When I started working for Habitat for Humanity International in early August, I hardly expected my first week to end with a flight to South Africa. But, it was all-hands-on-deck for the Partnership for Action: Improving Land Governance and Management in Africa conference, which Solid Ground was co-organizing in collaboration with the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) of UN-Habitat. Almost 100 stakeholders gathered from more than twenty African countries in Pretoria, South Africa for three days to discuss key land issues, and collaborate towards sustainable solutions. The conference was convened in partnership with the Namibia University of Science and Technology, Habitat International Coalition, Huairou Commission, and Slum/Shack Dwellers International.

Tamzin Hudson, lead conference organizer and senior advocacy specialist for Habitat for Humanity International Europe, Middle East and Africa, described the conference as “an opportunity for policymakers, academics and members from many organizations to share valuable information to help the transformation of policy development in Africa.” We built greater understanding and awareness of the importance of tenure security and strengthened capacities around policy-making, implementation strategies and practical tools specific to the African context.

One of the key goals of the conference was to build partnerships to improve land governance, because, as Dr. Samuel Mabikke of UN-Habitat/GLTN put it in his opening remarks, “the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved by organizations working in silos.” To break down these silos, the conference brought together stakeholders from multiple sectors, including grassroots leaders, representatives from civil society organizations, policymakers, academics and land sector professionals. For three days, we learned from each other’s expertise, asked tough questions, built action plans and laid the foundation for strong partnerships moving forward.

The conference’s panels explored the policy-making cycle with parliamentarians and government officials, evidence and data-driven approaches and broad-based discussion with civil society organizations and other actors in relation to land conflict to find common approaches and appropriate policy responses.

We need to view land not in purely technical terms and find solutions that are pro-poor, gender-responsive, accountable and sustainable in their orientation. Towards this, the Partnership for Action conference provided a platform to explore and discuss land governance approaches such as the continuum of land rights, Fit-For-Purpose Land Administration, Gender Evaluation Criteria and other flexible land tenure policy approaches.

After the conference, participants identified a number of key takeaways, including:

  • A greater understanding of the role and importance of data in land governance.
  • Better understanding and appreciation for community-driven and bottom-up approaches.
  • Greater recognition of the need to recognize different tenure types.
  • Improved understanding of the threats to land.

The Partnership for Action conference was not a standalone event but rather part of a much broader effort to strengthen regional partnerships, build the capacities of key land actors, develop joint policy positions and expand ongoing initiatives.

You too can join us in this work!