Looking through the lens of Land

Enhancing justice through land governance reform in DR Congo’s eastern Kivu Provinces and South Sudan’s three Equatoria States

By looking through the lens of land, this action researchIMG_2581 aims to contribute to understanding the justice concerns of local people in DR Congo’s eastern Kivu Provinces and South Sudan’s three Equatoria States, and to how, through land governance, public authorities may respond to these. Both areas are conflict-affected and fragile settings, where local people perceive governance of and politics on land as a major source of injustice. Land is a key issue in the local and national political economy, while ambiguous and ineffective institutional frameworks further land tenure-insecurity and dispute. Dealing with land-related injustices is a key arena for renegotiating relations between local state institutions and citizens. In both countries, the central state is trying to rebuild itself in local communities through decentralization and expansion of service provision, while concurrently, many land conflicts are met by customary institutions and through local arrangements. The need for more effective responses to land-related concerns is widely recognized, but both the emerging state-system and customary arrangements have their weaknesses.  The main research question of the project is:
How can intervention strategies in the field of land governance in DR Congo’s eastern Kivu Provinces and South Sudan’s Greater Equatoria region more effectively meet people’s land-related justice concerns, notably tenure-insecurity and land conflict?

The interactive research project is anchored in local-level case-studies of land-related justice concerns and how they are addressed by changing institutions. Outcomes of the research will be shared and debated with development organizations, (provincial) government representatives, civil-society organizations, citizens, and researchers at different levels. The outcomes will also contribute to insights into how policy responses and intervention strategies may be better aligned to local realities of land governance, and so effectively meet people’s land-related justice concerns.

This research project was launched with two workshops in Goma (DRC) and Juba (South Sudan) in the fall 2014. Gillian Mathys is the postdoctoral researcher on the project, headed by my colleague Mathijs van Leeuwen. The two-year action research is a collaboration between the Centre for International Conflict – Analysis and Management (CICAM);  Gemma van der Haar of the ‘Sociology of Development and Change Group’, Wageningen University; United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) Goma office; Norwegian People’s Aid – South Sudan Program; and The Hague Academy for Local Governance (THA).