Organisation Internationale de Droit du Développement

Opening ceremony of the High-Level Regional Conference on Land and Conflict in the East and Horn of Africa

Statement by the Director-General, Ms Jan Beagle

25 October 2022
Madame Vice President,

I extend my thanks to the Government of the Republic of Uganda, for hosting this High-Level Regional Conference, for your presence here today, and for warmly welcoming us to your beautiful country.

As Director-General of the International Development Law Organization – the only global intergovernmental organization exclusively devoted to promoting the rule of law to advance peace and sustainable development – it is an honour to join delegates from so many countries at this historic event. IDLO is pleased to co-organise this conference and the two judicial conferences taking place during this East Africa Justice Week.

For many years, IDLO has been a proud partner of several countries in the East and Horn of Africa, supporting justice sector reforms in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, South Sudan, and more recently, Rwanda, through our programming, research and advocacy.

I appreciate the strong collaboration we enjoy with governments, justice institutions and civil society in the region, and I am very proud of the results we have achieved together in promoting inclusive, people-centred approaches to the rule of law and access to justice.

The theme of this conference,“Land conflict, peace, and security”, is at the core of the IGAD Agenda 2030, Agenda 20631, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)2 – especially Goals 2 (zero hunger), 5 (gender equality) 13 (climate action), 15 (life on land) and 16 (rule of law).

It also resonates with IDLO’s goal of making justice systems more effective and responsive to people’s needs, whilst ensuring that rule of law drives peace and sustainable development.

I would like to begin by focusing on the essential link between access to land, peace and sustainable development.

As we all know, competition over land and natural resources is one of the major causes of political, economic and social instability in the East and Horn of Africa3, and indeed all over the world.

Access to land directly affects the region’s politics and demographics, heightens tensions between different ethnic and social groups, and exacerbates the impact of climate change and food insecurity.

It is now well recognised that good governance and the rule of law can play a pivotal role in facilitating equitable access and management of land and natural resources.

But we are all aware that legislative and policy frameworks, important as they are, are only part of the story. Implementation is key.

Inclusive land laws and policies; the improved ability of land dispute resolution actors; and the enhanced capacity of justice seekers to understand and protect their rights are all essential elements in preventing and mitigating land conflicts. They also contribute to building trust and strengthening the social contract.

IDLO’s work in the East and Horn of Africa, and around the world, is guided by our core values, especially putting people and their needs at the centre of our efforts and ensuring that our programming is nationally owned in the broadest possible sense.

An important part of this work in the region focuses on promoting access to land justice for all, fostering the sustainable use of natural resources, and facilitating climate change resilience planning, with a special focus on women, girls and other vulnerable groups.

Allow me to share a few examples of results achieved in partnership with you, our national.

In Uganda, where

  • 65% of the workforce is involved in agricultural sector and nearly three-quarters of all Ugandans are subsistence farmers,
  • Land rights for many rural communities are insecure and unclear, and vulnerable groups – like the poor, women, youth and indigenous peoples – are the hardest hit.
  • The interlinkage between land and power, as well as the use of land as proof of economic empowerment, adds another layer to the level of land insecurity In this context, IDLO has been promoting accessible and speedy resolution of disputes, including land disputes, through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms, grounded on mediation, as opposed to lengthy court processes.
  • By combining this with legal aid for communities, IDLO has ensured access to essential justice and information services for over 16,000 vulnerable people.
  • Of these, 4,200 were able to successfully conclude their disputes through mediation.
  • The cases were concluded within three to six weeks of reporting – a significant milestone considering that a similar civil case takes at least 800 days through a regular court process.

In Kenya,

  • In the past two years, the impact of climate change has increased, with droughts and floods recorded across the country.
  • The Arid and Semi-Arid countries have been the most adversely affected.
  • What’s more, COVID-19 compounded these natural disasters, with severe impacts on the national economy, which is highly dependent on agriculture, forestry, fishery and tourism.
  • In line with a growing focus on climate change adaptation, Kenya, with the support of IDLO and other development partners, has developed a comprehensive domestic framework to comply with its climate commitments.
  • This includes: the Climate Change Framework Policy; the National Climate Change Action Plan 2018-2022; the National Adaptation Plan 2015-2030; the Climate Change Act 2016; and the National Drought Management Authority Act.
  • At this critical juncture, mainstreaming climate strategies into wider sustainable development plans, and/or sectoral policies, can help to maximize coordination, and minimize trade-offs between climate and development goals.
  • To achieve this objective, IDLO is currently supporting local governments in Kenya to conduct legal audits and develop context-specific climate change policies and action plans, which detail their adaptation, as well as developmental strategies.
  • In Somalia, we are helping to address land scarcity, which often leads to competition between pastoralists and agricultural communities belonging to different clans.
  • Livestock rearing in Somalia, a significant segment of the agricultural sector, is anchored to a pastoral system that relies on safe and secure access to existing natural resources. IDLO takes a flexible approach when promoting access to justice, including for land-related disputes.
  • The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centres, established by the Somali Ministry of Justice – with the technical support of IDLO – function as Customary and Informal Justice (CIJ) service integration hubs. • They provide free dispute resolution services, while referring more complex or criminal cases to formal courts.
  • As the ADR Centres have gained expertise in resolving community disputes, they have become a reliable dispute settlement mechanism for land-related conflicts.
  • IDLO’s recent assessment of the ADR Centres indicates that, to date, these dispute resolution mechanisms have solved more than 5,000 disputes, 23% of which related to land and immovable property.
  • IDLO is also piloting an innovative approach in Somalia, which uses environmental information to forecast and plan the provision of justice services.
  • The ADR Centres receive climate and security forecasts from the National Environmental Research and Natural Disaster Preparedness Authority, setting out potential hotspots of insecurity caused by climatic conditions and migration.
  • This allows the ADR Centres to plan their work seasonally, and direct the location of mobile ADR Centres that will serve the targeted pastoralist communities.

As we have already heard this morning, any discussion about land will be incomplete without discussing the rights of women. This is an issue very close to my own heart and central to IDLO’s mandate. Across the East and Horn of Africa region, gender inequality remains a key challenge.

Recent data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on the progress in the implementation of the SDGs in Africa shows that most countries are not on track to meet the targets set for SDG 5.

This does not mean that progress has not been made.

Over the last ten years, several countries in the East and Horn of Africa have developed legislative, administrative and institutional reforms aimed at advancing gender equality in land governance.

However, despite encouraging results – such as the recognition of customary land rights for women in Uganda; and legal protection of individual use and occupancy rights for women in Ethiopia – there is still a remarkable gender gap when it comes to the implementation of land governance interventions.

These shortfalls are primarily due to a lack of institutional capacity, (both financial and technical), discriminatory laws and practices, underrepresentation of women in decision making platforms, and – frankly - to limited political will to prioritize women’s land rights.

Against this background, it is crucial to remember that proper and equitable management of land and natural resources is one of the driving forces of gender equality.

Women with secured land rights are in a better position to guarantee sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families.

Unfortunately, while almost 80% of the wealth in the East and Horn of Africa is generated through land, less than 10% is currently owned by women.

For IDLO, assuring access to land and land security represents a priority for the region’s sustainable economic development, as well as a fundamental milestone for improving agricultural production, advancing gender equality and reducing food insecurity.

IDLO adopts a gender-sensitive approach to securing women’s land rights, promoting the active participation of women in land law drafting processes, in both Kenya and Uganda, and fostering their involvement, (both as justice seekers and providers), in land dispute resolution mechanisms in Uganda, Kenya and Somalia. Women and youth must be recognised as key agents of change.

Realizing gender equality and empowering women and girls and young people will make a crucial contribution not only to SDG5 but across the 2030 Agenda.

I want to conclude on a note of partnership.

The ambitious results outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the IGAD Agenda, Agenda 2063, and all national and sub-national development plans, can only be achieved with the shared expertise, experiences and solidarity that we bring, together.

I look forward to capitalizing on this High-Level Regional Conference to strengthen our partnerships, learn from each other, collectively identify priority areas, and jointly define concrete solutions to reduce conflict, secure land rights and, promote an integrated regional approach to this complex issue.

Together we can transform our deliberations of this conference into concrete action that changes the lives of people on the ground. IDLO is proud to partner with all of you in this important effort.

Thank you very much.