Capacity development is defined as ‘‘The process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time” OECD (2006). Capacity development is very important in the Arab region to ensure that the management of land and land-based resources matches the challenges of current times. It is also an important aspect for establishing a well-functioning land sector. Despite this, capacity development alone cannot enhance land governance . Reviewing legal and institutional frameworks and improving the land administration infrastructure are needed interventions. These different streams of work can be implemented in parallel at country level, when the context is conducive to change and there is an enabling environment that allows the introduction of deeper changes. Capacity development is a type of intervention that is suitable to most contexts, as long as it builds on the knowledge, capacities and human resources that are already there. This makes it a valuable and important entry point to intervene in the land sector in the Arab region.
At UN-Habitat, when designing capacity assessments and capacity development interventions in the land sector, these different stakeholders are examined and target enhancing the capabilities. It is not always possible to intervene at all levels, with the timeframe and the resources available for intervening in any given context. It is however important to keep all these levels in mind to understand what capacities individuals need, to make sure they add value to the way of working of their organisations and, subsequently, what capacities and characteristics land sector organisations need to have to ensure they bring positive change at the broader societal or enabling environment level. For example, land registries not only need to be affordable, updated and well-functioning, but also need to produce and make land-related information available to various ministries and local authorities. This will ensure that decision makers are able to take well informed and implementable decisions.
However, unfortunately, when designing capacity development interventions for the land sector, we cannot have a holistic approach and we often have to select a few strategic entry points, depending on the interest and preference of national counterparts. The selection would vary from case to case and from country to country. There are, however, some elements that are common in every context in the region (and beyond): The need to have inclusive, age and gender balanced representation from the different community members in the land sector workforce ; the need to shift towards land administration approaches that are fit-for-purpose; and improving the way land disputes and land conflicts are addressed and resolved. These should be among the priorities of every capacity development intervention in the region.
In the Arab States, we can see that many outstanding public and private institutions, government departments, professional organisations, research institutes, and universities have a strong background on land and its related issues, allowing them to play a key role in capacity development. Some countries in the region are very advanced on specific land management disciplines and technologies, and others have progressed significantly on land registration and land administration, or in geomatics and cartography for example. There is however the need to ensure that quality professional capacities are available in sufficient numbers across the region and well distributed within the countries. Technical capacities need to be complemented by analytical and strategic capacities, and soft-competencies, such as client orientation, communication and problem solving. Further, there is the need to ensure that the different components of the land governance discipline– and the professionals that work in them – are better able to work together and complement each other’s knowledge and expertise. Only this will allow the land sector to work better and to overcome the many evolving challenges that the region faces.
The Arab Land Conference has drawn the attention of many land sector actors in the region, which is a significant step to the creation of an enabling environment for land administration and land governance reforms. Many land sector organisations are taking the lead in organizing sessions and submitting research papers to be presented at the conference. The Conference is an opportunity for many actors to actively engage in the land debate and present their content to a wider range of experts. Lastly, at the event itself, over six hundred participants will be able to attend and engage in the thirty sessions composing the conference and network – virtually and in person – with other participants, strengthening their personal and professional networks. Without a doubt, these are all elements that are significantly contributing to creating a fertile ground for positive change in the land governance sector. UN-Habitat is very proud to have coordinated such event in correlation with the Egypt Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities, the World Bank, GIZ, NELGA, FAO, UNCCD the International Land Coalition, UTI and many others.