Towards more rule of the law

For most Third World countries, the beginning of the period under discussion brought the end of colonialism and political independence. The early years usually saw a continuation of the law-and-order policy. Most of the rural population was little affected by legal matters because of the absence of communications, a lack of knowledge of alternatives and few challenges to the established order. Since then, several developments have brought about considerable, not always positive, changes. The independent states established their own laws and policies governing how to deal with the land issue. This caused mobility in rights and regulations. The attempt to achieve sovereignty in land issues led to endeavours to superimpose modern rights on traditional rights which was frequently coupled with the deterioration of traditional authorities and conflicts between both systems of rights. The political awakening of the population took place at varying speeds in the different strata, and those groups which obtained the relevant information at an earlier point of time were often in a position to legally or illegally take advantage of the situation at the cost of others. Weak governments could not guarantee rule of the law for everybody, and this reduced the certainty respecting rights to land and water in the case of the backward population. One can observe the elite taking advantage of other groups all over the world, and the situation in the FSU states is only a repetition. A special case is women's rights in the question of land ownership and usufruct. This varies greatly between cultures and is often regulated to a greater extent solely by traditional norms than by modern laws. Another example is the rights of the indigenous population.

On the other hand, the modernization of agriculture and attempts to improve the living conditions of the poor require security regarding land rights in order to create incentives, make investments possible and limit risks. This requires a revival of traditional arbitration institutions, or the creations of new substitutes at various levels. In order for such institution to function, it is necessary that land rights are registered clearly and transparently. A cadaster, or land register, is only one example of how that can be done.