Urban LandMark Programme Director Mark Napier and Theme Coordinators Stephen Berrisford (Governance), Lauren Royston (Tenure) and Rob McGaffin (Markets) visited DFID London from 12 to 13 November 2012 to present the organisation' s recent work on and approach to improving access to urban land and property rights.
On the first day a DFID seminar was held, with Urban LandMark presenting alongside Jeb Brugmann, managing partner of The Next Practice, and Allison Brown, from WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment). On the second day of the visit, Urban LandMark presented a half-day learning event, co-facilitated by individuals from the DFID-supported 'Growth Employment in States' (GEMS3) project in Nigeria.
The main objective of the visit was to showcase Urban LandMark's work, impact and lessons learnt over the last seven years to a broader, more global audience, as well as to a larger audience within DFID, Urban LandMark's main funder over the past six years. The theme of property rights has recently become more important in the UK, as illustrated by British Prime Minister David Cameron's so-called "Golden Thread of Development" speech which talks about property rights development as integral to development as a whole.
In his presentation on urban land governance, Urban LandMark's Stephen Berrisford pointed out that the programme has built an evidence base and provided a framework to approach urban land governance through a different approach.
"There is plenty of scope to study the relationship between regulatory reforms and land access (prices, land supply, fair distribution of land rights, rate of building and so on) over time. In a particular market this will provide an even more compelling argument for both the nature and timing of
Lauren Royston, Urban LandMark's Security of Tenure Theme Coordinator, provided feedback on a number of initiatives, including Urban LandMark's Tenure Security Facility Southern Africa project, funded by the Cities Alliance and co-funded by UKaid. The work aims to contribute to improved access to land for poorer people, which in turn contributes to improved livelihoods, active citizenship and asset creation. Royston pointed out that a body of alternative practice needs to be established to influence a different kind of thinking about slum upgrading.
"This could include, for example, officially recognised mechanisms to secure rights incrementally that can be used to defend de facto rights to productive and residential land use to increase certainty, and for transferability."
Rob McGaffin, Markets Theme Coordinator at Urban LandMark, identified a number of key issues around property markets. Rob highlighted that markets are socially constructed institutions that can facilitate transactions, investment and prosperity in cities. They can support vested interests and perpetuate inequality but they can be - and are - adapted to improve the access of the poor to the city.
"Delineating property markets into formal and informal are not useful ways to understand them and to identify the points of entry
to improve them."
During his presentation, Urban LandMark Programme Director Mark Napier listed the most important lessons learnt over the past six years of the programme's existence. These include the importance of context and the need to begin with what a continent, country and/or city needs ('where it's at'), based on a sound understanding of the system - especially for land and property. Napier also pointed out that credibility is built through establishing a reliable evidence base and playing an objective brokering role such as is allowed by DFID-type funding.
Mark said that relatively small think tanks can make a major difference in altering policy and behaviour, given time, but their role is generally under-rated and misunderstood in this sector.
"The new frontier is to attempt to span the divide between urban development and environmental practitioners to broker a practical urban response to climate change, resilience and vulnerability where the importance of property markets, land governance and planning are integrated."
Napier concluded his presentation by emphasising that investment in urban change and land law reform are by necessity long-term processes: sustained evidence gathering (and good dissemination) attracts interest but behaviour change follows more slowly.