Land dispute resolution and the right to development in Africa




The United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development supports equality of opportunity in access to basic natural resources. This article explores the legacy of past colonial interventions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa under the British dual mandate policy associated with Lugard, in creating tensions
between private, public and customary land tenure in Africa, which have given rise to conflicts and  disputes over land. Soft law and policy agendas from international development agencies have changed substantially in the present century, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda agreed at the Habitat III conference in 2016, with UN Habitat’s Global Land Tools Network promoting innovatory practices such as land readjustment and participatory mapping, as well as reform of urban planning laws. With land disputes notorious for creating complex and lengthy legal proceedings, some African states have applied alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms as a potentially quicker and cheaper option than approaching the courts. The article examines different land and property tribunals in the United Kingdom and sub-Saharan Africa,  especially involving traditional authorities on customary land. It applies concepts of historic institutionalism, path dependency and isomorphism to the subject and proposes improvements to land and property tribunals.


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