Land Governance and Urbanisation: Towards an Inclusive Approach (Policy-Oriented Panel)

Organiser: Griet Steel (The Netherlands Land Academy, Utrecht University, the Netherlands)
Discussant: Cecilia Tacoli (International Institute for Environment and Development, UK)

Urbanisation is high on the development agenda. This is reflected in today’s active urban policy environment, including in the Sustainable Development Goals (particularly in Goal 11, the objective of which is “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”) and through the New Urban Agenda of Habitat III in 2016, which will guide efforts around urbanisation for the next 20 years and laying the groundwork for policies and practices that will extend far further into the future.
One of the main concerns surrounding urban transitions in the Global South is the complex patchwork of land transformations taking place in and across cities and their implications for urban land governance. Especially since urban land has become increasingly privatised and commoditised, gentrification, land speculation and a rise in private sector investments have shaped the urban landscape in the Global South (Steel et al., forthcoming).

Traditionally, the urban land debate has focused on security of tenure for urban slum dwellers. Land tenure formalisation has long been considered a precondition for the access of disadvantaged and vulnerable populations to economic advancement, basic services and urban development at large (Payne, 2004). While this is still an important discussion, current processes associated with globalisation such as ‘neoliberal urbanisation’ (Sheppard et al., 2015) and ‘world city making’ (Roy and Ong, 2011) urge us to look at urban land transformations from a broader perspective. The increased involvement of transnational corporations, global finance, and international brokers such as consultants, real estate investors and architects have made urban land governance increasingly complex, and in some cases very paradoxical. New inequalities and complex temporalities have come in place. The global land grab debate underscores how land commodification and speculation related to global investment flows are increasingly important on the New Urban Agenda and for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (Zoomers et al., 2017).

This panel aims to provide a multidisciplinary analysis of the ‘global land rush’ going urban: the history and drivers of the processes, the diversity of stakeholders and networks involved, the urgency of current challenges, and ideas for innovative governance solutions. The panel is organised by LANDac (the Netherlands Academy of Land Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development) and its partners, a network of organisations interested in how land governance may contribute to sustainable and inclusive development. By bringing together researchers, policymakers, development practitioners and private sector representatives in the field of land governance, the panel will discuss the ambivalent implications of globalisation for urban land transformations and socio-economic inequalities in cities in the Global South from an interdisciplinary perspective. It will particularly focus on questions of priorities in urban land governance (whose needs, expectations and ambitions are taken into account) and inclusion (how to productively involve the complex mélange of different stakeholders in decision making processes without leaving anyone behind).

From this discussion the panel aims to formulate an action plan, including recommendations and next steps towards realising an inclusive approach to urban land governance.

Steel, G.; F. Van Noorloos and C. Klaufus (2017): The urban land debate in the global South: new avenues for research.
Payne, G. (2004): ‘Land tenure and property rights: an introduction’, Habitat International 28(2): 167-179.
Sheppard, E., Gidwani, V., Goldman, M., Leitner, H., Roy, A. and Maringanti, A. (2015): Introduction: urban revolutions in the age of global urbanism, Urban Studies 52(11): 1947-1961.
Roy, A. and Ong, A. (2011) (Eds): Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global. Malden, MA., Wiley-Blackwell.
Zoomers, A.; F. Van Noorloos; K. Otsuki; G. Steel and G. Van Westen (2017): The Rush for Land in an Urbanizing World: From Land Grabbing Toward Developing Safe, Resilient, and Sustainable Cities and Landscapes, World Development 92, 242-252.The Peri-Urban Land Development and its Complexities- Making Sense of it in sub-Saharan Africa


Gordon McGranahan (Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton)

“What are cities competing for? The urban land nexus and tensions within and between inclusive urbanisation and globalisingdecentralisation”

Inclusion has become a watchword of the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda. Cities, however, are under increasing pressure to attract international investment and to prevent the spontaneous development of low-income informal settlements. Particularly in countries facing rapid urban population growth and urbanisation, this pressure can reinforce exclusionary policies, making it unreasonably difficult for the growing low-income populations to accommodate themselves in cities. This presentation will explore some of the resulting tensions, focussing on the urban land nexus, and particularly on contestations over how urban land is allocated and regulated, both formally and informally.

Ore Fika (Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam)

“The Peri-Urban Land Development and its Complexities- Making Sense of it in sub-Saharan Africa”

Peri-urban areas are dynamic areas between the urban and the rural hinterland. The peri-urban area is not easily defined due to the ever changing land uses, land values and markets, land ownership, land holding (from collective to individual) that changes with time and investments. The economic activities and livelihood possibilities in this region are also diverse, ranging from small scale farming to industry and housing development. As a consequence, in order for proposed measures to be effective a multi-layered approach needs to be taken.
Peri-urban sub-Saharan Africa is in constant motion. Like other parts of the developing world, it is influenced by high rates of population growth and rural-urban migration. This increase in the rate of urbanization promotes development, thereby the rapid conversation of lands from peri-urban to urban and rural lands to peri-urban. However a phenomenon that makes sub-Saharan land unique is the global land rush, the large scale acquisitions of land by investors either local or foreign. This phenomenon tends to influence the development of the peri-urban in many sub-Saharan African countries.
Land development in peri-urban Zambia (Southern Africa) and Nigeria (Western Africa) will be unpacked to share the characteristics, influences, practices, trajectory and coping mechanisms and to determine more inclusive pathways to peri-urban development. Both countries having both statutory public land leasing and customary land tenure, they have had high rates of peri-urban development, with different influences, actors and outcomes. Based on site visits, this presentation will endeavour to analyse and unbundle the legal, socio-political and economic complexities and gaps found in the peri-urban of both countries and in particular their capital cities of Lusaka and Abuja respectively.
This brings about the discussion on the governance of peri-urban. Legislation and institution structures do not take into account the transitory characteristics of the peri-urban, which requires purposeful and even stylized interventions. In addition, the introduction of special purpose governing bodies that deal with peri-urban activities, socio-economic groups and the regional planning gaps should be considered.

Murtah Read (The Netherlands Land Academy, Utrecht University, the Netherlands)

“Post-aid urban development and inclusive urbanization: The case of Beira city and the Netherlands.”

The New Urban Agenda and SDG 11 have been hailed as the signifiers of a new urban paradigm unprecedented in it’s urban-optimism and holistic conception of development. As the ‘urban era’ gains momentum however, a second and equally influential paradigm shift has been observed in international policy circles referred to as ‘post-aid’ or ‘beyond aid’. The concept of post-aid has emerged as a response to the so-called ‘failure’ of traditional development cooperation, representing a shift towards private sector initiatives, ‘innovative’ finance and ‘hard’ development (infrastructure etc.). For those municipalities characterized by underfunded mandates and weak strategic capacity, as is often the case in Sub Saharan Africa, external support will constitute a vital component of their urban development initiatives. How the ideals of new urban paradigm actually translate to concrete interventions therefore will be closely related to the political economy of post-aid. What this means for urban development however, and for inclusive urban development in particular, is so far unclear.
It is against this background that the presentation will discuss development initiative of the Netherlands in the city of Beira, Mozambique. In recent years the Netherlands has adopted a business oriented development policy in which the Dutch private sector is envisaged as a catalyst for development abroad. Beira on the other hand, is a strategically important port city faced with rapid informal urbanization and extreme climate vulnerability. Under the banner of the ‘Beira masterplan’ the Netherlands has recently established a long term commitment to Beira’s urban development, showcasing the country’s business case approach to development. Within this context various projects and interventions have been articulated in the realm of planning, infrastructure and real estate development which are set to drastically restructure the city’s urban form. By discussing several projects together with their broader political economic context, the presentation will demonstrate that post-aid interventions mobilize a range of novel interests and claims to the realm of urban land governance which potentially contradict the goal of inclusive urbanization.

Manja Hoppe Andreasen (University of Copenhagen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management)

“Peri-urban transformation as suburbanization: Homeownership aspirations in the periphery of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania”

African cities are growing, both demographically and spatially. However, very little is known about the transformation processes in peripheral spaces of African cities. In the presentation it is discussed how residents in the periphery of Dar es Salaam are shaping and influencing peri-urban transformation processes through their settlement practices, preferences and aspirations. The findings indicate that transformation processes are characterized by growing numbers of new residents, who engage in incremental construction of residential housing and gradual improvements of services and infrastructure. The new residents are predominantly long-term urban residents moving out from central areas and oriented towards the city in their livelihood practices. The paper seeks to add a new perspective to scientific debates on peri-urban transformation processes and contribute to an emerging literature studying peripheral spaces of African cities through the lens of suburbanization. The paper proposes that peri-urban transformation processes in Dar es Salaam are usefully imagined as suburbanization processes and calls for recognition of settlements in the periphery as functionally part of the city. This entails recognition of residents in the periphery as genuine urban citizens and calls for qualitatively different policy approaches and interventions than the concepts of either the peri-urban zone or informal settlements. Overall, the findings imply that peri-urban transformation processes are associated with industrious and socially upward-moving urban residents gaining a foothold and carving out a space for themselves in the city. More appropriate and flexible planning tools are needed to support, rather than exclude, the large share of urban residents making a home for themselves through incremental house construction in the periphery.