Access to land and land use play a life-sustaining role for the large majority of the population in many regions of the world. Due to climate change, the food crisis and economic interests and as a consequence, albeit still unquantifiable, of the global financial crisis, an unexpected increase in the value of land has occurred, with land ownership becoming an increasingly relevant economic factor and therefore also a conflict resource of a very specific type. Furthermore, for most of the rural population, land and land ownership, as well as access to land – besides forming the economic basis of food security and agricultural production – are also an important socio-cultural factor. However, less and less account is being taken of this social dimension, which tends to be subordinated to various economic interests.
Conflicts over land use, fair access to land and rights of tenure already played a major role in many crisis regions in the past. Under the present heightened conditions, land is becoming an even more explosive issue. The prevention and management of land conflicts therefore pose major challenges for development cooperation in many cases.
The complex links between global change and local/regional disputes and conflicts of interest therefore raise important issues for the peace and development agenda:
- In the field of tension between food security, resource conservation and climate change, how can land, as an increasingly scarce resource, be managed in a sustainable and equitable but also conflict-sensitive manner?
- Which successful strategies and approaches to the management of land conflicts, in terms of crisis prevention and constructive conflict management, should guide culture- and conflict-sensitive development cooperation?
- How much importance should be attached to traditional social systems and legal structures, and how does this fit in with international law and human rights norms and entitlements?
- What experience has been gained with different options for action in the various phases and contexts of conflict, and what is the role of local state and civil society actors vis-à-vis their international counterparts?
Against this background, FriEnt has being dealing with the issue of land conflicts since 2008. FriEnt’s activities focus on identifying the linkage between various development policy fields of relevance to rural development in the conflict context and building potential for conflict management and crisis prevention. Developing shared learning processes and networking are especially important in this context.