ILC initiated the Framing the Debate series in response to the clear need to facilitate a deeper understanding of the key topics at the centre of current land governance debates.
Framing the Debate: Land and land governance in the Arab Region
The Arab region encompasses 22 countries in Western Asia and North Africa: from east to west, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Somalia, Comoros, Djibouti, the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. These countries cover an area of some 14,000,000 sq km in total, including about 30,000 km of coastline, and have widely contrasting topographies and distinctive land forms.
Most of these countries share some common history, having been part of the Ottoman Empire or at least having had privileged links with it. They share the Arabic language, the official language of the League of Arab States (though this does not imply that their populations are homogeneous culturally, ethnically or religiously). These historic influences can still be seen in the different categories of land tenure that exist across the region, inherited from the Ottoman Land Code enacted in 1858.
In recent years the region has witnessed many major events, including revolutions, political turmoil, wars and persistent conflicts that have led to complex and often fragile situations, particularly when it comes to land tenure and the related rights of different peoples and communities.
This paper seeks to explore some of the major factors influencing land governance in the Arab region, and also calls on its target audience – of researchers, people’s organizations and social movements – to build on work already done by national, regional and international civil society to improve people’s enjoyment of land rights.
Framing the Debate comprises regionally or nationally focused thematic papers relating to on-going and emerging land-related debates. A single publication may treat a wide range of land governance issues or focus on a specific theme. This publication commissions renowned land experts to share their perspectives on key issues, while acknowledging and fairly discussing other views. The papers published in the Framing the Debate series are intended to be accessible to a wide audience of land specialists as well as non-land experts.
This publication serves to better understand the current state of the land governance debate, to trigger further debate and pave the way for future study.