Resolving Land Disputes

September 6, 2011 • Volume 5, Issue 17
Can governments keep land quarrels from turning violent?
By Jina Moore

Introduction

Land-rights activists struggle with riot police on Penang (AP Photo/Gary Chuah)
Land-rights activists struggle with riot police on Penang Island, Malaysia, as workers demolish a house, despite months of protests from villagers complaining about the country's lack of land rights. Conflicts over land are on the rise worldwide as population growth, climate change and food insecurity make land an increasingly scarce resource. (AP Photo/Gary Chuah)

Conflicts over land ownership are intensifying around the globe, as population growth, climate change and food insecurity make land an increasingly scarce resource. Private investors and governments are scrambling to purchase vast tracts of arable land. Such “land grabs” have increased more than 10-fold in the last two years. However, because up to 70 percent of the planet's land remains potentially in dispute because of the lack of clear titles, indigenous owners often end up losing their land to big investors. Meanwhile, long-festering land issues slow poverty reduction, and land disputes are at the root of social conflicts in countries from Cambodia to Colombia. Early land reform efforts in Latin America are eroding, and Asian land redistribution projects are causing tension between farmers and urban tenants. While some countries are successfully addressing land policy issues, experts say the need to grow economies and feed growing populations will only increase land disputes worldwide, potentially triggering more violence.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Property Rights
Sep. 06, 2011  Resolving Land Disputes
Nov. 12, 2010  Blighted Cities
Mar. 04, 2005  Property Rights
Jun. 16, 1995  Property Rights
Sep. 23, 1955  Alien Property
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
International Law and Agreements