As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict illustrates, some of the most difficult conflicts are those about land.
The fact that conflicts over land can be so difficult to solve is vividly demonstrated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This conflict originated when Jewish settlers started using and buying land between villages in Northern Palestine in the 1880’s. They married, raised children, started kibbutzes and successful farms. And over time, they invited more of their kin to join them. In 1947, feeling insecure on their own land, and supported by vague political promises, some of the settlers started chasing Palestinians from their property. This lead to Palestinians feeling unsafe, which cause many of them flee. Many Palestinians were never adequately compensated for the loss of their property, nor were they guaranteed an alternative place to settle. They also did not obtain secure rights to reclaim their land.
From squatter, to slum dweller, to home owner
Difficult land conflicts also occur on a smaller scale. Most slums in the big cities of the world are populated by people who do not have a legal title for their homes. Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto found that up to 80 percent of the houses in slums are unregistered. Over the years, squatters become slum dwellers and then eventually home owners. However, others may attempt to take possession of the land, to use it for purposes deemed more profitable, such as building a road or real estate development.
Workable solutions: titling?
Land and property conflicts tend to disappear from legal needs studies when countries get richer. This strongly suggests that they are preventable and curable before they cause real trouble. However, land conflicts are a fact of life and workable solutions to deal with them are needed.
Registering property rights, also known as titling, is one of the approaches that has been tried. But titling also means that rights are allocated to some people and that others do not get their claims recognized. Consequently, such an approach may lead to additional conflicts. Clearly there is a need for good dispute systems and proper allocation rules. In addition, it will be necessary to provide some form of compensation for unclear situations.