Monday, December 12, 2011

Corruption in the Land Sector

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Transparency International. Unprecedented pressures on land have been created as new areas are cultivated, taken over by expanding urban centres or are abandoned due to degradation, climate change and conflict. These developments have strained the rules, processes and institutions that determine which land resources are used, by whom, for how long and under what conditions.

As evident around the globe, where land governance is deficient, high levels of corruption often flourish. Weak land governance tends to be characterised by low levels of transparency, accountability and the rule of law. Under such a system, land distribution is unequal, tenure is insecure, and natural resources are poorly managed. As a consequence, social stability, investment, broad-based economic growth and sustainable development are undermined.

Land governance is fundamentally about understanding power and the political economy of land. It involves the ‘rules, processes and structures through which
decisions are made about the use of and control over land, the manner in which the decisions are implemented and enforced, and the way that competing interests in land are managed’.1 Land governance encompasses different decision-makers, processes and structures, including statutory, customary and
religious institutions. When taken together as a system, land governance is ultimately centred on how people use and interact with land.

Effective and enforceable land governance provides a necessary framework for development and an important defence against many forms of corruption. It supports food security and ensures sustainable livelihoods that are essential for people and countries that rely on land as one of their main economic, social and cultural assets. For example, empirical findings from more than 63 countries show that where corruption in land is less prevalent, it correlates to better development indicators, higher levels of foreign direct investment and increased crop yields.

Corruption in land is often the culprit or an offspring of the breakdown of a country’s overall governance. Recent findings by TI show that there is a very strong correlation between levels of corruption in the land sector and overall public sector corruption in a country.3 This result suggests that countries confronting pervasive public sector corruption are also suffering from a corrupt land sector — a finding which has broad and important implications for ensuring the integrity and effectiveness of initiatives related to natural resource management, including climate mitigation projects and agricultural output initiatives.