab States and the Arab Union of Surveyors, the conference was and was attended by a diverse audience composed by government delegations, land professionals, academia, civil society, private sector, real estate developers and international organisations.

The conference’s sessions tackled land issues in the Arab states from new and diverse perspectives. A high-level session looked at the role of good land governance and land administration in stimulating sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Another high-level session provided insights on the land and conflict nexus.

“Social reconciliation after conflicts cannot be achieved without addressing the topic of land”, said Dr. Abdel Salam Sidahmed, the OHCHR regional representative.

The role of the state and of private sector in post-conflict reconstruction was debated, noting the needs to rebuild the social fabric of war-torn countries together with its infrastructure, to avoid planting the seeds of new conflicts. The crucial role of the judiciary and of the justice sector in ensuring that housing, land and property rights of people affected by conflicts was highlighted by the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The spot light was put on women’s access to land, recognized as one of the areas where the region needs to focus its efforts. H.E. Mabrouk Kourchid, Minister of State Domain and Land Affairs of Tunisia highlighted the progress made by his country in achieving gender equality. A series of high level speakers and technical presenters shared practical experiences and approaches being tested in the region. The recently published GLTN report “Women and Land in the Muslim World: Pathways to increase access to land for the realisation of development, peace and human rights” was presented.

H.E. Sultan Butti bin Mejren, Director General of Dubai Land Department, commented: “We were pleased to welcome a large number of delegates and representatives from governments and international and private sector organisations, reflecting the importance of the topics covered by the conference. Throughout the sessions everyone participated enthusiastically to find successful solutions to the various challenges faced by the land sector in the Arab region. The outcomes of such rich discussions are well reflected in the list of recommendations emerged from the conference, which will benefit all segments of society”.

A series of technical sessions looked at improving the lives of refugees by protecting land and property rights, new technologies to support land and real estate registration, land management and housing policies, capacity development, education and research.

Roundtable sessions covered the collection of the land indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Arab region, geospatial information management in support of the land agenda in Arab states, the role of rural local communities for responsible land governance, Land and Conflict, capacity development initiatives in support of good land governance and fit-for-purpose land administration, in addition to women, social media and access to land.

A declaration emerged from the conference, paving the road for future collaborative action on land governance and land administration in the Arab countries (see below).