APN View about Arab land and conflict in the UN-Habitat Meetings
اركت الجمعية العربية لحماية الطبيعة كمتحدث في الاجتماع الذي عقدته المجموعة المرجعية لمبادرة الأراضي العربية،

APN/Amman – Zoom

13-14 July 2022


The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) participated as a speaker in the meeting held by the Arab Land Initiative - Reference Group at the premises of ESCWA in the Lebanese capital Beirut, in organizing the Habitat Assembly Meetings. The meeting emerged with the attendance of the members and partners of the Arab Land Initiative, to discuss the situation of the management of lands in the Arab region; and to exchange a general view of the work accomplished, in addition to discussing and promoting the vision for moving forward in the Arab Land Initiative.


This event was attended by around 30 experts on lands from UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), World Bank, Arab Union of Surveyors (AUS), Department of Lands in Dubai, Jordanian Department of Lands and Survey, Lebanon Real Estate Directorate, Urban Training Institute, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), and the nearby marine area, German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Netherlands' Cadastre, International Astronautical Federation (IAF), International Land Alliance (Inc), University of East London, and numerous other national, regional and international partners.


Mariam Al Jaajaa represented the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) at the meeting, and offered a presentation in which she exposited the view of Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) regarding the issue of land and conflict in the Arab region, through overviewing a study which is the first of its kind about Arab land prepared by APN in conjunction with UN Habitat. In this study she indicated the reasons for conducting this study to connect between conflict and land, and to identify the structural causes of the conflict instead of dealing with its manifestations, in addition to forming actual local images of the conflicts by relying on the direct knowledge of the experts and the concerned local communities.


As to what most significantly distinguishes this study, it is its classification, through researching 12 case studies, of the relationship between  lands and conflict in the Arab region of two categories: the first is the land issues as a root cause of conflict, as in the case of colonialism of myriad types, and change of relations in agricultural lands ownership due to disturbances in the world of shepherds and settled farmers related to the penetration of capital, and changes in the value of land which lost its productive valuation where its value became as a commodity isolated from its output or the nature of its owners, which led to struggles arising from the marginalization and deprivation of those with small holdings. This is in addition to wresting ownership from poor people as a consequence of urban expansion, as well as conflicts associated with the inequality of land distribution and the investments related to it.


In the second category of the relationship between land and conflict, where the effects of struggle for land are manifest through the damages arising to the productive capacity of the land and the means of living associated with it, and loss of homes and property rights, which led to the appearance or reappearance of secondary local conflicts over land between the residents or the external quarters alongside the basic struggle or conflict.


The general manager of the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) criticized the prevalent method of diagnosing and analyzing the problems of land in the Arab region. This is due to the language barrier between the local communities and foreign organizations which dominate the scene, in addition to the misuse resulting from confusing between the idiomatic meaning and the literal meaning. Moreover, there is the problem of deficient knowledge of societies, leading to effectuating mechanisms and solutions built on the apparent aspect of the problem, while analyzing it erroneously rather than addressing its essence, and hence deepening and intensifying the conflict and moving it to new horizons.


The study overviewed by Al Jaajaa was not confined to diagnosis and analysis, but rather presented mechanisms for decision making and action. Thus the case studies reflected a number of tools and constructive procedures to be adopted by the effective quarters to resolve the disputes and to lessen the effects of the conflicts over land. The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) found in the course of preparing the study that in many situations inappropriate tools are adopted (non-methodical, slow, unsustainable, and sometimes leading to an exacerbation of the conflict), and mostly devoid of the essential elements for transitional justice. And many solutions of those conflicts do not involve the effective national quarters, for foreign behavior causes the conflict or hinders solution with the absence of the platforms of local reconciliation. At the same time the mechanisms of traditional local settlement were attenuated alongside the arrangements of customary ownership arrangements in effect in some places, where the solutions were effective prior to their targeting. As to the postcolonial period and foreign interventions, the state or the previous traditional mechanisms are not mostly viewed as a fair arbiter by all the parties to the conflict.

At the conclusion of the intensive presentation offered by the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) in the meeting, it provided a cluster of recommendations which focused on responding to the root causes of the conflicts, including the factors that help ignite them, rather than the contrary, and among the foremost recommendations that Al Jaajaa offered was to reinforce the management of the lands by reforming the policies, legislations and regulations which recognize the multiple forms of ownership and management of lands. Moreover, in order to reinforce equality in accessing lands, and safeguarding the means of rural and agricultural livelihoods towards food sovereignty and create mechanisms of early warning and resolve and avoid conflicts.


On the other hand, the chairwoman of the board of directors of the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN), offered, in the session, an intervention she addressed to the World Bank, after the latter presented its report particular to land which will be issued soon, in which she said that the word conflict does not occur in the analysis of the Bank, and does not address the governments outside the boundaries of the conflict even though they are a main player. She indicated, furthermore, that the policies of all the finance organizations including the World Bank, have intensified poverty in the marginalized countries, and contributed to ignite speculations on the lands and their commodification instead of being evaluated according to their productive value, and she advised them to reconsider their policies, while endeavoring to direct them towards societies in which prevails justice and equality, particularly through empowering rural and agrarian societies or communities.