Most of the world’s poor work in the “informal economy” – outside of recognized and enforceable rules.
Thus, even though most have assets of some kind, they have no way to document their possessions
because they lack formal access to legally recognized tools such as deeds, contracts and permits.
The Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor (CLEP) is the first global anti-poverty initiative
focusing on the link between exclusion, poverty and law, looking for practical solutions to the challenges
of poverty. CLEP aims to make legal protection and economic opportunity the right of all, not the
privilege of the few. (see http://legalempowerment.undp.org/)
CLEP has identified specific tenure issues, including i) how to make property rights accessible to all,
especially poor and marginalized communities, groups or individuals and ii) how to ensure that property
rights of the poor function as means of achieving economic and social empowerment, particularly in the
context of gender equity and those affected by HIV/AIDS.
There is growing empirical evidence that giving legal recognition to informal property rights in urban
areas brings positive results. However, a similar body of evidence does not exist for the empowerment of
people in rural areas. Instead, the signs are mixed, resulting in a largely sterile and divisive debate on
formalization of rights.
FAO, with donor funding from Norway, has undertaken a set of activities for “Improving tenure security
of the rural poor” in order to meet the needs of FAO member countries and, in turn, support the CLEP.
This work falls within the FAO corporate strategy on “Sustainable rural livelihoods and more equitable
access to resources”. Recognizing that secure access to land and other natural resources (forests, water,
fisheries, pastures, etc.) is a crucial factor for eradication of food insecurity and rural poverty, FAO’s
cross-departmental and cross-disciplinary work focused 2005-2006 activities on sub-Saharan Africa
which has the world’s highest percentage of poor and hungry people.
This paper is part of FAO’s effort to inform the CLEP through its working group on property rights. It
was prepared for the regional technical workshop on “Improving tenure security of the rural poor” held
in Nakuru, Kenya, October 2006, at which issues relating to property rights were reviewed and actions
were initiated to develop common strategies for improving the protection of rights to land and other
natural resources of the rural poor.
Authors and Publishers
Description of the Centre
The Centre for Conflict Management (CCM), College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS), at the University of Rwanda (UR) was created in 1999 with financial support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through its “Trust Fund” for Rwanda. CCM mandate rises from particular challenges raised in the post-genocide context. It is both an answer to a research need to inspire policies and an opportunity to generate native knowledge on the deep causes of conflicts and potential strategies for the development of sustainable peace in our country.
The LAND Project is a five year program supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Its primary goal is strengthening the resilience of Rwandan citizens, communities and institutions and their ability to adapt to land-related economic, environmental and social changes.