Symposium on Land Administration in Post Conflict Areas

Geneva, Switzerland, 29-30 April 2004


FIG Commission 7 ‘Cadastre and Land Management’ organised a symposium on ‘Land Administration in Post Conflict Areas’ at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, 29-30 April 2004. This meeting was co-organised by the Kosovo Cadastral Agency and UN-Habitat. About 50 experts involved in emergency and reconstruction activities in post-conflict areas (peacekeeping professionals, land policy specialists, land administrators, land surveyors, land registrars, land managers, information-managers, donors, non-governmental organisations, officials and politicians) from 17 countries participated. The purpose of this symposium was to bundle good practises, lessons learned, experiences and knowledge on the issue of land administration in post-conflict areas giving a good knowledge base for future operations.

The causes of conflicts and violence are many. For example ethnic envy, nationalistic tendencies, opposing interests, class conflicts, disputed frontiers, expansion actions, or economic interests. During such conflict people are killed or disappear, buildings and physical infrastructure destroyed, legal frameworks are set aside, public registers are destroyed, markets do not function any more, properties are taken, and lands are occupied. If the conflict ends, peace treaties, UN resolutions, or national development plans aim at restoring governance and the rule of law, in all its variety (security, health, energy, shelter etc.). In many cases a substantial part of the restoration consists of the (re-) introduction of secure land tenure, mechanisms of resolution of land conflicts, land allocation, restitution, transparent land markets, land use planning, land taxation and the like. This implies both institutional and operational measures. Some form of land registration and cadastre is needed as a provider of secure property rights, as a facilitator for the land and land credit market, and as a information source for various public tasks like planning, taxation, land reform, and the management of natural resources.

Presented papers

During the Symposium papers have been presented on ‘Challenges to Sustainable Peace: Land Disputes Following Conflict’, ‘Strategic Action Planning in Post Conflict societies’, ‘Legal aspects of land administration in post conflict areas’, ‘Land administration in post conflict Cambodia’, ‘Experiences with land administration in Guatemala’, ‘Putting registration in perspective in rural areas: the case of Afghanistan’, Land administration in post conflict Chile’, ‘Land Administration in Kosovo before and after the War (1999)’, ‘Land administration in post conflict Serbia’, ‘The Creation of an Immovable Property Registration System in Albania’, ‘Transition of Land Administration in Post War Croatia’, Land administration in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war’ and on ‘Slovenian Experiences: an example from a transition country’. A paper from Rwanda on ‘Land administration in Rwanda post genocide’ could not be presented, the author could not come because of visa problems.

Observations and Conclusions

Commission 7 chair, Paul van der Molen, observed that land administration in post conflict areas is complicated, land is a conflict issue. Land is not always the cause of a conflict but it is always related. Implementation of peace treaties can be the beginning of economic development or can result in the start of a new war if the land issue is not really solved. One situation might require short time emergency actions, others might allow for less hasty and more gradual actions. Conventional concepts for Land Administration don’t work in unstable situations. The classical responses to property rights are limited, the restoration of land ownership is not always the restoration of social justice. ‘Fix the Cadastre’ is not the solution. Land is not always a pressing issue. The (wo-)man –land relationship has to be recognised in community or locally based processes, this does not necessarily mean community participation. Being aware of this it might be possible to identify ‘true owners’ as recognised by the community and to reach the stage of crucial trust in the authorities and in the registration of property rights.

Van der Molen concluded that land registration is not the start of a reconciliation process but the end. The relationship between land reform and reconciliation is very strong, so land reform might be part of the reconciliation process. It is most likely that in post conflict situations different approaches are needed. Apart from the fact countries differ in history, culture and attitude, post-conflict situations may differ and require a specific policy; land registration concepts might result in unconventional approaches. Often surveyors are not involved in peace treaties.


In peace treaties the relationship to land administration and land policy is relevant and should be recognised. Parties involved in formulation of peace agreements and/or strategic action plans should not mention land registration as an isolated objective, but embed in a wider development and land policy. Territorial land issues are a basis for conflict, there is readiness in the international community that we have to be better prepared for this. Workshops and reference materials have to be organised for humanitarian practitioners. The FIG Commission 7 is committed to inform United Nations on the importance of land policy and land administration in relation to peace treaties to improve the awareness on this issue. Effective land administration institutional frameworks have to be developed. Knowledge on the issue has to be collected in the regions.

Proceedings will be available at and

Paul van der Molen and Christiaan Lemmen

The Symposium has been supported by:

  • FAO, Land Tenure Service
  • Kosovo Cadastral Agency
  • Central European Land Knowledge Center (Celk Center), Budapest, Hungary
  • The Netherlands Cadastre and Land Registry Agency