FIG PUBLICATION NO. 51
Land Acquisition in Emerging Economies
Dang Hung Vo
Hanoi Declaration on Land Acquisition in
2. Problems in land acquisition
Market acquisition systems
Human rights based acquisition models
Problems in implementation in practice
3. Tools in land acquisition
Compulsory Land Acquisition
4. Building Capacity in Land Acquisition
Land delivery theory
Land delivery processes are cross-cutting
Building land delivery
Land information system – government level
Anti eviction strategies – grass roots empowerment
Management of hard cases of land grabbing –
an initiative for developers
5. The way forward
References and Bibliography
Orders for printed copies
The 7th FIG Regional Conference 19–22 October 2009, held in Hanoi,
Vietnam focused on Spatial Data Serving People: Land Governance and the
Environment – Building the Capacity. This theme was chosen to address some
of the key professional issues in East Asia and especially in the host
country of Vietnam. The conference recognized that these regions require
urgent action especially in terms of reinforcing methods for land
acquisition in fast growing urban areas in developing economies.
This document deals with a number of issues: understanding the key problems
in land acquisition in a way which ensures effective and efficient outcomes,
including appropriate levels of compensation payments; explanation of land tools
available for the land acquisition; identification of paths to the competencies
needed to support processes of land acquisition; and building institutional and
professional capacity for managing land acquisition processes.
The publication should be seen as an a tool to support politicians, executive
managers, decision makers and professional organisations in their efforts to
deal with land acquisition in a fair way, based on legal standards, full
compensation, and acknowledgement of human rights. Land acquisition should
secure that adequate development opportunities are available while land rights
and social sustainability are fully protected throughout the process.
The document is based on the presentations at the 7th FIG Regional
Conference, 19–22 October 2009, Hanoi, Vietnam, especially the keynote
presentations. Conference proceedings are available on-line at
An expert group was appointed to prepare the document led by Prof. Kauko
Viitanen, Chair of FIG Commission 9, and including Dr. Dang Hung Vo ,
President of Viet Nam Association of Geodesy, Cartography and Remote Sensing
(VGCR), Prof. Frances Plimmer, Chair Elect of FIG Commission 9, and Mrs.
Jude Wallace, lawyer and senior consultant on legal land issues.
On behalf of FIG I would like to thank the members of the expert group and
all the specialists who contributed to this publication for their constructive
and helpful work.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Hanoi Declaration on Land Acquisition in
The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) acknowledges land
acquisition is a complex area that can be practiced in many ways.
Basically, land administration systems must be able to manage the
delivery of land for essential developments, private sector
development and changes of land uses in response to evolving social
and economic demands.
Land acquisition may be carried out through voluntary agreements
or through compulsory means (such compulsory purchase) to secure
land delivery for development. In these processes good governance is
fundamental to achieve the benefits of the protection of formal
property rights and informal land uses. The declaration therefore
recommends that a number of aims are taken into account:
- Provide consistent, transparent and efficient legislation
and procedures for acquisition through both voluntary and
compulsory means and at low transaction costs.
- Provide clear and transparent rules for inclusion of the
parties involved and for determination of adequate compensation
which ensures that those displaced are able to re-establish
their lives and livelihoods in a proper manner.
- Ensure that good governance principles are applied for
conducting the processes of land acquisition whether they are
based on compulsory means or voluntary agreements. Processes
must be efficient, fair and legitimate.
- Ensure that all rights are addressed including informal
rights and human rights especially the rights of the poor and
These issues are all addressed in some details in this document.
Land acquisition is a global and complex problem area. The land
professional has a range of appropriate professional and technical
skills and experience, and therefore is well placed to assist with
many of the decisions and support activities. The land professional
has the expertise to facilitate interaction and debate among a
diversity of professional, political, economic, environmental, and
community organisations, and to help jurisdictions achieve
appropriate and sustainable solutions.
FIG believes that land professionals, such as surveyors, have key
roles to play in supporting the setting of strategies and policies;
and facilitating interactions of professionals, politicians and
local communities to secure legal and equitable processes of land
acquisition, thus improving sustainable management of urban and
rural areas in developing economies.
Prof. Stig Enemark
Land is a unique and finite resource, essential for all human activities. The
global population is increasing and more and more people are moving to urban
areas. More land is needed for housing, employment, infrastructure and services
within increasingly small geographical areas. The reduction of carbon emissions
and pollution require urgent and effective solutions e.g. in reducing energy
consumption. Sustainability is a key word. To reach that goal the actions have
to be flexible and resilient.
Management of spatial change and implementation of essential physical
structures require land to be put to appropriate uses. Both the public and the
private sectors have to be able acquire land and/or change its present use. The
public sector normally has insufficient resources to carry out all necessary
activities. The private sector may need to provide additional initiatives and
risk bearing capacities. However, private sector investment requires capacity
and procedures to achieve the desired outcomes, including a profit margin that
should be established through legislation. A key strategy for the public is to
provide local infrastructure and relevant public services, particularly health
and educational facilities, and to encourage individuals and private companies
to locate themselves in areas that accord with the land use plans that reflect
the wider and evolving needs of society.
Countries and regions use a variety of approaches to implement their adopted
land use policies. A country may rely on a predominantly public sector approach
or one led by the private sector. In each case, a number of mechanisms are
available to ensure that plans and policies will be implemented. However, in
each case there are risks that human rights will not be appropriately protected.
For example, if the existing legal and procedural requirements do not adequately
reflect modern expectations of fairness and equity, outcomes, legal frameworks
and established processes are likely to have adverse impact on human rights.
Moreover, bureaucracy, ineffective processes, corruption, and lack of resources
and capacities undermine sustainable results. In worst cases, essential
development will not be achieved.
Fast developing regions typically experience extensive and complex problems
that need holistic solutions. The ability of communities to resist the adverse
effects of population increase and climate change and to adapt to new demands
depends on the capability those communities to change and manage their legal,
policy, planning and development environments.
Land Acquisition Tools
Key means of land acquisition include:
- Land acquisition by agreement, where public authorities
such as the municipality acquire land through private agreement with
the landowners to achieve their development objectives. Land
acquisition by agreement (or by buying a development option) is also
used by professional developers.
- Land readjustment, which aims to repurpose the physical
allocation of land into modern social and business uses e.g. through
schemes for urban renewal and down town developments. Land
readjustment, or land consolidation, may also be used for adjusting
the structure of agricultural or residential holdings to implement
major infrastructure projects or nature management plans.
- Expropriation or compulsory purchase, a well-known means
used in most countries that enables any tier of government to
purchase land in the public interest against full compensation of
the market value. Public interest may be for public roads, parks,
and service facilities such as schools and health care. Public
interest may, however, also be considered the reason to implement an
adopted detailed plan.
Other means of supporting land delivery and land development include:
- Land banking, where municipalities in particular build up
large areas of publicly owned land and thereby control the supply of
land for development in certain areas. These strategic purchases
place the municipality in a key position for controlling future
development through phased disposal of serviced land.
- Pre-emption rights, which require, in principle, that
landowners offer their property for sale to the municipality first
and normally at market value. This means can be used in different
forms to ensure that the public interests in a certain area can be
- Financial incentives, which may include subsidies to
encourage specific development at a certain time and place.
Incentives could lower land prices, provide property tax abatement
over a number of years, or lower the cost of development loans.
A range of other means can also be considered, such as public−private
partnerships that are potentially very useful for implementing larger
development and regeneration schemes.
Source: Williamson, Enemark, Wallace and Rajabifard (2010)
2. Problems in land acquisition
Land administration theory identifies a series of tools for land delivery
consistent with good governance. Standard tools that deliver land for private
and public purposes fall into two broad categories: market acquisition systems
and human rights based acquisition models. In addition there are practical,
often political-related problems.
Market acquisition systems
In developing countries use of formal land markets as a land delivery
mechanism fails to meet the tests of capacity. Four common problems are well
- The ability to define a level of “compensation” is often problematic.
The most common cause of price tension is that the law requires the
valuation for land on acquisition to be based on pre-acquisition land uses,
often agricultural or slum housing values, and not on the basis of post
development use, which may be lucrative, such as industrial and residential
estates. Original owners and occupiers who were dispossessed often regard
the acceleration of land values as undeserved “windfalls” for the
developers. Certainly, if the compensation received is not sufficient to
allow the original owners to buy similar replacement accommodation in the
same area, they are likely to feel that they have not received adequate
payment and to be aggrieved;
- In certain jurisdictions, a secondary problem with pricing is reliance
on government set values, rather than transparent values set by land trading
in an open market recorded in formal systems.
- The property base essential for a functioning market system is usually
inadequate: land rights claimed by owners and occupants may be unregistered
or even undocumented. The targeted land is often held in insecure
arrangements, social tenures (Wallace 2009) and informal or customary
systems. Price mechanisms in these cases remain flawed as a basis on which
to fix compensation, even with willing sellers.
- Lack of participation and cooperation among the occupiers and owners in
their removal from their businesses and homes makes the trauma of physical
dispossession (whether forced or not) their most indelible memory of the
process. This lack of participation may be the result of inadequate and
ineffective communication, as well as confusion and uncertainty surrounding
the payment of compensation.
Human rights based acquisition models
The human rights model of compulsory land acquisition is still under
construction. In broad terms the model seeks to resolve the problems that arise
in countries with predominantly informal land markets which seek to use market
based solutions to fix compensation. The model adds additional components to
land delivery processes designed to empower land occupiers and owners. In broad
terms, these components demand land takers to:
- Acknowledge the entitlements of all displaced persons, including persons
with formal legal rights, persons whose claims to land are potentially
recognizable under national law, and persons who have neither formal legal
rights or land claims recognized or recognizable under law, such as
squatters and encroachers.
- Ensure that all displaced persons are eligible for resettlement
assistance and compensation for loss of both non-land and land assets and
rights, including those without legal titles to land or any recognizable
legal rights to land.
- Calculate the rate of compensation at full replacement cost.
- Provide relocation assistance for physically displaced persons,
including a livelihood assistance or income rehabilitation program for
economically displaced persons at full replacement cost.
- Provide effective and efficient information, socialization and
consultation processes with affected persons and other related parties about
the project and its impact on communities in the early project preparation
stage and at other crucial stages.
Most of the large international institutions apply some or all of these
standards for land acquisition or compulsory purchase designed to both respect
the rights of existing land users and owners and to deliver secure tenure to
developers, especially for public projects and projects funded by development
aid. However, this is by no means the case for all acquisitions.
Problems in implementation in practice
A common critical issue is that the legislation for land acquisition focuses
more on arranging for the delivery of land for development rather than on
achieving the necessary provisions for the social sustainability of affected
people and communities. For example, compulsory land acquisition measures can be
applied in commercial investment projects with the full involvement of the
administrative system, although there is poor consultation between the current
land-users and the investor, and poor control over the bureaucracy, the
administrative systems and their officials.
In some jurisdictions, legal provisions on market-based land valuation are
often missing from the legislation; long term benefits for affected land-users
and residential community are not secured; and transparent mechanisms to allow
the community and social associations to participate in the compulsory land
acquisition process are absent. As a result, affected land-users do not always
receive adequate compensation for resettlement or support for alternative
accommodation, livelihood and employment. Complaints related to levels of
compensation and resettlement still account for the majority of all complaints
In practice, acquisition of land in use for investment projects can face big
- Provincial leaders prefer economic development as a way to bring their
provinces out of poverty and therefore offer more favourable terms to
investors and their investment projects, and as a result are less concerned
about owners and occupiers whose land is recovered by the government or
acquired by the developer with state approval.
- Legal provisions are not implemented at local levels or are implemented
in ways that ensure more favours for investors; often there are signs of
political, bureaucratic or private collusion with investors.
- Land prices that are determined by authorized state bodies for computing
compensation and resettlement are often much lower than market prices. Thus
compensation provided by the government to affected land-users to
re-establish themselves is not sufficient.
- There is an absence of clearly defined mechanisms and periodical
implementation for land inspection by upper level administrative authorities
over its lower level authorities; inspection is not undertaken on a regular
basis. Violations are not detected and practices are not reformed in a
- There is a lack of appropriate mechanisms to facilitate the effective
participation of people, communities and social organizations in supervising
and developing the land legislation, implementing processes by
administrative authorities, monitoring the land conversion process,
arranging for consensus in benefits sharing between parties involved, and
settling disputes involving affected people (Vo, 2009).
The concept of resilience provides a useful perspective on sustainable
development. At its core is the idea that development processes should not and
must not threaten the ability of future generations to share the earth’s
resources, as previous generations have been able to. State and regional
governments, multi-national corporations, local industry and the individual
inhabitants are under increasing pressure to balance economic growth with social
responsibility, including good governance, ethical practices, and respect for
human rights and traditional cultures. Resilience can be regarded as an
operational tool for recognising, improving and measuring corporate
sustainability. Resilience is basically about recovering from and adapting to
change. It is stressing the importance of achieving effective change for social
and economic stability and environmental improvements. There is an inextricable
relationship between social wellbeing, economic development and environmental
sustainability as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Relationship diagram between social wellbeing, economic
development and environmental sustainability (FIG 2008, p. 13).
3. Tools and Land Acquisition
Land acquisition can be practiced and improved in many ways. The main ways
can be classified as direct and indirect. Public authorities like municipalities
or state authorities may have the main role in both options depending on the
legislation and culture. Indirect ways are normally used to encourage and
stimulate private developments.
If the public authorities choose to carry out an active direct land policy,
they are normally able to acquire land to achieve their development objectives
through private agreements with the land owners and users. If these voluntary
efforts are not available or successful, they may acquire land in the public
interest through the process of compulsory purchase which includes the payment
of compensation which normally is intended to equal the economic losses of the
“Public interest” may be defined to include construction of public roads and
parks, provision of services and utilities such as drainage and sewerage, and
installation of social facilities like schools and health clinics. In some
jurisdictions, it can include housing for open market sale, industrial
development and even regeneration projects. The need to implement an adopted
land use plan may also be considered to involve public interest.
In most countries local or regional authorities and utility companies are
responsible for providing and maintaining local infrastructure including roads,
water supply systems, sewage systems, and communication networks. In some cases,
however, a private developer may undertake some of these responsibilities as
part of implementation of a major project based on a special agreement with the
authorities. The costs of these infrastructure facilities are normally paid by
the end users through fees calculated according to local rules or prices set by
the market place. Major infrastructure facilities, such as highways, airports,
ports, bridges, major electricity transmission lines, might be undertaken by
state authorities or sometimes contracted out to international companies and
infrastructure developers, on a specially negotiated “build, operate and
Land may be acquired and held by public authorities in a land bank in order
to control the supply of land for development in the region. These strategic
purchases allow a municipality, for example, to control future development by
disposing of serviced land in stages. In some jurisdictions, acquired land that
is not used for the purpose for which it was originally purchased or is deemed
superfluous to requirements within a given time period, must be offered back to
the original owner or sold on the open market.
Direct tools for plan implementation can be divided in three main groups:
voluntary agreements, compulsory land acquisition and land readjustment
procedures. The differences between the procedures used to implement a tool need
not be precise. For example, voluntary agreements may be used under the threat
of compulsory acquisition if negotiations break down. Voluntary land acquisition
may be used by the public or private sector, including private developers. The
rules and processes are usually very similar. Compulsory purchase, however, is
normally a tool used only by public bodies, although in some jurisdictions the
compulsorily acquired land may be transferred directly to the private sector for
Figure 2: Four models to adapt the ownership and
property structure to changes in land use (Kalbro 1992).
In a normal development project, the land in question is already in the
possession of one or more owners and users or is acquired through purchase,
expropriation or a similar process (Figure 2, cases 1, 2 and 4). The developer
(public or private) will then (usually) produce a development plan (detailed
plan) in co-operation with the municipality, obtain the necessary permissions,
and implement the project. However, placing an entire development area where
fragmented property and ownership structures exist into the possession of one
owner or user is both expensive and time-consuming (case
4). Development projects are therefore often difficult to accomplish. For
example, even though land may appear well suited for a particular development,
this may not be the view of the present owners and users or the surrounding
community. Opinions on the nature, course and timing of the development project
may differ, as can the willingness of the various land owners and users to
participate or take risks. There may even be a lack of resources to implement
the project. The development may thus be delayed for a considerable time which
generally results in increasing neglect and dereliction of the area as owners
see the futility of investing in land and buildings which are destined for
demolition. As a consequence, in a number of countries, e.g. Japan, South Korea
and Thailand, several types of legal instruments for urban land readjustment
have been elaborated in order to ease predictable difficult situations. (Figure
2, case 3).
Compulsory purchase (expropriation or eminent domain) is an important tool in
most of countries for land acquisition for public purposes, although in many
countries land acquisition can often be arranged through other means, e.g. by
In developing countries, adequate legislation and government capacity can be
an initial problem. Countries which give strong constitutional protection to
land ownership restrict opportunities for compulsory acquisition, sometimes with
fatal results for public projects.
For many countries, e.g. those sharing common law heritage, compulsory
acquisition is a familiar method. The overarching ability of governments to take
private land for public purposes is generally unquestioned. The opportunity of
the government to take land is regulated by legislative processes and familiar
standards of acquisition. These standards apply normally to private land but
sometimes also to public land held by another authority. Some reasons often
mentioned for the use of compulsory purchase include:
- The monopolistic situation a landowner or user who could stop a
development desired by the society by refusing of a voluntary transfer of
land or by claiming an unrealistically high compensation.
- A landowner or user may also, for one reason or another, be missing or
be legally incapacitated, as a result of which some sort of compulsory
measures are required in any case.
- The need for efficient land acquisition processes and delivery of the
Market systems may encourage the owners’ expectations to be compensated at a
value equivalent to commercial or market value as estimated by a professional.
Where a free, active, transparent and formally organised land market operates,
governments are able to offer market based methods of land delivery that are not
available in countries with informal markets. Countries with formalized
processes generally experience minimal human and social consequences for land
delivery, and use systems of compulsory acquisition which manage the free rider
problems associated with opportunities to for land owners and users to refuse to
transfer their land in order to get a substantially higher price. Compulsory
purchase is not, however, the primary method for land acquisition. For example,
the acquiring authority can acquire a poor public image by insisting on a
compulsory process. The process however remains available where the land
acquisition is not possible in a more socially acceptable way.
The compulsory purchase procedure normally has two phases.
- An expropriation permit is awarded through an administrative procedure
(e.g. by the Council of State, the Ministry of Environment, etc.) and within
a legal framework.
- The compulsory purchase procedure (i.e. the implementation of the powers
awarded by the permit), including determination of individual compensations,
is executed in expropriation proceedings by a special administrative organ,
an expropriation committee, and sometimes the level of compensation is fixed
by an appropriate court. For example, in Finland the procedure is carried
out by an administrative committee, led by a cadastral surveyor. The ex
officio process means that the committee will determine the full
compensation even if the land owner will not or cannot apply for it. This
means that “full service” is provided to the parties.
The costs of the proceedings are paid by the expropriator. The land or user
owner is normally entitled to be compensated for the land acquired, depreciation
in the value of any land retained, but also necessary costs, such as moving,
travelling, expenses for professional help, and loss of earnings. The decisions
on the expropriation can be appealed. It is important that the expropriation and
compensation be handled smoothly, swiftly and in a fair and equitable manner. In
this way the costs may be reduced and all parties should be satisfied.
Owners and occupiers who are being expropriated or dispossessed generally
expect to receive just and full compensation. However, there is no universal
principle for expropriation of property. Countries with a common law system
recognize that compulsory acquisition does not exist at common law, and
therefore, rights to compensation cannot exist at common law. Because compulsory
acquisition is a creation of statute, the right to compensation must also exist
within statute – these rights cannot be inferred, regardless of the unfairness
which results to the land owner or occupier. While it may be socially desirable
and generally expected that the land owner’s financial situation remain the same
despite the expropriation, non economic losses are not usually compensated.
There are normally no strict rules, for example that the owner or user must be
able to purchase a similar property for the same price although the popular
understanding of compensation may assume this. In reality the concept of “just
or full compensation” is entirely dependant on the legislation and its
interpretation in each country. The main rule for the assessment of compensation
for the property acquired is generally presented as the market value of the land
acquired, which normally means a market value calculated from comparable real
property transactions. However, this can be defined in a way that prevents the
expropriated owner using the compensation to purchase a comparable property in
the same or a similar location because the development value created by the
acquiring authority (and which is recognized within a market value) is excluded
from calculations of the amount of compensation payable.
According to the textbooks, in some jurisdictions, the compensation should
cover the objective value (market value) of the expropriated property, the
depreciation of the value of any retained property (injurious affection or
severance), and other damages (e.g. loss of profits) and costs (e.g.
professional fees) which will weaken the financial situation of the expropriated
owner or user: TC = (V + S + D) + C, where
TC = total compensation
V = compensation for the expropriated property
S = compensation for damage due to injurious affection or severance
D = compensation for other damages
C = compensation for costs (additional payments).
There are, however, some problems concerning the assessment of compensation.
If the make up of the final payment is split in this way, there is no certainty
that the land owner or occupier will receive the full compensation. Especially
in cases involving a private expropriator, the grounds for calculating the
amount of full compensation can be questioned. A certain margin of safety in
relation to the amount estimated by conventional valuation methods is often
allowed. Some cases may even justify giving a share of the expropriator’s profit
to the owner or user. Also a share in a development corporation could in certain
cases be an option to allow the land owner to participate in the development and
the profit produced.
In practice compulsory acquisition is not a very widely used method. It is
often seen as a complex process that takes long time and is expensive both in
terms of the cost of the process and the delay in implementing the development,
although there are, however, examples of well functioning processes. In
addition, interference with private ownership by compulsion is often not
considered appropriate, and gives the authority a poor public image in the
media. Political decision-makers who favour expropriation often fear a drop in
In many countries registration of proprietary rights and usufructs is still
rather uncertain. Various permissions are poorly documented or the need for
permissions is poorly understood by citizens and investors. For example, within
an informal settlement, the compensation would remain totally unpaid if claims
are only accepted from registered owners. Practical examples also show that
compensation payments may be delayed or may never materialize e.g. due to the
expropriator’s lack of capital or corruption of the authorities. People lose
their dwellings and even their means of making a living by cultivating parcels
of land, without being able to purchase alternative ones. There are also regions
where new usable pieces of land are not available, even though the compensation
is paid. In these kinds of cases, where there is no supply or even no
functioning market, expropriation based on compensation in money seems to be
inappropriate and new methods more adaptable to the circumstances are required.
The urban land readjustment procedure can be considered either as a method
for urban land development (by land owners) or as a tool for planning
implementation (by institutions on behalf of the wider society). Different
countries have reached different solutions depending on, for example, the
planning system already in existence and their attitude towards the
responsibilities of the private and the public sectors in producing land for
development purposes. In practice, however, the differences are less dramatic
than one might think.
A development process in connection with the urban land readjustment
procedure does not differ from a “normal” land development process in the main
stages, which, according to Kalbro (1992) are: initiation, land acquisition,
planning, financing, permission by the authorities, construction of the
infrastructure and buildings, and evaluation of the project. Generally speaking,
all of these stages can be implemented by the urban land readjustment procedure
and a pool of land owners and users (a readjustment association) instead of by
an individual developer. At the very least, the readjustment procedure can be
regarded simply as a method for changing the division of land. The land is
serviced and part of the land (sites) is sold to cover the cost of the project,
and the rest is divided between the original land owners and users according to
the original land area or value depending on the agreement or the requirements
of the jurisdiction. Also a land use agreement can be reached with the public
bodies and the development of social housing or other socially beneficial
outcomes may be connected to the procedure.
The urban land readjustment procedure is very closely linked to detailed
local planning and other land use planning. Normally urban development is based
on plans approved following a public consultation process, while the urban land
readjustment procedure may be carried out in a number of different ways. At its
simplest, the urban land readjustment procedure only implements the existing
plan without the processes themselves having any similarities. Planning and the
urban land readjustment procedure can even be integrated into one process to
obtain synergetic benefits, better participation, cost and time savings, and
improved plans. This might, however, produce difficulties in the organisation of
the functions and in the co-operation between the various processes.
In practice, the extent of the readjusted areas varies from large – more than
one hundred hectares – to small – less than one hectare. The areas to be
redeveloped may be “greenfield” (i.e. previously undeveloped) or urban
“brownfield” or run down sites. In the readjustment process the parcels of land
are notionally assembled in one plot, where the joint owners have a share
according to the acreage of the property owned by each or according to the value
of the land owned before the procedure began. The site will be shared between
the joint owners, so that each of them receives a share of the readjustment area
and the real estate boundaries are adjusted according to the detailed plan.
Public areas are usually transferred to the municipality, the rights relating to
real properties rearranged, any necessary compensations are determined, the
infrastructure required for the area may also be implemented, and the financing
for its development obtained. The construction of building sites is usually not
included in the readjustment procedure or calculations. The costs for the
readjustment procedure are covered either by the land owners and users or the
municipality, or by all jointly. In order to cover costs, the municipality
usually has the right to a share of the profit resulting from the readjustment
procedure in the form of parcels of land.
The urban land readjustment procedure is justified not only on the basis of
cost and efficiency but also on the basis of its equitable treatment of land
owners and users, improvements in the quality of the resulting development,
savings to the community, and environmental benefits. Under normal planning
conditions the land owners and users may avail themselves of the land value
increase or reduction, depending on the intended use according to the plan, i.e.
the value of the property may increase considerably or even decrease. In the
readjustment procedure the land value changes can be fairly and equally divided
between the land owners and users. The procedure will therefore also inhibit
speculations about planning. As the existing property boundaries can be ignored
when preparing the plan, the variety of potential plan solutions will increase
with improvement in the quality of the resulting development. At the same time
the existing social structure can also be maintained (in contrast to a situation
where expropriation of the area is used). Especially with smaller-scale
developments, small entrepreneurs, owners and users are often prepared to invest
in the development of their area with little expectation of profit, but only if
they feel the original unsatisfactory situation in their area will be improved.
The participation of the original land owners and users cannot be directly
measured simply in terms of money, however they should have at least some chance
of obtaining a share of any future profits.
When cities expand, construction and maintenance costs for the infrastructure
increase considerably as do risks of environmental damage. Implementation of the
urban land readjustment procedure in areas within the existing urban structure
or neighbouring undeveloped or under utilized areas should result in cost
savings, reduced pollution and help preservation of the social and natural
environment. In addition, as the procedure can also be implemented in areas that
would otherwise be difficult to include despite their favourable urban structure
and environment, further considerable cost savings can be achieved and
environmental damage minimised.
The urban land readjustment procedure is not, however, a trouble-free
instrument. The processes needed are often very demanding and complicated and
require those involved to display considerable expertise. The decision-makers
should also be familiar with the operating mechanisms and options so that
implementation of the procedure is not jeopardised by ignorance. Political,
administrative and professional conflicts of interest can also come into play,
sometimes resulting in an ineffectual adoption of the procedure. However,
because of its many positive benefits, the urban land readjustment procedure has
already survived for a century, and seems free from threat where its use is
common, parties are familiar with the processes and its advantages are well
The state or municipality can use many different options to facilitate
sustainable development or prohibit unsustainable development.
The indirect tools most closely connected to land development include
building prohibition and subdivision prohibition or subdivision permission,
pre-emption and financial incentives. Prohibitions as to permissions seek to
avoid unwanted buildings or other kinds of land uses in what the authorities see
as inappropriate locations. They are commonly used in many developed countries.
Pre-emption rights require the land owners and users in principle to offer
their property for sale to the municipality or state first, normally at what may
be described as the market value. In some countries, e.g. in Finland, the
municipality has a certain period of time to decide to replace the original
buyer if it sees that as sensible. These rights can be used in different forms
to ensure that the wider public interests can be achieved in particular areas.
Financial incentives may include subsidies to encourage specific developments
at a certain location and time. These can include low land prices, property tax
abatement over a number of years, low cost development loans, and many other
strategies. In some countries, however, the public authorities are not entitled
to offer economic incentives. In Denmark for instance, the activities of the
public authorities are limited under the general principles of equality and
objectivity; and those activities must not intervene in the general conditions
of the market or benefit individual persons or companies.
Many other methods, including the popular public-private partnerships, are
potentially very useful for implementing larger regeneration schemes e.g. when
regenerating old industrial areas, so called brownfield sites, into modern urban
sites often with multiple land-uses. These methods include promoting and
marketing mechanisms for branding specific developments.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
4. Building Capacity in Land Acquisition
Land administration systems must be able to manage the delivery of land for
essential developments, private sector development and changes of land uses in
response to evolving social and economic demands.
Developing countries often lack clearly articulated theories that underpin
state power to acquire land, especially if the two basic approaches of civil and
common law used in market based economies are inevitably associated with
pre-independence colonial experiences. The starting point in these countries
lies in framing clear and comprehensive constitutional framework and laws that
establish the basis for taking land in situations of unwilling sellers and
occupiers, ideally incorporating the human rights standards for resettlement,
adequate levels of compensation, and which reflect the needs and expectations of
their societies. Often laws along these lines already exist. The problems lie in
Even from a narrow perspective, land acquisition forms the operative
intersection of processes that manage land markets, administer land tenures and
implement land use planning. Land acquisition is therefore a complex
cross-cutting issue – an issue which is approached in each country, indeed in
each local jurisdiction, according to processes drawn from a variety of land
administration functions, and often from an historic perspective. In modern land
administration theory, the functions of land administration are land tenure,
land value, land use and land development which, if the land management paradigm
(the method of understanding how the multiple processes work) is applied, are
designed to deliver sustainable development (Enemark 2009).
All four functions are involved in land delivery. In countries where all
processes are formally organised, land development involves exhaustive and
extensive consultation processes related to planning and zoning, and highly
professionalized services from government and private sector professionals at
every stage. The processes tend to be more transparent and susceptible to public
scrutiny than secret.
Developing countries often lack the capacity to build equivalent processes
and often rely on non-government organisations (NGOs) for a range of expertise.
Their major incapacity however tends to be in technical areas. Creation of new
land parcels (subdivision) is often a major stumbling block. Even a very simple
project involves the formal identification of land for development purposes, and
the subsequent conversion of raw land or the rearrangement of formed parcels
into the appropriate development parcels. Whether the market based or human
rights models of land delivery are used, adequate and appropriate technical
services and administrative capacity must be developed.
Most land administration systems in developing countries lack the capacity to
reorganize land parcels. Parcellation includes the establishment of the
boundaries of the development area, coherent arrangements with neighbouring
parcels, the identification and agreement of the tenure of the developer, and
the provision of infrastructure, including roads, public transport, drainage,
electricity, cable services, sewerage, water and so on, at the basic minimum
level. These processes of subdivision and consolidation of land are often
imperfect, even with the aid of commercial funds and professional project
advice. In South East Asian cities, for example Hanoi, existing parcels are
frequently small scale, making reconfiguration of land for modern developments
consuming and therefore expensive.
The divergence between existing land uses and newly formed parcels is often
profound and compounds reconstruction and compensation issues. Discrimination
between legal and illegal land development distributes compensation unfairly,
and leads to operative paralysis in those developing countries where “legalised”
processes for land use planning, development and tenure regulation are not
available or not implemented. Determination of “ownership” of land among urban
dwellers is often not precise even with a boundary system.
Within this array of complex issues, three “break through” tools can improve
land delivery processes:
- a quick and effective land information system, a government level tool;
- a strong and systematically enforced anti-eviction law, an empowerment
tool; and guidelines for management of land grabbing,
- a “win-win” tool for foreign developers, investors and host governments.
These tools are not new. They are supported by their own body of research and
experience and they are generally within the competence of most governments.
While they are independent of a country’s ability to reach over-all compliance
with good governance indicators and land governance indicators, they help comply
with them. The tools are presented in more details below.
In the vacuum of professional surveying capacity, most developing countries
increasingly rely on land information systems (LISs) moving into cadastral
surveying as resources become available. A geographic information system (GIS)
based LIS is one of the emerging new tools available through new spatial
technologies. A systematic tool that relates GIS, remote sensing and field
surveying is described by UN-HABITAT (2008). The tool produces a comprehensive
but quick and inexpensive information system to support a range of functions,
especially land use planning and property taxation. The results do not replace,
and indeed cannot replace, cadastral surveying that gives precise parcel
mapping, scientific coordination of legal boundaries with plan information, and
land use identification. A GIS based LIS, however, offers obvious advantages for
managing demographic movement, consultation, and planning processes associated
with land delivery and especially compulsory acquisition.
Anti eviction strategies – grass
Countries with inadequate land administration systems and informal markets
almost inevitably use forced evictions in land delivery processes. Many
evictions, including those based on national legal enforcement orders, ignore
the international and constitutional legislation which guarantees the right to
housing and other human rights (UN 2007). These follow the definition of minimum
security of tenure as the rights of individuals and groups to effective
protection by the state against forced evictions (UNHABITAT 2002). The strategic
impact of flexible legal formulae, like anti-eviction laws, were further
explained by Augustinus and Benschop (2007).
In land acquisition processes, these anti-eviction laws empower local people
to claim a role in negotiations related to a development in which they have an
interest, especially if the laws provide a clear underlying opportunity for them
to complain to courts if they are ignored. The strategy is therefore focused on
capacity building at grass-roots level rather than at government administrative
levels. Good governance indicators are therefore tested in the general courts
system where they are demanded as part of national ability to use a rule of law.
Land grabbing is a common and negative aspect of land delivery. It causes
long lasting tensions, denies individuals of the financial means to relocate
themselves and to be economically useful and independent, and undermines civil
peace. Criticism of governments in most developing countries for their failures
to meet international standards for management of land grabbing seems to be
Governments need help and support in order to establish formal capacity to
manage their land delivery systems, for instance along the lines of the
recommendations for a code (von Braun and Meizen-Dick 2009). This initiative
involves the strategic engagement of foreign investors and their host countries
in adopting a self imposed code of conduct for investment in land, and in
particular, agricultural land. The code assists target countries to strengthen
their policy environment and implementation capacities by combining their
efforts with those of investors. The range of terms and conditions suggested in
the code delivers “win-win” solutions for all. The issues covered are much wider
than mere land administration standards, and include the implementation of good
governance standards (transparency) and human rights based standards to protect
local people while delivering essential development opportunities.
From the World Bank perspective a large part of the institutional problems
associated with the demand for land and natural resources for development is
directly related to civil service capacity to effectively address these issues.
There are a number of specific, key areas where additional capacity development
needs must be focused. These may relate to (Bell, 2009):
- Project Screening. How do governments attract appropriate investment
interest? How do governments evaluate these initial expressions of interest
and then encourage these investors to pursue the development of more formal
proposals? How do governments support investors in focusing their proposals
that are in the best interests of the country?
- Evaluation of proposals. How do governments evaluate land concession
proposals? Are they financially sound and is the business plan realistic?
Does the proposed investment produce economic benefits for the host country?
Is the proposal environmentally sustainable and socially responsible?
- Public disclosure. How does government disclose proposed investments to
the public, to industry, and to all relevant agencies within government? How
do people have an opportunity to raise objections to investments and how are
- Project monitoring and supervision. How does the government monitor the
implementation of the development, including ensuring that the investor
complies with the laws, regulations, and safeguards that relate to the
investment? How does it ensure that the required reporting takes place and
that relevant taxes, concession fees, etc. are paid to the government?
- Project documentation. How are records of projects (proposals as well as
awarded projects) kept? How are these records accessed, updated, and used
for verification and evaluation of project performance?
5. The Way Forward
The new approaches in land administration encourage civil society, developers
and governments to use new tools in land delivery processes. The broadening of
land administration theory into multi-disciplinary competence is both welcome
and essential. The addition of non-technical goals in building sustainable
systems is compatible with the articulation of standards and guidelines on land
No developing country is in a position to apply best practice methods
throughout its entire suite of land administration processes. However, the
lessons from land administration and good governance theories are capable of
informing a change of strategies in most countries. Indeed, many of the less
developed nations are in a better position to adapt their systems to modern
standards than are economically successful nations where the legacy of systems
and technologies inhibit substantial change.
Land development is a constant in all nations and the management tools
selected by a country need to be developed in the context of its own needs and
capacity to contribute to overall good governance and sustainability. Compulsory
land acquisition, whether for development aid projects or private projects,
needs tools that work at the country and local levels. Unless appropriate tools
are selected, land acquisition planning associated with development aid and
project financing will concentrate on identifying standards for the social
processes associated with movement of people away from the development site and
into replacement sites, which will fuel the ever growing problems of informal
urban settlements. Guidelines will miss the point that most countries need to
build capacity to undertake the scalable and technical land delivery processes.
Other tools have unforeseen consequences. A clear and comprehensive legal
framework is always recommended; however, legalism and formalism can paralyze
land delivery, even for essential public infrastructure projects, a problem now
evident in Indonesia.
From the perspective of capacity building in land administration, efforts to
define land delivery processes must improve technical capacity to use formal
systems to manage the creation of parcels. Reasonably transparent processes and
formal systems that facilitate parcel identification, resilient boundaries and
use of a large scale base map using modern spatial technology to record
coordinates are long term improvements that will assist the removal of residents
and occupiers and their resettlement in permanent “formal” homes and alternative
and realistic work opportunities.
Each country will develop its own path. Strategic changes are urgently needed
to modulate the opportunities of local people, developers and governments in
ways that produce long lasting and sustainable results.
For example Dr. Vo recommended a revision of the current Land Law of Vietnam,
focusing on the following issues:
- Improving the voluntary land conversion measure based on agreements
between land-users and investors, in a way that allows more room for the
application of this measure. Improvement of this measure is rooted in
amendment and supplementation of the legal framework, specifying:
- Improving the compulsory land acquisition measure based on
administrative decisions by authorized state bodies, in a way that reduces
direct influence from the administrative system.
- Identifying a reasonable limit for applying compulsory or voluntary
measures which are based on the principle that the compulsory acquisition of
land will only be applied to development projects for national and public
interests, national defence and security, and for economic development
projects that serve national and public purposes.
Furthermore he recommended improvement of land policies to ensure the
efficiency of their practical implementation and to target both economic
development and social sustainability. Other specific recommendations include
policies with regard to voluntary benefits sharing, promotion of the
participation of communities and social organizations, strengthened
opportunities for dialogue between the government and the people, creation of
real consensus in relation to investment projects across all parties, and
enhancement of inspection and evaluation works by upper level administrative
authorities over their lower level ones.
Good governance is fundamental to achieving the benefits of the protection of
formal property rights and informal land uses that deliver livelihoods for
millions of people. The development of efficient and effective land and property
markets, social development and economic prosperity also depend on good
governance, as does efficient and effective stewardship of the environment and
natural resources. Governments with a record of transparency, accountability,
stability and responsiveness are far more likely to attract investment, provide
high-quality public services and manage resources more cost-effectively than
those whose activities are opaque and not open to public scrutiny. Corruption
may breed where government officials have discretion without accountability,
especially in government agencies involved in provision of services to the
public including land.
Good governance in land administration is not a new issue, and is as
important in the developing world as it is in developed countries. Efficient,
effective, transparent and accountable land administration services are as much
about the administration of land as they are about the public service and
institutions that operates within any country. Typically, reform of land
administration in any country is a long-term prospect requiring decades of
sustained commitment. It involves a major investment of capital and human
resources and requires strong and consistent leadership in order to achieve
effective, sustainable outcomes. In post-conflict countries, tenure security and
access to land are major factors in providing the long-term stability that
supports the development of transparent land markets capable of generating
As mentioned in the foreword this document is based on the presentations at
the 7th FIG Regional Conference, 19–22 October 2009, Hanoi, Vietnam, especially
the keynote presentations. Conference proceedings are available on-line at
Further references and bibliography are:
- Augustinus, C., Benschop, M. (2007): Security of tenure – Best
Practices, UN-HABITAT, Nairobi, Kenya.
- Bell, K.: (2009): Trends in Land Administration and Management with
Particular Reference to World Bank Support for Projects in the East Asia
Region. FIG Article of the Month, November 2009.
- Enemark, S: (2009): Facing the Global Agenda – Focus on Land Governance.
FIG Article of the Month, July 2009.
- FAO (2008): Compulsory Acquisition of Land and Compensation. FAO Land
Tenure Studies No 10. Rome.
- FIG (2008): Costa Rica Declaration, Pro-Poor Coastal Zone Management.
FIG Publication No 43.
- Kalbro, T. (1992): Markexploatering. Ekonomi, juridik, teknik och
1992:4. Lantmäteriverket. Gävle. 288 s. ISBN
- UN (2007): Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Based
Evictions and Displacement
- UN-HABITAT (2002): Expert Group Meeting on Urban Indicators, Nairobi,
- UN-HABITAT (2008): Systematic Land Information and management: technical
Manual for Establishing and Implementation of a Municipal Geographic
Information System, Nairobi, Kenya.
- Viitanen, K. (1996): Influence in Land Use Planning and in Urban Land
Readjustment. Royal Institute of Technology, Real Estate and Construction
Management, Real Estate Planning and Land Law, Publication 4:76. Stockholm.
44 p. ISSN 0348-9469. (In Swedish)
- Viitanen, K. (2000): The Finnish Urban Land Readjustment Procedure in an
International Context. Royal Institute of Technology, Real Estate and
Construction Management, Real Estate Planning and Land Law, Publication
4:84. Stockholm. 397 p. ISSN 0348-9469. (In Swedish)
- Viitanen, K., Kakulu, I. (2008): Global Concerns in Compulsory Purchase
and Compensation Processes, FIG Working Week Stockholm 14–19.6.2008; FIG
Article of the month, February 2009.
- Vo, D. H. (2009): Improving Land Acquisition and Voluntary Land
Conversion in Vietnam. Policy Note, The World Bank. Ha Noi, June 2009. 69 p.
- von Braun, J., Meizen-Dick, R. (2009): “Land Grabbing” by Foreign
Investors in Developing Countries: Risks and Opportunities, International
Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Policy Brief 13.
- Wallace, J. (2009): Land Acquisition in Developing Economies. 7th FIG
Regional Conference, 19–22 October 2009, Hanoi, Vietnam; FIG Article of the
Month, February 2010.
- Williamson, Enemark, Wallace, Rajabifard (2010): Land Administration for
Sustainable Development. ESRI Press Academic.
Published in English
The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG)
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Tel. +45 38 86 10 81
Editor: Stig Enemark
Cover photos: Front cover: Hanoi, Vietnam (left), Central Vietnam (middle) and
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (right) © Stig Enemark
All photographs: © FIG
Design and layout: International Federation of Surveyors, FIG
Printer: Oriveden Kirjapaino, Finland