Are Local Registers the Solution?

Richard Baldwin, Clive English, Christiaan Lemmen, Ian Rose, Andrew Smith, Alexander Solovov, Tressan Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

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This paper explores the possibility of using local registers to manage and update land rights. Secure land rights are largely taken for granted in the developed world. Yet for many people in developing nations, clear and enforceable land rights are not a reality. In the developed world, land rights are almost always recorded in secure registers, but this is often not the case elsewhere. It is estimated that as many as 90 percent of the world’s poorest people enjoy neither security of tenure nor secure access to land. In Africa, this means that more than 500 million and perhaps as many as 750 million people are living without sufficient legal security or proof of claim to the land they are occupying. Can we provide security of tenure through local registers consistent with the land administration legal and regulatory framework of a country without creating the huge national infrastructure associated with a centralized system? Could this be an alternative to the traditional top down centralized approach of so many land administration IT projects?
We also consider the governance and security arrangements required to guarantee integrity and how that might be achieved. Can local registers be a “good enough” solution? in the same way that we now accept image based first registration methods, and does this now fit with the fit-for-purpose philosophy?
While we have been able to develop successful low-cost approaches to the initial registration of land rights, we do not yet have simple systems that can be easily and cheaply provided at local level across a country to adequately manage this data, keep it secure, support transactions and respond to information requests. The responsibility for this management is normally with the designated Ministry or devolved body, and all too often regulatory bodies struggle with the need to be able to provide secure data management and also be able to provide the necessary services at the local level. Most computer-based management systems operated by Land Registry organizations are traditionally structured with centralized or distributed database architectures under the direct control of Ministry or Agency staff and are the results of intense effort over several years and involve considerable expense.
This paper advocates an approach based on simple local registers, managed and operated by local administration offices or communities providing legitimate tenure services directly at the local level. By ensuring the workflow encodes regulator steps, we can ensure that it is compliant with legal requirements and preserves the role of the regulator whilst also providing access to the register available on simple technology platforms. Back end security is provided transparently with linkage to formal national systems (when and if they are developed) or alternative secure back-up.
We look at examples drawn from recent Land Tenure Regularisation programmes in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania; the use of registers in informal systems and also generic solutions which have been developed on a country-independent basis and are designed to be adapted to particular country cases.
We conclude that local registers, combined with clear understanding of national land administration business rules are effective to support systematic registration programmes; support transaction processing and also can fit well to the land rights continuum approach.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2018
Event19th Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty 2018: Land Governance in an Interconnected World - The World Bank Building, Washington, United States
Duration: 19 Mar 201823 Mar 2018
Conference number: 19


Conference19th Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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