Land, Natural Resources and Conflict Prevention: From Curse to Opportunity
An EU-UN Partnership

European Union Flag

The Democratic Republic of Congo


Photo: UN Habitat

Since 2009, UN Habitat together with UNHCR and as part of the return and reintegration component of the International Stabilization Strategy has been implementing a programme in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to promote alternative prevention and dispute resolution mechanisms for land-related conflicts. The programme aims to facilitate access to land for refugees and internally displaced persons through the resolution of land-related conflicts through mediation. Strengthening capacity of grassroots actors in the resolution of land-related conflicts is a major component of the programmes in the three eastern Provinces and has been developed and implemented in coordination with the humanitarian agencies.

A longer term measure looks at creating durable options for access to land for returnees through the promotion of innovative tools for land security in conjunction with the development of legislative and legal reforms taking into account the specific context of the Democratic Republic of Congo with its various Provinces, diversity, ethnic composition and tradition.

The programme aims to contribute to strengthening the stability of areas affected by armed conflict, by fostering an environment that allows for the return of displaced persons and refugees

To bolster prevention of land-related conflicts, the following strategies were implemented:

In North Kivu, the programme created Community Land Mediation Centres (Centres Communautaires de Médiation Foncière (CCMF) in Kitshanga and Kiwanja. Land Mediation Centers are a key element to ensure local deployment of mediators units, so as to better reached communities. The Centers bring information and land related knowledge to the lowest administrative level and serve as training centers. The Centers provided in-depth services to 15 clients per day. In 2011, there were 1984 documented cases of land litigation and 402 cases were resolved through mediation for a total of 3116 benefitting clients.

Client, returning displaced person, attesting to the value of the mediation: "I tried several means to find a solution to my problem without success. Everywhere I went, they asked me for money. That was until I took my problem to UN HABITAT's team. They invited some of my-inlaws and we discussed the situation with them several times. Thanks to UNHABITAT's facilitation, in the end my in-laws agreed to return my field and my plot. This meant that I could leave the displaced persons camp and live on the plot and cultivate my field. I live in my community and they give me their support. Now I am looking after my children and I am building good relations with my in-laws"

The broader UN-HABITAT programme aims to strengthen existing land administration through the reform of the land-related legal framework and the decentralization of land administration. UN HABITAT further implemented a second component of its land-related programme to ensure the local land structure would be also be supported at the national level, with the aim of developing a road map for the Congolese land reform. Local Land Coordination Groups have been set up in eastern Provinces to collectively start strategising around regional land policy and the role of the customary authority in the future land reform. In building bridges with the national ministry for land affairs, the land coordination groups have demonstrated the value added through a participatory dialogue around access to land.

In 2008, at the request of the DRC government, UNEP established a project office in the capital, Kinshasa, and commenced a comprehensive national environmental assesment.