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UN Reports Partisan Free State Land Distribution, Land Grabbing In Afghanistan

A new UN report on land use in Afghanistan shows that there are significant vulnerabilities in the country's land distribution system that provide an opportunity for individuals to distribute valuable land, including entire townships, at no cost and to whomever they choose.

The report, titled "The Stolen Lands of Afghanistan and its People: The State Land Distribution System," is the second in a series of three to provide an analysis of the land administration and management framework in the country. It is the result of a desktop review and joint research by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Rule of Law Unit and the Civil Affairs Unit in seven provinces—Kabul, Nangarhar, Kunduz, Balkh, Herat, Gardez, and Kandahar.

UNAMA Rule of Law officials presented the report at the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty last month in Washington D.C.

The media in Afghanistan and government reports have highlighted the extent of illegally obtained state land, also referred to as land usurpation and land grabbing. Reports of land distributions to the political and economic elite suggest that state land distribution in Afghanistan is employed to reward patronage, solidify political loyalty, and exercise and control power.

Lack of transparency, coupled with an insufficient statutory and regulatory framework, provide those involved in land distribution with an opportunity to operate without oversight or accountability, affording the officials involved nearly unbridled discretion to distribute state land for free, or at extremely reduced values, to whomever they prefer.

Further, endemic grabbing of state lands impacts implementation of legitimate state land distribution by limiting desirable state land available for distribution at the same time that demand for land is increasing, particularly in urban and peri-urban areas.

This report recommends that Afghanistan develop an overarching state land distribution policy that identifies, balances, and meets the competing and varying needs of the state for revenue generation, infrastructure, and commercial development, and the needs of its citizens for access to land for residential and business interests.

Further, the report recommends modern legislative reform that addresses all types of state land transactions, focusing on specific criteria and prioritization for distributions.

The illegal land economy and its role in and effect on the overall economy in Afghanistan will be addressed in the third and final part of this Series, UNAMA said.

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