USAID Country Profile: Property Rights and Resource Governance: Afghanistan
Decades of conflict, population displacement within and outside of Afghanistan, changes in national political and economic ideologies, and variable climatic conditions (including drought) have resulted in a complex and unsettled land- ownership and management situation. Land rights are perceived to be highly insecure and disputes are widespread. This instability undermines prospects for the greater investment needed to increase agricultural productivity and enhance economic recovery. This instability also increases the vulnerability of millions of Afghan households to poverty, and the Taliban and others use land disputes to foment general social unrest and conflict. A new Constitution enacted in 2004 established a legal framework for property rights that safeguards the right of individuals to own property. A 2007 Land Policy addressed bottlenecks in land rights administration and the overlapping authority of institutions, and was followed by the 2008 Law on Managing Land Affairs, which lays out principles of land classification and documentation, governs settlement of land-rights, and encourages commercial investment in state-owned agricultural land with opportunities for long leases. The Ministry of Justice, however, estimates that 90 % of Afghans continue to rely on customary law and local dispute-resolution mechanisms. More than 30 years of conflict have decimated the centuries-old customary land dispute resolution mechanisms. Those systems that are functioning are stressed by the need to manage the layers of competing interests: populations have moved to urban areas to avoid conflict, and populations displaced by earlier conflicts have made efforts to reclaim both rural and urban properties. The discovery of the extent of the country's mineral resources, with an estimated value of US $1 trillion, will put more pressure on the land sector. Mineral resources increase the value of land, intensifying the need to resolve competing claims, to secure land rights for local populations (paying particular attention to protecting the rights of the most marginalized members of communities), and to protect against potential negative impacts, such as large-scale land transactions without local involvement. The United States Government has already provided significant support to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) in its efforts to: (1) restart economic growth, especially in the agricultural sector and through the rehabilitation of irrigable land; (2) develop local institutions capable of meeting the population's health and education needs; and (3) strengthen land tenure security through improvements to the legal framework, the implementation of a countrywide land survey, mapping and registration system, and the regularization of land rights in informal settlements. But economic growth and political stability will not be achieved unless and until the GIRoA removes constraints on access to land (especially urban and irrigated agricultural land), provides functional mechanisms to resolve disputes among competing claimants, and provides tenure security to owners and lessees of land in Afghanistan.