Land Restitution: Processes and Outcomes in Different Political and Socio-Cultural Contexts

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2021) | Viewed by 74336

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Development Studies, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, The University of Auckland, 10 Symonds Street, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
Interests: land grabbing; development-induced displacement; natural resource governance; post-disaster response and recovery; participatory approaches to research and development; ethics and governance in the food–water–energy nexus; climate change adaptation and community resilience

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Development Studies, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, The University of Auckland, 10 Symonds Street, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
Interests: land conflicts; land governance; political economy of land grabbing; migration; climate change adaptation; urban climate resilience

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Land restitution has recently re-entered the political arena and regained global scholarly attention. Land restitution processes have been instigated in a variety of regional and country contexts. In settler states, such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, new, but controversial land legislation has paved the way for corrective justice and land claims by Indigenous and Aboriginal populations that were dispossessed under colonial rule (e.g., Huizenga, 2018; Kearney, 2018). In post-conflict countries, internally displaced people have attempted to reclaim land they had to leave behind when fleeing from violence and persecution. In Colombia, for instance, nearly six million people were forcibly displaced from an estimated 14 per cent of the country’s territory between 1985 and 2013, with recent land restitution efforts under the “Victims and Land Restitution Law” marked by structural inequalities and unfulfilled promises (McKay, 2018). Post-socialist countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have also undergone highly contested land restitution processes (e.g., Triantis, 2018). Land reclamation and restitution also occurs in places where large-scale land acquisitions and leases (‘land grabbing’) by multinational corporations have failed or have been revoked as a result of successful resistance by dispossessed communities. The Land Matrix (2018), a global and independent land monitoring initiative that promotes transparency and accountability in decisions over land and investment, has recorded more than 100 failed transnational land deals that have affected about 8.3 million hectares globally.

Our Special Issue invites contributions that provide new empirical, methodological, and theoretical insights into processes of restitution in various settings. We are particularly interested in articles that address one or more of the following questions:

  • How are land restitution processes organised and how do they intersect with ongoing contestations over access to natural resources, the continuous reordering of rural and urban spaces, and the building of collective local/indigenous identities and movements?
  • What is the impact of land restitution processes on access to and ownership of natural resources that were previously held in common (e.g., water, forests, pastures)?
  • How is land restitution linked with broader efforts to reform post-colonial, post-socialist and post-conflict land legislation and formalise the rights of indigenous people, ethnic minority groups, and migrant populations?
  • What are the contextual factors that influence which groups emerge comparatively empowered from land restitution processes, and which may be further marginalised?
  • What alternative visions to modern legal frameworks are proposed and advanced by Indigenous and Aboriginal people, local communities, and civil society organisations involved in land restitution processes?
  • What is the role of national and international legal frameworks and bi- and multilateral donors in determining both processes and outcomes of land restitution?

References

Huizenga, D. Articulation of Aboriginal title, indigenous rights, and living customary law in South Africa. Soc. Leg. Stud. 2018, 27, 3–24.

Kearney, A. Returning to that which was never lost: Indigenous Australian saltwater identities, a history of claims and the paradox of return. History Anthropol. 2018, 29, 184–203.

McKay, B. Democratising land control: towards rights, reform and restitution in post-conflict Colombia. Can. J. Dev. Stud. 2018, 39, 163–181.

Triantis, L. The post-socialist restitution of property as dispossession: Social dynamics and land development in Southern Albania. Land Use Policy 2018, 71, 584–592.

Land Matrix (2018). The Online Public Database on Land Deals. Available online: https://landmatrix.org/en/.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Neef
Dr. Chanrith Ngin
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Land reform
  • Land restitution
  • Land grabbing
  • Property rights
  • Indigenous
  • Migration
  • Legal frameworks
  • Alternative development

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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23 pages, 7157 KiB  
Article
Intricacies of Moral Geographies of Land Restitution in Estonia
by Anu Printsmann, Raili Nugin and Hannes Palang
Land 2022, 11(2), 235; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11020235 - 4 Feb 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2614
Abstract
This article employs moral geographies in analysing the land restitution process and outcome. Moral geographies investigate how abstract values, deliberations and judgements are translated into everyday life and, consequently, to landscape. The dynamics of moral geographies are analysed by transdisciplinary research methods using [...] Read more.
This article employs moral geographies in analysing the land restitution process and outcome. Moral geographies investigate how abstract values, deliberations and judgements are translated into everyday life and, consequently, to landscape. The dynamics of moral geographies are analysed by transdisciplinary research methods using mainly qualitative data, such as documents, media and literature, but also spatial and statistical data. Land restitution in Estonia had its start in 1991, instigated by the heat of national reawakening, aiming to reverse the past 50 years of Soviet ‘wrongdoings’. This task proved to be not so straightforward. The initial heydays got entangled not only in all subsequent matters of practicalities, but also with social and spatial justice. To date, land reform has been completed on 99% of Estonia’s territory. For over 30 years, the land restitution has been shaped by global changes as well as local particularities and, in the process, moral ideas have been transformed. Thus, though landscape reflects moral categories and ideology, these two are interdependent: landscape can, in turn, mould moral ideals in certain ways. Full article
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24 pages, 589 KiB  
Article
Ambiguous Outcomes of Returnees’ Land Dispute Resolution and Restitution in War-Torn Burundi
by Rosine Tchatchoua-Djomo and Han van Dijk
Land 2022, 11(2), 191; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11020191 - 26 Jan 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3551
Abstract
Redressing land dispossession in the aftermath of violent conflicts is daunting and complex. While land dispute resolution and restitution are expected to promote return migration, this outcome is contingent upon the changing social, economic and political conditions under which return takes place. Drawing [...] Read more.
Redressing land dispossession in the aftermath of violent conflicts is daunting and complex. While land dispute resolution and restitution are expected to promote return migration, this outcome is contingent upon the changing social, economic and political conditions under which return takes place. Drawing on qualitative data from Makamba Province in southern Burundi, this case study highlights the politically and historically shaped challenges underlying the resolution of competing and overlapping claims on land following protracted displacement. These include the undocumented and fluid nature of customary land rights, institutional and legal pluralism and shifting land governance relations. This paper emphasises the centrality of the state in regulating returnees’ land dispute resolution and restitution processes. Violent conflicts and forced migration have enabled the state to expand its control over customary land tenure. The gradual exclusion or replacement of local authorities has shaped a competitive structure of jurisdictions and confused authority over land. National land restitution commissions have been used by the central government to shape land tenure and state–citizen relations and to exert pressure on land tenure institutions. Addressing competing claims on land following armed conflicts may fail if attendant struggles over public authority and changing political dynamics are insufficiently considered. Full article
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14 pages, 618 KiB  
Article
Law, Violence, and Property Expropriation in Syria: Impediments to Restitution and Return
by Emily Stubblefield and Sandra Joireman
Land 2019, 8(11), 173; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8110173 - 13 Nov 2019
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 7998
Abstract
After eight years of civil war, parts of Syria are now free from conflict. In recognition of the return to peace, the government officially welcomes back all who fled the country to escape violence. Yet, a pattern of property expropriation supported by the [...] Read more.
After eight years of civil war, parts of Syria are now free from conflict. In recognition of the return to peace, the government officially welcomes back all who fled the country to escape violence. Yet, a pattern of property expropriation supported by the government during the war limits the ability of some to return and reclaim their homes and businesses. We argue here that intentional changes to law and policy regarding property rights during the war has led to asset losses for members of groups opposed to the government and created a barrier to property restitution and the return of these groups. We examine legal documents and secondary sources identifying government actions and their impact, noting the proliferation of laws that systematically erode the property rights of people who lack proximity, legal status, and regime allies. As the results of these laws manifest after the war, a disproportionate number of Syrians who opposed the government will find themselves without the houses, land, and property they held before the war began. Full article
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28 pages, 1117 KiB  
Article
Theories of Land Reform and Their Impact on Land Reform Success in Southern Africa
by Simon Hull, Kehinde Babalola and Jennifer Whittal
Land 2019, 8(11), 172; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8110172 - 12 Nov 2019
Cited by 24 | Viewed by 20457
Abstract
Our purpose is to present and test a typology of land reform theories as a means of understanding and interrogating the motives behind land reform and to better equip land administrators and policymakers to enact land reform programs that are appropriate for their [...] Read more.
Our purpose is to present and test a typology of land reform theories as a means of understanding and interrogating the motives behind land reform and to better equip land administrators and policymakers to enact land reform programs that are appropriate for their contexts. Here, land reform is understood to include the related concepts of land redistribution, land restitution, land tenure reform and land administration reform. The theory typology thus has application for land restitution programs specifically operating in the global South. The continuum of theories is derived from literature and tested through a multiple case study of land reform in Nigeria, Mozambique, and South Africa, drawing from a combination of primary and secondary data. The findings suggest an over-reliance on replacement theories in all three contexts, although the Mozambican experience draws on theories towards the middle of the continuum (the adaptation theories). This is recommended as the most viable approach for the context. Full article
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14 pages, 250 KiB  
Article
‘Not One More Bloody Acre’: Land Restitution and the Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Process in Aotearoa New Zealand
by Matthew Wynyard
Land 2019, 8(11), 162; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8110162 - 31 Oct 2019
Cited by 20 | Viewed by 11460
Abstract
Te Tiriti o Waitangi, signed between Māori rangatira (chiefs) and the British Crown in 1840 guaranteed to Māori the ‘full, exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands’. In the decades that followed, Māori were systematically dispossessed of all but a fraction of their [...] Read more.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi, signed between Māori rangatira (chiefs) and the British Crown in 1840 guaranteed to Māori the ‘full, exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands’. In the decades that followed, Māori were systematically dispossessed of all but a fraction of their land through a variety of mechanisms, including raupatu (confiscation), the individualisation of title, excessive Crown purchasing and the compulsory acquisition of land for public works. Māori, who have deep cultural and whakapapa (genealogical) connections to the land, were left culturally, materially and spiritually impoverished. Land loss has long been a central grievance for many Māori and the return of land has been a guiding motivation for whānau (extended family), hapū (sub-tribe) and iwi (tribe) seeking redress from the Crown. Since the 1990s, many groups have entered into negotiations to settle their historical grievances with the Crown and while land loss and the deep yearning for its return are central to many Māori claims, precious little land is typically returned to Māori through the settlement process. This paper seeks to critically examine the Treaty settlement process in light of land restitution policies enacted elsewhere and argues that one of the many flaws in the process is the paucity of land returned to Māori. Full article
18 pages, 293 KiB  
Article
The Treaty Claims Settlement Process in New Zealand and Its Impact on Māori
by Margaret Mutu
Land 2019, 8(10), 152; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8100152 - 15 Oct 2019
Cited by 24 | Viewed by 17227
Abstract
This article considers research conducted on the impact of the Crown’s treaty claims settlement policy on Māori in New Zealand. It provides a brief background to the Treaty of Waitangi and the subsequent British colonisation process that relied on the Doctrine of Discovery [...] Read more.
This article considers research conducted on the impact of the Crown’s treaty claims settlement policy on Māori in New Zealand. It provides a brief background to the Treaty of Waitangi and the subsequent British colonisation process that relied on the Doctrine of Discovery in breach of the treaty. It outlines how colonisation dispossessed Māori of 95 percent of their lands and resources, usurped Māori power and authority and left them in a state of poverty, deprivation and marginalisation while procuring considerable wealth, prosperity and privilege for British settlers. The work of the Waitangi Tribunal, the commission of inquiry set up to investigate those breaches, is considered, as is the Crown’s reaction to the 1987 Lands case in developing its treaty claims settlement policy. The Crown unilaterally imposed the policy despite vehement opposition from Māori. Since 1992, it has legislated more than seventy ‘settlements’. The research shows that overall, the process has traumatised claimants, divided their communities, and returned on average less than one percent of their stolen lands. Proposals for constitutional transformation have drawn widespread support from Māori as a solution to British colonisation. United Nations treaty-monitoring bodies have recommended that the government discuss this with Māori. Full article
17 pages, 258 KiB  
Article
Possession and Precedence: Juxtaposing Customary and Legal Events to Establish Land Authority
by Laura S. Meitzner Yoder and Sandra F. Joireman
Land 2019, 8(8), 126; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8080126 - 18 Aug 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4935
Abstract
Land restitution carries implicit recognition of some previous claim to ownership, but when are first claims recognized? The concepts of first possession and original acquisition have long been used as entry points to Western concepts of property. For Austronesia, the concept of precedence [...] Read more.
Land restitution carries implicit recognition of some previous claim to ownership, but when are first claims recognized? The concepts of first possession and original acquisition have long been used as entry points to Western concepts of property. For Austronesia, the concept of precedence is used in customary systems to justify and describe land claims and Indigenous authority. Conflict and political change in Timor-Leste have highlighted the co-existence of multiple understandings of land claims and their legitimacy. Considering customary principles of precedence brings into relief important elements of first possession important in land restitution processes. This paper juxtaposes the concept of original acquisition in property theory to two different examples of original claims from Timor-Leste: a two-part customary origin narrative from Oecusse and the development of a national land law for the new state. In these three narratives, we identify three different establishment events from which land authority develops. The article then uses this idea of the establishment event to explore five points of customary-statutory intersection evident from the land restitution process: (1) legitimate sources of land authority; (2) arbitrary establishment dates; (3) privileging of social order; (4) recognition of spiritual ties to land; and (5) the possibility for reversal. Full article

Review

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14 pages, 269 KiB  
Review
Contested Land Restitution Processes in Cambodia
by Chanrith Ngin and Andreas Neef
Land 2021, 10(5), 482; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10050482 - 4 May 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2668
Abstract
Cambodia has experienced rapid economic growth due partly to excessive natural resource extraction. Land conflicts have been pervasive between local communities and companies that invest in land and other natural resources. Despite substantial research into land conflict resolution, knowledge about how land is [...] Read more.
Cambodia has experienced rapid economic growth due partly to excessive natural resource extraction. Land conflicts have been pervasive between local communities and companies that invest in land and other natural resources. Despite substantial research into land conflict resolution, knowledge about how land is returned to wronged parties and what happens to the returned land is fragmented. This review aims to provide a holistic understanding of land restitution in Cambodia by examining different types of land conflict, actors involved, and restitution processes. It provides both a macro perspective on land restitution and conflict-specific perspectives regarding how actors engage in different processes that produce various outcomes for disputants. We find both complications and ambivalence of the actors involved, particularly concerning their roles and influences in resolution processes. Specifically, we find contentious and ambivalent roles that non-governmental organisations (NGOs), donor agencies, and government authorities played in mixed results of resolution mechanisms in the cases that have yielded outcomes in terms of land restitution. Our review also suggests that the neoliberal policy that favours commoditisation of resources and the authoritarian patronage state disguised in a hybrid democracy allowed some grassroots resistance, civil society space, and responses from other concerned economic and political actors in the resolution processes. However, the state controlled and manipulated their engagement to benefit and maintain its economic and political bases, and it never allowed any transformative approach that could tackle the root causes of the problems. This understanding of complexities in land restitution is crucial to achieving land tenure security, particularly for local communities. Full article
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