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The Initiative

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Background

The good governance of land, functioning land administration systems and the protection of housing, land and property rights are critical for the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the Arab region and for the realisation of the human rights of all women, men and children, both in the expanding urban areas and in the fragile rangelands and agricultural areas.

The Arab region – defined as the 22 countries part of the League of Arab States – occupies a strategic position at the intersection of Europe, Africa, and Asia. 

Its fast-growing 453 million population, comparable to the one of the European Union, is concentrated on only 4 per cent of its land, along the coast and the few rivers. Such distribution enhances the vulnerability to climate change related to the rise of sea levels and the salinization of the freshwater tables, heightens the competition over the scarce habitable and arable lands and the tensions between urban and rural land uses. Good land use management and mitigation of related conflicts is a priority in the region.

60 percent of the people live in urban areas, a quarter in informal settlements. The high urbanisation rates – expected to reach 70 per cent by 2050 – presents both opportunities and challenges. While Arab cities are vibrant centres of economic, cultural and social activity, unregulated urbanization creates inefficient and unhealthy living environments that exacerbate vulnerability, exclusion and inequalities in the access to land and housing, public spaces, services and infrastructure. 

Over the last three decades, the cost of land has escalated to unaffordable levels, causing a chronic lack of adequate affordable housing, the spread of informal settlements and segmented land markets. This has contributed to the high proportion of urban dwellers living in informal settlements or inadequate housing. Improving land management in urban and peri-urban areas is crucial for sustainable and inclusive urbanisation and to enable Arab cities to play their role as engines of social and economic growth. 

With a few noticeable exceptions, particularly of small and high-income countries, land administration in the region is outdated, dysfunctional, institutionally fragmented, paper-based and non-transparent. Land administration reforms that are fit-for-purpose, supported by new technologies, and providing benefits to the whole population - including the most vulnerable, the poor and the women – are needed. 

Over the past decades, inequalities have been sharply rising in the Arab region. This led to the increasing concentration of agricultural and valuable urban land in the hands of a few powerful, wealthy and politically connected elites and transnational companies. Communal land rights have been eroded and speculative land uses have been privileged over productive land uses. 

The region hosts over 40 million migrants and over 21 million displaced by conflicts and climate change. The violent conflicts of the in the past decade often have causes rooted in land and resulted in mass displacement and violations of housing, land and property rights. 

The Arab region is by far the most affected by climate change. Increased temperatures, desertification, land degradation, droughts and water scarcity are worsening. This aggravates food insecurity, already compounded by the small areas dedicated to food production, increased population pressure, and the overall declining investment in rural productive land uses. Rural poverty and climate change contribute to the migration to urban centres. Cities and towns are increasingly functioning as safety valves that accommodate migrants and people displaced by conflict and climate change. The mechanisms for the provision of adequate housing and land for economic, cultural and recreational activities will have to be enhanced. 

Women - especially those affected by conflict, displacement and migration - are lagging behind in terms of access to land and property rights, access to credit for the purchase and use of land for economic activities, and overall participation in jobs and services in the land sector. 

Improving land governance and making access to land more inclusive and transparent will be crucial for sustainable development, peace and stability, and for the realisation of human rights, both in the expanding urban areas and in the increasingly fragile agricultural and rangelands areas, as defined in Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 5, 11, 15 and 16 of Goals and in the New Urban Agenda. 

The Arab Land Initiative

The Arab Land Initiative was established in 2016 by a group of Global Land Tool Network partners, led by UN-Habitat and the World Bank, to address key regional land governance challenges and promote equal access to land for peace, stability, climate resilience and economic growth in the Arab region.

The Initiative, coordinated by UN-Habitat through the Global Land Tool Network’s Secretariat, is composed a broad range of global, regional and national partners involved in different streams of work, including governments, land professionals, academia, civil society, private sector and international organisations. 

Since its establishment, the Initiative recorded many noticeable achievements by increasing the visibility of the topic among decision makers and empowering land governance champions from the region through increased coordination, collaboration, capacity, knowledge and information sharing.

This is made possible by the active participation and efforts of the many interested partners and experts with a shared vision for change, the support provided by the Global Land Tool Network and UN-Habitat, the contributions from many partners and the financial and strategic support of BMZ, Sida, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Vision

All the people in the Arab countries enjoy equal and affordable access to land for peace, stability and economic growth, to be achieved with good land policies and transparent, efficient and affordable land administration.

Key Themes

Key Areas for Action

Capacity development, advocacy, knowledge creation and management, regional cooperation, and support to partners-led land-related initiatives at country level are the key avenues through which the Initiative aims at improving land governance, land administration and land tenure security in the Arab region.

Theory of change

Theory of Change

Key documents

Land Tools

The Arab Land Initiative builds on and adapts to the region the land tools and approaches developed by the Global Land Tool Network Partners over the years. 

A land tool is a practical way to solve a problem in land administration and management. It is a way to put principles, policies and legislation into effect. The term covers a wide range of methods: a simple checklist to use when conducting a survey, software and accompanying protocols, training modules, or a broad set of guidelines and approaches. The emphasis is on practicality; users should be able to take a land tool and apply it or adapt it to their own situation. 

GLTN land tools can be categorized in areas of work and crosscutting issues: 

  • Access to land and tenure security
  • Land administration and information
  • Land-based financing
  • Land management and planning

  • Land policy and legislation
  • Gender
  • Youth
  • Land & conflict
  • Land monitoring and indicators
  • Islamic land mechanism

Find out more about GLTN tools.