Grounding Land Governance

Land Conflicts, Local Governance and Decentralization in Post-conflict Uganda, Burundi, and Southern Sudan.

Conflict about land is increasingly seen as a core challenge for post-conflict peacebuilding. Land is a source of local and national conflict, while conflict strongly impacts land governing institutions. Many interventions to deal with land conflicts include support to decentralization. Thereby, responsibilities for managing land and resolving disputes are transferred to local authorities and institutions. Generally, decentralization is considered an important strategy for conflict transformation and state-building from below. Yet, in practice, decentralization appears to be an ambiguous process, and its contribution to peacebuilding is not evident.

This research programme investigates how land governance evolves in post-conflict situations, as an outcome of the interaction between multiple stakeholders, including government, traditional authorities, NGOs, and local people. Thereby, it looks in particular at how decentralization influencesrelations of governance, how it impacts the legitimacy and authority of local land tenure institutions,and how it affects the resolution of land conflicts. It builds around comparative analysis of case studies from Uganda, Burundi and southern Sudan. The programme will generate an analytical framework for the study of land governance after conflict that aims to inform decentralization policies in post-conflict situations and to promote dialogue with policy-makers about land governance.

Key questions are: particular, their capacity to deal with land disputes/competitive claims to land? • How does decentralization influence land governance and reconfigure relationships of governance, in terms of empowerment, local participation, gender relations and downward accountability?

• How does decentralized land governance affect the legitimacy and authority of different institutions involved in governing land, and how does this impact the resolution of land conflicts, tenure security and the kind of justice promoted?

• How do (local) land conflicts relate to other conflicts in society, and how does decentralization restructure those relationships and so impact political stability and peace?

• How can (inter)national development organizations, donors, and local governments contribute to more effective land governance?

A central aim of the project is to foster learning and stimulate exchange between academics, development organizations, local community institutions, and local governments. To facilitate this, representatives of NGOs, grass-roots organizations and local governments will be involved in identifying questions, collecting data, interpreting findings, and formulating policy recommendationsthrough a series of workshop. A steering committee will be established to oversee this process, involving research staff, representatives of local governments and interested NGOs. The programmefurther aims at establishing a regional training programme on land governance, and a virtual international network of experts and practitioners from the region.

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This research programme is a collaborative effort of:

• Faculty of Development Studies, University of Science & Technology, Mbarara, Uganda

• African Studies Centre, Leiden, the Netherlands

• Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands

• Law and Governance Group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands

• Disaster Studies, Wageningen University, the Netherlands

• Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

• VNG International, the Netherlands

• Resource Based Conflicts Management Network, Nairobi, Kenya

• LOGO South - Millennium Development Goal Program, Kampala, Uganda

• Bureau de la Coopération suisse, Burundi