Issues Home About Contact Us Issue 22 - March 2021 عربى
Terminology Corner
National Land Observatory

A National Land Observatory is a facility that operates as a non-partisan and objective resource to promote evidence-based, transparent and inclusive decision making over land resources in the country. As its name (‘observatory’) suggests, it collects and manages data and information on land as a public service. It is a repository of what is published on land in the country and on the events that take place around land. In addition, it makes user-friendly land-based information available to all stakeholders with the aim of creating an informed and democratic community of the nationally interested users of land, the country’s principal and enduring natural asset. It is, most importantly, a one-stop reference and help desk for the land community to debate the pressing questions of land tenure and land use in the country.

The existence of a national land observatory confirms the fact that land is a national issue to be collectively managed (land access, land conflicts, large-scale land acquisitions, land holdings, sustainable land use, land reform, etc.), while taking diverse publicly interested viewpoints into account, in processes that bring together individuals, civil society, institutions, businesses and the organs of the state (central and local authorities) for collaborative innovation. Land issues must be interrogated, documented, informed and illustrated, making reliable information at the core of decision making. A national land observatory can be a mechanism in response to the information needs of a diverse range of stakeholders with common national concerns. Therefore, to fulfill that need, a national land observatory is considered to be a structure for data collection, storage and management, and also for the production, analysis and retrieval of information and new knowledge.

Some functions of national land observatories are to:

  • Operate as a central-level think-tank, or advisory group on land-related law and policy;
  • Maintain a publicly accessible library on land issues;
  • Involve civil society in actions on land as a counterweight to special interests;
  • Provide training on normative and operational (technical) subjects;
  • Facilitate participation of interested academics, NGOs and under-represented groups of citizens to join in meaningful consultation on matters related to land resources and their administration.
  • Establish a complaint/dispute resolution mechanism; i.e., alternative justice system (AJS), hybrid and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) with semi-judicial outcomes[1];
  • Develop a national cadaster covering the entire national territory, alongside the legal cadaster.

[1] See Kenya and Darfur examples.



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