SCELG member Lorenzo Cotula authors UN legal paper on land-related obligations

Aug 2021 — SCELG member and Strathclyde Law School visiting professor Lorenzo Cotula authored a legal paper entitled Tenure rights and obligations: Towards a more holistic approach to land governance. The paper was published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Rights to land are typically subject to limitations and come with obligations, whether to protect the rights of others, such as tenants and neighbours, or to pursue general interests such as environmental protection. Land rights also intersect with public governance, for example as regards spatial planning and territorial development, which can affect the scope of rights and connect them to obligations. And where land ownership is concentrated in the hands of a few, limits to rights and tenure obligations can enable redistributive action. 

This interplay of rights, limitations and obligations underpins many of the most difficult land governance challenges – from managing conflicts within families and communities, to reversing legacies of historical injustice. Effective responses to governance challenges may thus require not just securing certain rights, but also addressing imbalance between the rights, limitations and obligations of different groups. This can raise difficult technical and political issues, affecting relations between citizens and state and the distribution of wealth and power in society. At the same time, notions of limitation and obligation remain undertheorized, and their practical implications often poorly spelt out. 

The paper explores rights, limitations and obligations in land and natural resource governance. Drawing on legal developments from diverse thematic and geographic contexts, it aims to provide conceptual foundations for legal interventions to strengthen land governance. 

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