Land Tenure and Property Rights as a Development Strategy: International Theory & Practice

In contemporary international development practice, a central principle holds that weak and insecure land and property rights are obstacles to economic growth and poverty reduction. The principle has been stated in several of the main documents of the human rights treaty system and the Millennium Development goals and the international donor and lender institutions have funded assistance projects, intended to strengthen ownership and lease rights; privatize land, housing, industrial and service enterprises; streamline property registration and encourage property and asset markets. The theoretical basis for this promotion of property rights as a development strategy is found in a variety of sources – utilitarian and libertarian economic theories; social science and anthropology; Islamic, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant legal and social teachings; and national and regional political movements. Students will consider and discuss the contrasting theories and their application in practice, drawing from the legal, economic and social science literature, from the policy, methodological and project documents of the international and bi-lateral aid institutions and from specific national reform programs. The students will also conduct a case study by reviewing the record of activity in a specific developing country. Playing the roles of members of international consulting teams, they will design and present a new project proposal for the country, following the required project documentation format of one of the lender/donor institutions. Students will be evaluated on their seminar participation and their written and oral performance in the case study.