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Land corruption

Across the globe, one in every five people has paid a bribe to access land services.

Land is much more than a commodity to be bought and sold, developed and exploited. For millions of people worldwide, land is home, heritage and livelihood. Land is life. It nurtures people, crops, animals, and ecosystems; underpinning the diverse cultures that make up the human family.

Corrupt practices within land administration and management is known as land corruption.

What is land corruption?

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There are many forms of land corruption that affect people in both rural and urban areas.

These include:

  • paying bribes during the land administration process;
  • women being sexually extorted in exchange for a land title;
  • women and young people being denied land rights;
  • when a community is excluded from participating in land deals between private investors and local authorities;
  • when urban planning is unaccountable and land speculation takes place;
  • when people are evicted from their land, unfairly compensated for their losses, excluded from participating in decision-making and denied access to relevant information.

How does land corruption affect you?

Whether it’s an opaque deal between private investors and local authorities, having to pay bribes during land administration processes, or customary laws that deny women their land rights, land corruption hits the poor and marginalised hardest.

For young people, land corruption in rural areas can kill entrepreneurial spirit and restrict access to employment, driving migration to overcrowded urban centres. The consequences are food insecurity, an increased risk of conflict and a threat to traditional ways of life.

Land corruption eats away at national economies and stands in the way of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

A rural village scene in Sierra Leone. A lush forest and two wooden huts populate the background. On the left side, a woman is walking on a dirt road that makes its way in between the houses. In the foreground, a pile of wooden logs is stacked on the rightside.

Photo: iStock.com / Roberto Nencini

What needs to be done to stop land corruption?

Recognising the role land corruption plays in eroding land rights and undermining sustainable development is a vital first step toward protecting people, cultures, economies and critical ecosystems around the world.

Good land governance is a necessary first step to address land corruption. It and needs to be applied at the policy, legal, institutional and administrative levels. We can do this if we make land administration and management more transparent, efficient and participatory.

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