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

In international development practice, a central principle holds that weak and insecure land and property rights are obstacles to economic growth, poverty reduction and the orderly expansion of urban settlement and infrastructure systems. Thus the donor and lender institutions have funded assistance projects, intended to strengthen ownership and lease rights; transfer land, housing and business assets out of state control; streamline property registration; encourage transparent market transactions; and rationalize the pattern of urban landholding. Some groups advocate the recognition of private property as a fundamental right in international law, while others emphasize local communal traditions, \”neo-custom,\” and cooperative socio/economic relations. Students will consider and discuss the contrasting theories and their application in urban practice, drawing from the legal, economic and social science literature, methodological and project documents. They will conduct a case study by reviewing the record of international activity in one urban region of sub-Saharan Africa, drafting and presenting a project proposal in the format of a World Bank or similar donor program. Students will be evaluated on their seminar participation and their written and oral performance in the case study. Readings for the course will consist of documents, available by download and case study materials provided by Mr. Valletta. We will use several readings from: Payne, G. (2002), Land, Rights and Innovation, Improving Land Tenure Security for the Urban Poor, ITDG, London, ISBN no. 1 85339 544 7 and discuss Hernando de Soto (2000), The Mystery of Capital, New York ISBN no. 0 465 01614 6; and Sen, Amartya (1999), Development as Freedom, Anchor Books, New York, ISBN no. 0 385 72072 0.