In Africa, access to land has remained a pressing con cern for IDPs in Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Burundi or Kenya. Evictions in Zimbabwe and Kenya continued during 2006. In Kenya, ethnic tensions have been exacerbated by government-initiated evictions based on recommendations from a government commission investigating illegal allocation of public land. The recommendations included the creation of a land title tribunal to review irregular titles and suggested that where environmental and water catchment areas were at stake, the landless should be resettled on alternative land. As of December 2006, the land tribunal had not yet been appointed. The only tangible govern ment reaction has been to carry out violent evictions of displaced persons who had previously taken refuge in forest land.
In Sudan, the government has actively fuelled local grievances between pastoralists and farmers over access to land and water. Land disputes, particularly in urban or semi-urban areas in the south are also likely to rise as IDPs from Khartoum return within the framework of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of January 2005.
In Somalia, UN-Habitat developed a pilot resettlement project for urban IDPs to facilitate their access to land. The project will adopt a phased approach according to which IDPs will receive successively: a plot of land, a tent, assistance in construction of housing, and finally connection to utilities such as electricity, sewage and water. The project combines the interest of the land owners currently renting to IDPs with the over all urban development plan of the town where IDPs are living. Landowners give some of their land to IDPs in exchange for the connection of the development area to town services and infrastructure, which in turn increases the value of the landowners’ property.
India: Man building shelter
for his family,
In Asia, Burma remains the country most affected by conflict-related forced evictions and confiscation of property: 323 villages have been destroyed, forcibly relocated or otherwise abandoned between October 2005 and October 2006. Altogether more than 3,000 villages have been emptied since 1996, displacing more than 1 million people. Weak private property rights and poor land ownership records facilitate involuntary relocations by the government. In this context, access to land and food security is a major issue for IDPs in Burma. Similarly, in Indonesia, poor official land registration policy contributes to communal conflicts, and land rights disputes are addressed only reluctantly by authorities. In Nepal, the restitution process has been affected by political considerations: According to some NGOs, Maoists have reportedly given fair land restitution only to those returnees who were not considered to be “feudal/exploiters”. One returnee member of a political party disliked by the Maoists was placed into the feudal category and received only one-third of his land upon return.
In Latin America, extremely unequal land and wealth distribution, which fueled many of the uprisings and the civil wars in the 1970s and 1980s, have not been rectified in the post-war period. Peace agreements in Guatemala, Mexico and Peru contained provisions aimed at resolving land issues for IDPs and other war affected people, but these agreements remain largely unfulfilled. In Guatemala, key commitments, such as the resettlement of the displaced, redistribution of land and compensation for uprooted people and other victims of the conflict, have only been implemented to a very limited degree. In response to the slow implementation, landless people invaded and occupied large landholdings, which were met with violent evictions by the state in 2006.
In Colombia, the only country in the region with an ongoing armed conflict of significant scale, illegal armed groups have appropriated land to expand their strategic military presence, secure access routes, and establish zones of political influence. Roughly half of internally displaced families had owned or had occupied land before their displacement, and almost all of them have lost it as a result. There is a wide range of estimates of the extension of land lost by IDPs, but a programme of the government body Acción Social has estimated that 6.8 million hectares, or around six per cent of national territory, have been abandoned. In this context, redressing the land rights
of IDPs is an urgent task, and an unfulfilled obligation of the state under international law.
In September 2010, the newly-instated administration of Juan Manuel Santos presented to Congress a bill for the restitution of land, which is currently under discussion in the National Congress, as part of a wider victim's law. The contents of this bill and its prospects of bringing effective restitution and lasting returns are analyzed in IDMC's report "Building momentum for land restoration Colombia Towards property restitution for IDPs in Colombia," available in this page.
In Peru, more than three years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended compensation for IDPs who lost their land, competition for control over land still lies at the heart of fierce animosity between white settlers and indigenous populations. Most of the land belonging to indigenous people held under customary tenure was privatised by settlers through land titling. As a result, many indigenous IDPs have been unable to return or regain their ancestral property.
Internal displacement in Europe is characterised by protracted situations with no massive conflict-related evictions currently taking place; long-term solutions are being envisaged through allocation of land, resettlement, or restitution and compensation schemes. To date, the government of Azerbaijan has allocated some 60,000 hectares of land from state and municipal land funds to IDPs and created 760 farms providing livelihoods for about 47,000 IDPs. The government also continued its project of resettling IDPs close to their original place of residence. IDPs do not own the houses built for them and are expected to hand them over to the government when they return to their original places of residence. This solution improves IDPs’ living conditions while maintaining an incentive for them to return.
New houses for resettled IDPs in
Azerbaijan, Walicki, 2006
In Russia, the government is allocating land for returnees but has not resumed its compensation programme, as it waits for additional federal funds. Restitution/compensation legislation and mechanisms also exist in the Balkans, Cyprus, Turkey and Georgia with varying rates of success. While only residual problems remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia still does not allow for restitution or compensation for pre-war holders of occupancy rights. In April 2006, a new property agency was created in Kosovo. This institution succeeded the Housing and Property Directorate and will deal with remaining caseloads of residential property. The new agency will also consider claims for repossession of agricultural land and business premises which, until recently, had to go through a lengthy court process.
In northern Cyprus, a property commission was set up in March 2006 as it had been requested by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In Turkey, an ECHR decision issued in January 2006 ruled that the country’s 2004 compensation law provides an effective legal remedy, which applicants must exhaust before filing a case with the European Court. Consequently, 1,500 property-related cases that were pending before the Court will now be referred to the various compensation commissions, with the risk of overburdening them. While the compensation law is a significant step, IDPs have not yet benefited widely from it because of the lack of uniformity in its implementation due to wide discretionary powers of compensation commissions, lack of awareness of procedures on the part of officials and claimants, and the absence of a clear government directive on implementation.
In Georgia, the Parliament passed in 2006 a law on property restitution in areas of origin including Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but this law has been rejected by South Ossetian authorities, and it seems difficult to see how it can be applied without first finding a political solution to the conflict.
In the Middle East several compensation and reconstruction schemes have been designed in response to the massive destruction and forced displacement caused by the conflicts in the region in 2006. In Lebanon, two compensation mechanisms have been established to address damage to private property, one dealing with southern Beirut alone while the other covers the rest of the country. The multiplicity of actors involved in reconstruction resulted in competing compensation schemes and confusion among potential beneficiaries. The absence of coordination between the government, Jihad Al Bina (Hizbollah’s reconstruction arm) and international donors resulted in either duplication of effort or gaps in assistance. For instance, the “adopt a village” approach, whereby donors, for the most part Arab countries, assist specific villages by distributing reconstruction assistance payments to owners of damaged property, has created situations where assistance is not distributed evenly throughout the country. In the south, reconstruction efforts as well as access to land is seriously limited by the presence of an estimated 1 million cluster bombs.
In December 2006, the UN General Assembly approved a plan for a UN registry to handle Palestinian claims for compensation for property damage resulting from the construction of the West Bank Wall. However, the exclusion of non-material damage (including forced displacement), the lack of clarity concerning the eligibility criteria for compensation, and the means of assessment and validation of damage claims raise concerns as to its effectiveness. In Iraq, a new law came into force in March 2006, replacing the previous property commission with a new one and improving conditions for compensation.