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South Sudan discuss putting land rights above politics and strengthening women’s rights

A family stands in the shade of a tree in Liliir, South Sudan @ Shutterstock/John Wollwerth
A family stands in the shade of a tree in Liliir, South Sudan @ Shutterstock/John Wollwerth

JUBA, June 2019 – South Sudan’s politicians discussed new legislation which would strengthen the rights of women and local communities to own land. This is a significant step forward for South Sudan as they try to resolve outstanding land rights challenges. The fruitful discussions were part of a recent workshop organized by the United Nations and partners that highlighted the key role that land plays in ensuring stability in South Sudan.

The workshop comprised of some 75 South Sudanese Members of Parliament, representatives of the South Sudan Government, the Land Commission and land tenure experts and focussed on key elements of the proposed National Land Policy. If passed, this policy will promote transparent land governance, provide a peaceful means to resolve land-related disputes and support those displaced to protect and re-assert their land rights. Importantly, it will consider women’s land rights. The Policy would also consider efficient and decentralized land registration, expropriation with prompt and fair compensation in accordance with the law and deals with land issues around returnees and land restitution in post conflict situations

The Hon. Savia Aya Sylvester, Gender Focal Point the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (far right), the Hon Majok and on the left (in the middle) and the Hon. Esther Ikere, Under-secretary, Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare (right) who launched the women’s land rights workshop.
The Hon. Savia Aya Sylvester, Gender Focal Point the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (far right), the Hon Majok and on the left (in the middle) and the Hon. Esther Ikere, Under-secretary, Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare (right) who launched the women’s land rights workshop.

The workshop was opened by the Speaker of South Sudan’s Transitional National Legislative Assembly, Anthony Lino Makana who emphasized the need to amend laws to better serve the citizens adding that the workshop was a historical meeting that would lay the foundation of South Sudan’s land laws. The Chair of South Sudan’s Standing Specialized Committee on Land and Physical Infrastructure (Parliamentary Land Committee), Majok Dut Muorwel, said that “adopting this comprehensive National Land Policy will be a milestone on the pathway for durable peace in South Sudan and an important opportunity to put land rights above land politics.”

The gathering also provided an opportunity to present and discuss the important findings and recommendations from the Women’s Land Rights workshop held in May 2019. The recommendations are also an important part of strengthening inclusive approaches to land in South Sudan. The recommendations were launched by Hon. Savia Aya Sylvester, Gender Focal Point the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (far right), the Hon Majok and the Hon. Esther Ikere, Under-secretary, Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare who commented that ”the launch of the recommendations from the Women’s land Rights Workshop  in the Land Policy workshop gives voice to hundreds of women as well as men committed to upholding women land rights”.

The recommendations report focuses on:

  1. How the draft national land policy can strengthen and operationalize women’s land rights.
  2. Strengthening women’s land rights in other legal and policy frameworks.
  3. Strengthening oversight and accountability for land governance institutions.
  4. Awareness raising and programmatic activities that will operationalize and implement land rights.

The land policy workshop was led by the Parliamentary Land Committee with support from IOM, UNMISS Rule of Law, NPA, HLP Technical Working Group, UNHCR, UN-Habitat NRC, FAO, WFP and UN Women and will be followed by public hearings on the draft policy as well as public awareness and capacity building workshops.

UN-Habitat is a key partner in developing the National Land Policy. UN-Habitat, through its work with the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), ensures that secure and inclusive tenure rights underpin development processes, providing tools to ensure land rights for all, particularly women, youth, children, the disabled and elderly.

The workshop builds on the UN-Habitat’s project on ‘Enhancing Women’s Access to land to Consolidate Peace in South Sudan’ which aims to build the capacity of traditional authorities, leaders and communities for gender responsive land conflict/dispute resolution; improve land management and administrative systems to enhance tenure security and support policy makers to implement gender responsive land policies.

GLTN congratulates South Sudan on these steps towards inclusive approaches to land and its willingness to engage with the important question of women’s land rights.

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