Land Rights


Land is critical for access to food, water, security, livelihoods and sustainable development. Land gives people security and a place to call their own. Strong land rights can be vital for community and women’s empowerment.

BUT individuals, families and communities’ rights to land can be weak. Their land rights can be vulnerable to abuse, resulting in their land being taken or misused.

This Guide shares:

  1. Practical tools and tips about how to defend your land rights;
  2. Examples from different countries; and
  3. Links to useful sources of help and advice for land rights

This website is about access to justice when your land rights have been violated or there is a real threat that they are going to be.

If you want information on practical ways to prevent land disputes before they occur, see the resource below!


An excellent general resource for those who may want need to use advocacy in support of land rights is the GiZ Guide and Toolbox on “Understanding, Preventing and Solving Land Disputes”

Some issues on specific topics are outlined below. For other issues, see our the sections in this Guide!


What Are Land Rights?

Land rights are any rights you have that relate to a piece of land. These could be:

  • Rights to own land;
  • Rights to use land;
  • Rights to occupy/live on land; and
  • Rights to inherit land



What Are the Main Threats to My Land Rights?

There are many kinds of conflicts over land. These can include:

  • Land grabs and forced evictions from land
  • Conflicts about land ownership, management and occupation rights
  • Conflicts about the right to use land
  • Boundary disputes
  • Disputes about the right to access land
  • People from harming land through, for example, pollution.

The law can be used to address these issues. Although different countries have different land laws, the are common principles and solutions to land issues.


Related Issues

Some communities and groups may be able to rely on special areas of law, some of which are considered in other parts of this website, for example refugees and internally displaced people, migrant workers, indigenous and minority rights, and women’s rights.

Spotlight on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

For indigenous peoples, see the Open Society Initiative’s 2017 report Strategic Litigation Impacts: Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights, with case studies from Kenya, Malaysia and Paraguay

Sometimes the issue affecting your land will be the fault of a business. For example, the actions of a business are polluting your land. If this is the case, see our Guide on Business and Human Rights.

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