Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Expropriation: Recommendations to draft National Land Policy

LIWG, 12 June 2014

In a recent meeting of the Natural Resources and Environment Sector Working Group (NRE-SWG), the Land Tenure Security informal focal group, along with several meeting participants, raised concerns over the wording in the recent National Land Policy draft. The February 2014 draft of the Policy specifically gives the State the right to expropriate land for private investment purposes, i.e. not only for public purposes.

The Land Tenure Security focal group is concerned that, if approved, the draft policy will undermine tenure security and risks the following impacts:

– Lao land policy will be in contrast to legislation of many other countries as well as with international standards, e.g. the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, which have also been signed by the Lao Government.

– Foreign and national investors will have insufficient legal protection against arbitrary expropriation of their investments. Investment climate would deteriorate.

– Rapid land loss for communities throughout Laos will be exacerbated. Urban and rural land and forests under individual and communal use will become insecure, including titled land. This undermines the tenure benefits of the national goal of registering 1 million land titles.

– Loss of land for agriculture leads to loss of livelihoods, increases food insecurity and poverty and may cause social unrest. Such losses would hinder the efforts of the Government to graduate from the Least Developed Country status by 2020.

Importantly; the proposed Land Policy would authorize actions that contravene the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement, as well as Bilateral Investment Treaties with China, Japan, Australia and several other countries.

For more information, see the document “Recommendations to the February 2014 draft National Land Policy” from the Land Tenure Security informal focal group of the Land Sub-Sector Working Group, available in English and in Lao.

The informal focal group on Land Tenure Security operates under the Land Sub-Sector Working Group of the NRE-SWG. The NRE-SWG is one of the ten SWG that bring together representatives from Government, Development Partners, civil societies, private sectors and other related stakeholders. The SWGs are forums to discuss and build consensus about development priorities, and improve sectoral aid coordination and effectiveness as set out in the Vientiane Declaration and the related Country Action Plan.

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