The objectives of the report are to assess the statutory and customary land administration systems and practices in the five Darfur states of Sudan, and to provide guidance to relevant stakeholders on how to support the tenure security and housing, land and property (HLP) rights of people voluntarily returning to Darfur and of other vulnerable people, such as IDPs, refugees, women and youth. Although the primary focus of the report is on securing the land rights of returnees, vulnerable and displaced people, the findings and recommendations are relevant to the overall Darfur population. An adequate and effective land management system will be essential for supporting Darfur’s transition from the humanitarian to the development phase, ensuring the social and economic development of Darfur in the years to come and is one of the preconditions for the success of peace and stabilization efforts. The report targets key land sector stakeholders – particularly national and state level actors, the UN and their partners. The analysis and recommendations are drawn from consultations with multiple stakeholders in Darfur and Khartoum, as well as from lessons learned in other countries. The recommendations should be presented to the different land sector actors of Sudan for debate, prioritization and adjustment.
Darfur is a region of Sudan composed of five states. The region has seen armed conflict, tribal disputes and humanitarian emergency since 2003. In 2019, Darfur counted at least 1.64 million displaced people (OCHA, 2019) and more than 7.5 million inhabitants (CBS, 2009). While most land-related conflicts have been occurring between pastoralists and farmers, there are other causes of conflict related to customary and statutory land governance, environmental issues, poverty, ethnical identity and exclusion. These challenges are aggravated by the inadequate land registration and land administration system. Less than one percent of Darfur’s land is registered and most of it is found in the main cities. If land registration continues at the current rate and with the land administration approach presently used, the process could take a very long time and require an unaffordable amount of money to the Darfur administrations. In the meantime, voluntary returns are likely to occur in a haphazard way, with a less than optimal land management, which could lead to further land-related conflicts in the future.
There are varied key stakeholders in the Darfur’s land sector including federal government institutions, Darfur states ministries, Native Administrations, IDPs, civil society organizations, private developers and other actors who are involved in different aspects of formal, traditional or informal land administration, including dispute resolution. An efficient and conflict-sensitive land administration system is crucial to prevent and resolve land-related conflicts at the local, community or individual level.
Chapter 2 of the report provides an overall assessment of the land tenure system in Darfur, which includes a review of existing land tenure types in the statutory, customary and informal land tenure systems. Registered freehold, registered leasehold, tenure type Grade IV, customary ownership and land use arrangements, informal tenures in urban areas, land tenures held by IDPs inside the camps, and women’s land rights are described. The report outlines the key land administration processes for registering and leasing residential and agricultural land, planning and allocating land rights.
Chapter 3 presents the legal and institutional frameworks shaping the Darfur’s land sector. The report includes a review of the federal and state-level legal frameworks - which impact Darfur’s land management and protect different land tenure types – and a review of the institutional frameworks, including key ministries and committees responsible for land planning and management. The procedures for land registration in Darfur are complex and the full land registration of a single village requires many steps to be completed, including planning, surveying and demarcation. In urban areas, the government surveys and plans many land parcels in bulk, and then leases them to the people but the sites are not linked to an overall spatial development strategy, they are often not serviced and far from livelihood opportunities. The process of village planning mostly involves re-planning existing villages which have been inhabited for years and where the local community holds customary land rights. In rural areas, most people access land through the customary land system managed by the Native Administrations, and land is allocated through local knowledge and oral records. Local knowledge is also used to solve local land disputes with the support of eyewitnesses. A “no-conflict” certificate can be issued to allow customary farmers to shift from customary land to leasehold land registered in the statutory system, but the process is complex and would require simplification and a shift towards fit-for-purpose land administration. The main challenges and areas of improvement regarding the legal and institutional frameworks of the land system in Darfur are: the complexity of the land legislation; the legal recognition of only few land rights among the many types existing de facto in Darfur; and the provision of land tenure security and land-related services to the most vulnerable, including those living in IDP camps.
Chapter 4 assesses the land administration capacities of the key Darfur land sector stakeholders. The customary land administration system has been carrying most of the land administration responsibilities in Darfur with limited resources and capacities. A political and technical vision for land governance and land management, including facilitating return and land tenure security for IDPs and vulnerable people, is needed before defining a capacity development strategy for the Darfur states and the key interventions to be prioritized. It is important to ensure that statutory and customary land administration systems work together and support each other in the prevailing context of legal pluralism. Institutional, financial and human resource-related capacities will need to be increased both for statutory and customary land administration actors. The chapter provides an analysis of challenges, opportunities and preliminary recommendations on how to develop the overall capacity of the land administration system in Darfur to perform its functions and provide land tenure security to returnees, IDPs and other vulnerable people.
Chapter 5 provides an overview of land-related international frameworks and briefly presents mandate and work of UN-Agencies with land-related functions in Sudan.
In Chapter 6, the report provides a set of early recommendations on options to improve land administration in Darfur with a specific focus on the provision of land tenure security and protection of HLP rights of returnees, IDPs, women and vulnerable people. The intended audience for these recommendations are the Darfur land sector stakeholders, particularly government representatives, the Darfur Land Commission, the United Nations, and other humanitarian and development actors. The first set of recommendations put forward a set of points for discussion regarding high-level strategies that will inform policy-formulation and decision-making to improve land management and land administration. The recommendations address: the importance of better understanding the land-and-conflict nexus, the need of broadening the range of land tenure options legally recognized and formally acknowledging the role of customary land administration actors. The improvement of existing land-dispute resolution mechanisms and women’s land rights, the need of shifting towards fit-for-purpose land administration approaches, the definition of roles and responsibilities of state and federal institutions, and the importance of partnerships within and beyond the Durable Solutions Frameworks are presented in this section.
The technical recommendations provide further detail on clarifying and improving land administration functions of different levels of governments and among statutory and customary actors, including strengthening government and Native Land Administration’s capacity to undertake planning, surveying, land regularization and expropriation, regularization of IDP settlements, improving land information management and financing, and developing land administration and HLP rights capacity of key stakeholders. The report also includes a set of recommendations for concrete actions on land governance, land-use planning, land information management and dispute-resolution mechanisms and propose some capacity development approaches for government, Native Administrations, community-based and civil society organisations, academia and land professionals.
Authors and Publishers
Salah Abukashawa, Clarissa Augustinus, Abdelrahman Mustafa, Ombretta Tempra