Land Policy and Transitional Justice After Armed Conflicts
Conflict often brings about dynamic changes in land distribution and governance systems. Vulnerable populations are displaced, secondary occupants complicate title, and political elites capitalize on the breakdown of governance to consolidate control over land. As a result, land policy plays an important role in recovering from the effects of conflict, as well as ensuring that further conflict does not follow. However, land-related challenges are rarely addressed holistically because land is a cross-cutting issue which implicates siloed domains of peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, and development assistance. Moreover, international law paradigms of rights to housing, land, and property can complicate the question of how to provide effective remedies for past human rights violations. A focus on universalized rights, or “best practice” models, may hinder adoption of effective land policy because of resistance from political elites or challenges posed by inter-agency coordination and institutional capacity. This chapter focuses on dynamic changes in land governance systems resulting from armed conflicts and their effect on the modalities of land policy as an instrument of transitional justice. It suggests, in particular, the need for a contextualized “systems” approach to post-conflict land policy as an alternative to rights-based models of property restitution to dispossessed persons.