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Innovation on the ground — approaches to tackling land corruption

Land Corruption

The increasing demand for land around the world — brought about by climate change, population increases, large-scale farming, mining and many other factors — builds relentless pressure on the land that nurtures us and all other living beings.

What is land corruption?

The abuse of entrusted power for private gain within land administration and management is known simply as “land corruption”. Whether it’s citizens being forced to pay bribes to register their property, the sexual extortion of women in return for land access, secretive deals between investors and authorities, unaccountable urban planning, or customary laws that deny land rights to vulnerable groups, land corruption hits poor and marginalised people the hardest.

One in every five people around the world has paid a bribe to access land services, according to our research. This number leaps dramatically in Sub-Saharan Africa where the research reveals one in every two people accessing land services reports having been affected by corruption.

What are the impacts?

The negative impacts of land corruption are many and far-reaching. Without coordinated action by local, national and international institutions and civil society, it will continue to:

Our approaches to tackling land corruption

Since 2015, Transparency International has worked across Sub-Saharan Africa to understand and confront the many forms of corruption at play within land administration and management. Working together with our national chapters, located throughout the continent, we have devised and implemented a wide range of innovative practices in response to the unique challenges presented by the problem.

Six examples of these practices feature in a new publication entitled Combatting Land Corruption in Africa: Good Practice Examples. The approaches shared include the use of public interest litigation to resist the mass eviction of poor residents in urban Kenya, awareness-raising campaigns on land rights in Madagascar, and video advocacy exposing land corruption scandals in Zimbabwe.

Participatory video provided women from the Upper East region of Ghana with a platform to speak out against the corrupt practices that leave them landless as a result of widowhood, threatening an estimated 50,000 widows in the region with destitution. Placing video cameras into the hands of women otherwise on the margins of society provided a unique opportunity for their voices to be heard by decision-makers at the local, national and international level.

In Uganda, Transparency International held a series of open days as a forum for citizens to learn about land rights and interact with a range of organisations providing advice and guidance on land corruption and related issues.

Each example includes a concise breakdown of how to carry out the practices and a detailed description of how each one was implemented by the national chapter responsible.

Putting land corruption on the agenda

For many years, Transparency International has helped drawn attention to the issues surrounding land corruption throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. We have used every opportunity to urge the global land rights movement to recognise and address land corruption in all its forms. We have advocated for targeted responses by government at local and national levels, and also provided support and guidance to civil society organisations working on the front line.

We are, therefore, very glad to attend the Conference on Land Policy in Africa which is themed “Winning the fight against Corruption in the Land Sector: Sustainable Pathway for Africa’s Transformation”. The conference is being held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 25 to 29 November 2019, with the aim to deepen the capacity of those working on land policy by improving access to knowledge and information.

Sharing our knowledge and experience

Representatives from Transparency International (including staff from national chapters in Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda and Zimbabwe) are presenting a masterclass on land corruption for conference delegates to learn from our research, activities, challenges and successes in tackling various forms of corruption within land systems across the continent. In particular, our masterclass is focusing on methods for strengthening land administration at local and national levels through a variety of technologies and innovative approaches.

Our Kenyan chapter is presenting a paper entitled An Analysis of Dispute Resolution Systems as a means to fighting Land Corruption and Promotion of Access to Justice — the case of Kenya and Ghana. The paper analyses several dispute resolution mechanisms — such as mediation and negotiation — to address land corruption and promote universal access to justice. It asserts the urgent need to examine legal and institutional reforms that promote access to justice, and also to measure progress towards achieving this for all.

We are excited to share our experience, research findings and resources developed through the Land and Corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa programme over the last five years.

The Land and Corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa programme at Transparency International works to research and understand land corruption, devise and implement effective responses, and share good practice examples with stakeholders worldwide. Since its inception in 2015, the programme has published a wide range of resources — guidebooks, research papers, articles, videos, training courses, blogs, etc. — to raise awareness of land corruption and disseminate our findings.

Our key resources include:

· Women, Land and Corruption: Resources for Practitioners & Policy-Makers

· Investigating Land and Corruption in Africa — Training Manual for Journalists

· Gender-Responsive Work on Land and Corruption: A Practical Guide

· Monitoring Corruption and Anti-Corruption in the SDGs: A Resource Guide

· Towards Transparency in Land Ownership: A Framework for Research on Beneficial Land Ownership