DS Designs World’s First HLP Restitution SmartPhone App

18 August 2020

DS and our partners Tech Solutions Human Rights (www.tshr.io) continue our collaborative work on developing a Mobile phone App which will, for the first time, enable any refugee or IDP with outstanding or unresolved housing, land or property restitution issues to formulate a claim through use of the My Home App ©. The My Home App © will link to a secure database which will enable your organisation to run custom data analytics that could be used for both qualitative and quantitative advocacy. The design of the data system enables users to gain meaningful insight without having to have a background in IT. We are continuing this work that has been underway since 2018 and we are currently seeking partners to work with us to bring the My Home App © into use. If your UN agency, government or other organisation would be interested in working with us to make the My Home App © functional, please be in touch – info@displacementsolutions.org. 



New DS & NRC Report on Obstacles to HLP Rights in Northern Mon State

16 April 2019

Land in south-eastern Myanmar is a critical resource for the mainly rural population which is in need of greater safeguards within the formal, informal and customary systems of land administration. Customary law continues to operate at the village level, largely unchanged since pre-colonial times. While exhibiting many of the positive elements commonly attributed to such systems throughout the developing world, customary laws in relation to the resolution of land disputes are not always effective and equitable, and do not always display qualities which are consistent with rule of law standards. Deficiencies in transparency, accountability and equality have the potential to undermine the ability of marginalised sections of the population to access justice and obtain fair outcomes.

Decades of military rule have exacerbated the structural inequalities experienced by Mon, Kayin and other ethnicities in their interactions with government authorities and the parallel administrations of Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs). This means that in addition to the large amounts of land-grabbing experienced by the population across Mon State, the avenues of resolving such grievances remain inaccessible to most poor rural populations, due to a combination of fear of authorities, language barriers, lack of knowledge regarding land law and dispute resolution mechanisms beyond the village level.  

The existing work of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and its partners in Mon State aims to raise awareness of Housing, Land and Property (HLP) rights, as well as Collaborative Dispute Resolution (CDR) techniques which can prove highly useful for resolving the disputes of populations at the local level.[1]Trainings on mediation and facilitated negotiation are well-suited to, and indeed share some similarities with, existing customary dispute resolution styles, which are akin to mediation. NRC plans to continue to pursue CDR trainings, with a special focus on eliminating some of the negative elements mentioned by villagers, such as bias and corruption, etc.

Generally speaking, rural populations and dispute resolution actors at the village level have not been exposed to significant amounts of information regarding the changing legal environment regarding land, or to the possibilities which exist for resolving disputes and/or gaining compensation for previous injustices. These populations would be greatly aided by continuous implementation by NRC and partners across Mon State of HLP trainings as a compliment to current Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) activities relating to civil documentation. EAO representatives who are tasked with assisting in dispute resolution at the village level would also benefit from the awareness raising activities, as well as the CDR trainings in areas where they are active.

Civil society organisation (CSO) staff have only received limited in-depth training on HLP issues and this makes it more difficult for them to be able to counsel farmers on the details of relevant laws. It also makes it difficult to provide clear information on how farmers can register their land usage and approach formal justice systems in order to gain compensation or restitution. Consequently, further training for CSO partner staff would assist NRC in strengthening HLP knowledge among its beneficiaries, leading to increased protection against land grabbing. CSO staff also need to be involved in CDR training provided by NRC on facilitated negotiation, so that they can play a part in advocating for farming communities where they are in dispute with local authorities but lack the bargaining power and knowledge to argue their own cases.  

Increased knowledge of land law and dispute resolution techniques are important tools to help farmers realise their HLP rights in Mon State, but accessing the protection offered by the state land registration mechanisms should also be promoted. The input from farmers and key informants indicates that very few farmers in the study area are in possession of Land Use Certificates (LUCs) under the 2012 Farmland law. The majority hold their land under customary recognition, making these parcels vulnerable to land grabs by other actors. The reluctance to engage with the formal system is a result of lack of awareness, language barriers, fear of authority and prohibitive costs. A simple solution to this situation would be for NRC to expand its activities to directly assisting beneficiaries through its partner network to obtain LUCs, as is currently being done by Lokha Ahlin and the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (and by Ecodev in Myeik area, Tanintharyi and Spectrum in Kachin State). This activity would go hand in hand with the awareness raising efforts mentioned above, which would highlight to farmers why registration is critical.

Decades of conflict and land-grabbing across Mon State have resulted in thousands of acres of land being confiscated by a variety of actors. The vast majority of this land has yet to be returned. As most of these confiscations took placed during the military dictatorship, in very few cases was compensation paid, and if it was, it was not at market value. Although feedback indicated that cases involving the military are still too difficult to resolve for local CSOs, there have been successes through the formal legal system in prosecuting cases where the actors involved have been government and/or companies. Resolution of these cases usually results in return of lands where government was involved, or compensation being paid where companies were involved. Legal aid providers in Mawlamyine and across Myanmar have had limited successes with strategic litigation including in cases even where incomplete land documentation was available.

It is therefore the conclusion of this assessment that while CDR methods are highly beneficial in assisting to resolve land disputes at the village and village tract level, the resolution of land confiscation disputes involving more powerful actors requires the coercive power of the court system, since the administrative system cannot be relied on. Successful strategic litigation of would act as a deterrent to future actors planning on grabbing farmland and may result in either the return of grabbed lands or the payment of adequate compensation. This would enhance the standing of NRC and its partners among the beneficiary communities (and hopefully prevent reduced engagement caused by only engaging with them through training and awareness raising) by providing an example of how communities can be empowered to challenge illegal confiscations and see practical results.

You can read the full report here: mon_report_bind__1.4.2019__c2



DS Comments on Post-Earthquake HLP Policy in Nepal

9 April 2019

Displacement Solutions was approached and commissioned by DFID to carry out research on the housing, land and property rights issues arising from the reconstruction process, with an emphasis on the planned relocation aspects thereof. Displacement Solutions undertook a three-person mission to Nepal in November 2018 during which time extensive interviews were carried out, field visits made, and film footage taken for the production of a short documentary film which has since been completed. Based on this methodology, this report focuses on aspects of progress to date related to survivors access to housing, land and property either at their homes of origin, or through various relocation and resettlement schemes underway since government led reconstruction work was initiated in late 2015.

NEW DS & NRC Report on Resolving HLP Rights Disputes in Myanmar

10 January 2019

With support from MyJustice, the European Union and the British Council, DS and NRC have released their latest report designed to improvement the HLP performance in Myanmar. The report, Improving Access to Justice Through Community Based Dispute Resolution (CBDR) for Housing, Land and Property Disputes in Myanmar: Housing, Land and Property Rights Legal Awareness Information Material, outlines a range of frequently asked questions concerning HLP rights in the country, and how local level, community-based dispute resolutions measures might be accessed to promote HLP justice.

The full report in English can be downloaded here: HLP FAQ – Improving Access to Justice

The full report in Burmese can be downloaded here: HLP_FAQ-MM-Final23Jan2019_sml-150opt


Community-Based HLP Dispute Resolution Options in Myanmar – New Joint Publication by DS and NRC

15 November 2018

DS and NRC are happy to announce our latest publication promoting housing, land and property rights in Myanmar. Generously supported by MyJustice, the European Union and the British Council, the new report explores community based dispute resolution procedures and practices in the country. The full publication can be downloaded here: HLP FAQ – Improving access to justice

NEW! – HLP Rights in Peace Agreements – Guidance for Peace Negotiators in Myanmar

7 February 2018

This publication explores how housing, land and property rights issues have been addressed in peace agreements concluded over the past three decades. It provides practical guidance for peace negotiators on all sides in Myanmar and outlines how addressing these rights in the peace process will build the groundwork needed for an eventual peace agreement or agreements in the country. The report is available here: HLP Rights and Peace Agreements – Guidance for Peace Negotiators in Myanmar

Building the Case for HLP Restitution for Syria’s Displaced

31 January 2018

As Syria inches slowly towards a still far too distant peace, discussions have commenced on how best to ensure that the millions upon millions – more than 12 million in total – of Syria’s refugees and IDPs will be able to enjoy residential justice as part of any eventual peace settlement; residential justice that includes the right to live in a democratic country in peace, grounded firmly in the rule of law, and one which ensure not only the right to return home, but also the right to HLP restitution and compensation for each and every one of the 12 million people forced from their homes since 2011. DS recently presented its views on these aims in a speech to the UN which is available here: Restitution in Syria

DS Exploring HLP Restitution Prospects in Myanmar

28 November 2016

DS carried out its latest mission to Myanmar in October with a focus this time on the question of housing, land and property restitution rights and how best to ensure these rights for everyone with an HLP loss and valid restitution claim in need of remedy. DS and the Norwegian Refugee Council will shortly be reducing a major new study on restitution, which it plans to publicly launch in Yangon in January 2017. A range of restitution measures are already in place in Myanmar, signalling a major concrete outcome of the political reform process. The new study proposes a series of specific recommendations on how to move to the next level of the quest of restitution for all. These efforts build on DS’ extensive global experience on designing restitution laws and systems throughout the history of the organisation. 

DS Again Highlighting HLP Issues in Myanmar

19 June 2016

DS Director Scott Leckie and DS associate Zeke Simperingham again visited Myanmar for a two-week DS mission in May 2016 to explore recent developments in the land sector, and the prospects for restitution forming part of the expanding peace process in the country.  With the new NLD-led government in power for the first time, the prospects for positive action within the land sector are noteworthy. DS worked together with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in developing recommendations for the British Government’s aid agency DFID, and how the UK might best support land-related activities in the context of the peace process. Land is key negotiating issue between the government and the various ethnic negotiating partners, and will invariably form a key basis for the eventual conclusion of peace agreements in the future. DS will continue to expand its Myanmar HLP Initiative in the coming year with a variety of projects within the land sector, including a joint project with Landesa on climate displacement within the country.