Our work on urban land governance

Filed under - Land

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What's at stake?

By 2050 four out of every five people in the world could be living in towns and cities. Urbanisation can drive development and improve lives, but it can also have a debilitating impact when corruption is involved.

When property developers flout building regulations to keep costs low and profits high, buildings can become unsafe. This threatens the lives of those who live and work in such buildings, and can lead to large-scale disaster as was seen in the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh.

When firms collude to rip off municipalities during big construction projects, public money that could have been channelled into sustainable urban development is lost.

Urban land can also be used as a resource for patronage, such as when officials sell public land to private developers in exchange for political support. Likewise, housing schemes earmarked for low-income tenants can fall into the hands of the politically connected, denying needy families of much-needed shelter.

What we're doing about it

Urban planners can unlock the potential of sustainable urban development – and contribute to safer cities – if they have the right tools to identify and address corruption risks in the areas they work in.

Recognising this, we have developed a course module for urban planners in sub-Saharan Africa to equip them with the latest knowledge, tactics and networks to tackle corruption in urban planning processes.

Who's involved

Timeline and results

  • 2013: We produced research highlighting why tackling corruption in urban development is vital for the sustainability of cities.
  • 2016: We participated in the UN Habitat III conference in Ecuador to promote the course module among urban planners, government officials and civil society partners from around the world. We also made a video about urban land conflict and corruption in Nairobi.
  • 2017: The course was successfully piloted at the University of Cape Town and attended by participants from a range of sub-Saharan African countries, including Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. The material is now being adapted for another roll-out in Zambia later in the year. In addition, we presented our research on urban land governance at the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington DC, USA.

Contact information

Annette Jaitner, Land Programme Lead

Dieter Zinnbauer, Programme Manager: Emerging Policy Issues

Country / Territory - International   
Region - Sub-Saharan Africa   
Language(s) - English   
Topic - Land   |   Public services   
Tags - Land management   |   Property rights   |   Urban affairs   |   urbanisation   |   Cities   |   Urban planning   

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