Land Governance in a Rapidly Changing Environment - World Bank Conference

Washington, 23-27 April 2012

The 2012 Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty had record attendance, over 550 participants from over 85 countries with approximately 350 presentations. This year, the conference proper covered three full days and including side events and meetings, took up the entire week between 23rd and 27th April 2012. The venue of the Conference was, once again, the World Bank Headquarters.

Within this year’s Conference was the World Bank – FIG Joint Segment, initially called a Geospatial Workshop with the title, Spatial Enabling Governments and Societies for Sustainable Land Administration and Management. This segment has subsequently renamed as SEGS (Spatially Enabled Government and Societies) Workshop with four sessions, each with four presenters and a roundtable at the end of what was a very long day. As was mentioned in the Welcome Letter by Klaus Deininger (Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank), this joint segment was aimed at “highlighting the rich experience in this area, focusing on approaches that are affordable and scalable and that can be built upon flexibly as land values and the need for greater detail increase”.

This year’s Conference was opened by Mr. Justin Lin, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the Bank, and the Opening Session concluded with a short video address by Former US President Bill Clinton, encouraging the participants to continue striving towards poverty eradication with various efforts and initiatives whilst addressing various issues and challenges within the Land Sector. The keynote presentation was by Prof. Paul Collier, Professor of Economics at Oxford University, United Kingdom who delivered what was to some, a rather provocative set of thinking when he expounded on large-scale agribusiness investment in Africa. He commented on the complexity within the land sector and called for courage as one work with land within various efforts and initiatives to eradicate poverty.

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Mr Justin Lin, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, World Bank and Prof. Paul Collier, Professor of Economics, Oxford University at the Conference’s Opening Session

This joint workshop within the conference addresses various and related issues within the four sessions with the following titles –

  • Triple A land administration: from concept to implementation
  • Approaches to lower-cost land administration through spatial enablement;
  • Potential and challenges of spatial enablement of land administration; and
  • Spatial enablement to sustainably support the continuum of land rights.

This year’s conference, the joint workshop in particular, considered what was fit-for-purpose. Whilst noting that many jurisdictions requires accurate, assured and authoritative land and property information, yet there are many jurisdictions need an “initial point of entry” to building these crucial information. Hence, affordable, applicable and appropriate approaches are needed instead. When considering the resources and capacities that are required, this “initial point of entry” may well be at the opposite end of current approaches and sophistication, and even where participatory and volunteered land and property information may have a contribution.

Towards the last day of the Conference, we began to hear quips such as "here in Washington this week, we have consensus that approaches need to be fit-for-purpose" and this is particularly so when issues such as spatial accuracies were brought into the equation and the discussions.

It was acknowledged that within land administration and management, there is a component that is highly technical. This technical component is where our profession has the competence. We must continue to work to ensure that our profession do not complicate further that which is already complex, rather to be looking at more affordable, applicable and appropriate approaches, taking into consideration context, scale and opportunity. In this regard, spatially enabling governments and societies not only contributes towards transparencies and better governance but also could well deliver these affordable, applicable, appropriate and fit-for-purpose approaches that will significantly benefit humanity. This was the gist of the closing presentation by the FIG President as he addressed the audience on “improving land governance on a broad basis: the professional’s role”.

Spatially enabling Governments and societies for sustainable land administration and management will require structural changes in the institutional, legislative and professional domains as well as embracing open standards, interoperability (systems, institutional and legislative), culture of collaboration and sharing, avoiding duplication such as mapping once, use many times, encourage the incorporation of volunteered information and developing platforms by locating, connecting and delivering information from difference scales, purposes and origins.

For the World Bank – FIG SEGS Workshop, presenters from amongst FIG Officers, past and present, included Prof. Stig Enemark, FIG Honorary President, Christiaan Lemmen (OIRCF), Jaap Zevenbergen (Commission 7), Robin McLaren, Juerg Kaufmann, John Whitehead. Daniel Roberge, Chair of FIG Commission 7 chaired one of the sessions whilst Prof. Stig Enemark moderated the successful roundtable with Robin McLaren as the rapporteur.

CheeHai Teo
2 May 2012

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06 June 2012