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Promoting secure land tenure for low-income groups in urban and peri-urban

Concept note
Competition for urban land and urban space is growing within and around all
categories of urban centres, from large cities to small towns. Increasingly, conflicting
interests pitch low-income residents against governments and private investors, as
urban centres expand and different visions emerge and collide of how cities should be
spatially organised, and who should live where. Poverty, vulnerability and inequality
are exacerbated by the lack of secure tenure and the possibility - often reality - of
The close relationship between access to land and access to basic services in most
contexts increases the costs associated with insecure tenure.
Professionally designed and implemented land policy and administration has been
shown to be distant, expensive and inaccessible for low-income groups.
Women and other groups (for example, in-migrants) are particularly affected by
titling procedures which exclude their rights and needs; equally the very poor may
sell new rights at times of crisis resulting in their displacement. Formal systems tend
to lack legitimacy since they are not based on an understanding of how people act in
often partly-commercialised informal land systems; and, as settlements consolidate
and density increases, the rules and relationships governing transactions and
regulating disputes become strained. At the same time, important lessons can be
learnt from innovative experiences and initiatives that support land acquisition
for urban poor groups.
Land is central to all aspects of urban development, from poverty reduction and
service provision, to urban expansion, infrastructure development and environmental
issues, including adaptation to climate change. To highlight such centrality, this
project seeks to:
document changes in land tenure and livelihoods in selected urban
identify more effective land acquisition strategies and land
administration to support sustainable livelihoods and adequate shelter
promote findings in local, national and international policy forums.

Through shared activities on land, we will look at a number of critical themes in

equitable and sustainable urban development that are also significant in our
other work. This themes may include, for example, the relationships between
local authorities and the urban poor, community development processes,
collective and individualised versions of the land development process,
required changes at different levels of government.
Working papers
These will explore and document the implications of specific land tenure systems
for urban and peri-urban poverty, including their impacts on livelihoods, income
generation, access to services, environmental quality, etc. Of particular interest will
be papers that document initiatives to represent and promote the rights of
marginalized groups, and that may offer potential for replication. The suggested
themes for the papers (which in many cases are likely to cover more than one theme)
changes in the vision for cities and what drives them;
the legal and administrative aspects of changes in land tenure;
the individual and collective strategies of low-income and marginalized people;
the responses of local governments and development agencies to these strategies.
Support for partners in writing the papers will be UK 2,000. An international
workshop bringing together all the authors will be held in September-October 2008,
and in preparation of this meeting we ask authors to submit a draft of their paper by
June 2008. It is anticipated that a special issue of Environment and Urbanization on
urban land will include papers from this project.