Reports – Jamal Browne

jamalJamal Browne, a PhD student at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, applied for assistance with travel costs to attend the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington DC in June 2014.  He had been invited to present two papers.  Jamal reported on the event as follows.

 The 2014 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty was nothing short of a resounding success. It indeed exceeded my already high expectations, and was truly worth every ounce of my sponsors’ investments.

 On the note of my sponsors, let me first of all say a heartfelt thanks to The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) Foundation, The Aubrey Barker Fund, and The University of the West Indies St. Augustine for affording me this opportunity. These words are not sufficient an expression of my gratitude to each organization, but I do hope that the following outline of my keen involvement in this year’s conference serves as adequate reprisal for such significant investments.

Presentation 1 – Mission Accomplished

I had the privilege of making two presentations at this year’s conference; the first of which was based on my ongoing doctoral research, with the other following the general theme of the conference’s Youth Strategy Session – ‘Positioning Youth in the Post-2015 Land and Development Agenda’.

Presenting alongside the likes of Dr. Catherine Courtney of Tetra Tech Ltd, Kathleen Fitzgerald of The African Wildlife Foundation, and Policy and Legal Reform expert Caleb Stephens, was indeed a great honour. Our session’s chair, Mr. Robert Buergenthal – Senior Director of International Strategy at Thomson Reuters USA – delivered exceptionally on his assignment.

Our session, which followed the theme ‘Communal Level Property Rights in the Face of Risk Management’ was extremely well organized – an accomplishment very much attributable to Mr. Buergenthal’s early preparatory work (having initiated pre-conference email conversations with each presenter).

The focus of my first presentation was ‘The Investigation of Variations in Social Tenure Forms as a Basis for Hazard Vulnerability Indexing’. Therein I sought to show how different types of land tenure are associated with different levels of hazard vulnerability, how this understanding allows for the development of a hazard vulnerability index, and how this advances the current understanding of ‘The Continuum of Land Rights’.

Interestingly, the latter objective was largely inspired by a discussion at the 2013 conference on the way forward for ‘The Continuum’. I have since then been motivated to further investigate the utility of the continuum, and have since developed a prototype vulnerability framework that allows us to rank land tenure forms based on the associated levels of hazard vulnerability.

I had previously dreaded the idea of presenting on the conference’s opening day. However, considering the applause, encouragement and extremely useful advice offered at the end of my delivery and in subsequent post-session private conversations, I could not ask for a better confidence booster. It was truly the perfect start to a much anticipated week.

Presentation 2 – Youth, Land and the post-2015 Agenda

My second presentation focused on the collection of youth-responsive disaggregated data on land, and was delivered on Tuesday March 25th. Following the general theme of the session, ‘Positioning Youth in the Post-2015 Land and Development Agenda’, I sought to illustrate how contemporary and future efforts at addressing the issue of youth access to land is highly dependent on constantly shifting priorities of young individuals cross regions and cultures. It is on this premise that I offered justification for the collection and use of disaggregated data on such issues in support of a new youth-responsive global land agenda.

My fellow presenters included: Eva-Maria Unger of the International Federation of Surveyors Young Surveyors Network; Primoz Kovacic, Co-Founder of Spatial Collective; and Steven Jonckheere of IFAD. Discussants included: Kysseline Cherestal of ActionAid USA; Jack Makau of Slum Dwellers International; Susana Rojas-Williams of Habitat for Humanity; and Sosina Besu of The Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

This session served as a useful high-level youth and land forum where urgent issues related to rural-urban youth migration, livelihood challenges of youth within the land sector, and youth access to land in small-island developing states were discussed. Also highlighted were projects currently being undertaken by various international organizations and social-corporate entities all across the globe. It is anticipated that the 2015 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty would incorporate a special plenary session on ‘Youth and Land’, thus building on those issues highlighted at this year’s Youth Strategy Session.

Conference Overview

Having participated in the 2013 conference, there were several notable improvements to the general workings of the week-long event. However, the greatest improvement by my estimation may have been what I perceived to have been a shift from an overly-academic to a more applied approach to the majority of the open sessions that I had the opportunity of attending.

In light of the highly topical nature of the overall theme of the conference – ‘Integrating Land Governance into the Post-2015 Agenda’ – and with over 90 parallel open sessions, my approach was simply to attend those forums that I considered most relatable to land-related issues in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), my ongoing PhD research, and my professional networking strategy. Some of the more pertinent subjects therefore included:

  • Capacity building for improved land administration
  • Integrating land governance in the post-2015 framework
  • Ensuring good governance in public land management
  • Interventions to foster responsible land-based investment
  • Housing

The highpoints of this year’s conference were two closed sessions – one of which I had the privilege of attending – held at the bank’s headquarters on Friday, March 28th. The Conference’s Expert Group Meeting [EGM] and the Joint International Federation of Surveyors [FIG] / World Bank Spatial Innovation and Good Practices in Land Administration Forum both offered new benchmarks and key considerations in proceeding with the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The Joint FIG / World Bank Forum saw the launch of a new publication – ‘Fit-For-Purpose Land Administration’ – that offers what lead author Professor Stig Enemark considers “…a human rights approach…” to the management of current land issues within a specific country or region. Another notable achievement was the EGM’s proposal for a land and tenure-related target – subject to further empirical work – for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which states: “Increase by XX% the number of women and the number of men who have secure tenure of land, property and natural resources that support their well-being and livelihoods.”

This year’s conference offered a wealth of networking opportunities – from pre-arranged meetings and informal caucuses with senior geospatial, land administration, and rural development officials from various international organizations and leading corporate entities, to lunch-time and gala discussions on global land issues with postgraduate students and interns from all across the globe. It was nothing shy of an idyllic experience, and I am now inspired to become even more involved in the ongoing global conversations on the post-2015 global land agenda.

With Gratitude

Jamal A. V. Browne