George Conway, UNDP Country Director a.i, Handover of Land Certificates to Returnees, Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal

24 May 2012

Check against delivery

Your Excellency, the Governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state,

Your Excellency, State Minister of Finance

Members of the Government,

Mr. Mullaly, Mission Director of USAID

Representatives of the international development community,

Good morning and welcome. 

With the historic independence of the new Republic of South Sudan almost a year ago, many people returned back to their homeland to enjoy the benefits of peace and help rebuild a nation.  However, having a large number of returnees poses some challenges for the new country, which are exacerbated by a lack of economic opportunities and conflict over resources.  These issues can prevent long-term development from taking place.  As a result, both the central and state governments have placed economic development as a key priority for development. 

The United Nations has worked alongside the Government of South Sudan, both during the CPA period, and since independence, to create an environment in which the people of South Sudan can begin to benefit from the dividends of peace.  On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme, I am honoured to be part of this partnership with the Government and USAID in fostering stability, and economic potential so communities in Northern Bahr el Ghazal can begin to rebuild.

Since October 2010, an estimated 377,000 returnees have arrived in South Sudan mainly from the north, but also from other parts of the world.  About 72,000 of those returned to Northern Bahr Ghazal, with the largest number settling here in Aweil.  As a result, settlements with little planning began growing rapidly, stressing the already weak public utilities and running the risk of overcrowding and the associated health concerns. 

UNDP as the UN’s global development network, focuses on helping communities identify their own solutions to global and national development challenges.  With USAID funding, UNDP supported the Government in designing a land management plan to support the five states with the highest number of returnees with re-integration, including Northern Bahr el Ghazal.  With training, support, equipment, and technical advice the Government in Northern Bahr el Ghazal was able to achieve three notable results: 

1. Surveying and demarcating of 10,000 plots of land in Aweil town that is being allocated to returning families, which is helping ensure sustainable use of land and organized settlements. 

2. The establishment of an advanced land registry system using GPS that manages the land titling process and tracks the surveyed plots.

3. The first issuing of land certificates to the returnees.  These land certificates have unique identification numbers complete with GPS coordinates, which means the plots of lands are traceable and ownership is clear

Issuing land certificates ensures people have legal ownership; it boosts the owners’ security of tenure and prevents potential conflict over land.  These certificates have a greater impact then clear legal ownership.  With a formal deed that is traceable, people have the confidence to develop and invest in their land as they know it cannot be taken away.  These land certificates can also be used as collateral for securing loans at a bank or microfinance institutions, which helps empowers people to unleash their economic potential and transform their communities. 

Land tenure also influences social equity and agricultural productivity.  Secure access, tenure, use and control of land, whether through traditional systems or legal means, is essential to protecting women and vulnerable groups from injustices related to arbitrary management of land.  Women and the poor are most at risk of forfeiting their land rights.  By having these provisions in place, you are strengthening the social contract and trust the citizens have with you, their state government. 

You Excellency, your Government has made considerable progress in a short time and I encourage you to continue along this trajectory and accelerate the process of allocating the remaining 9000 demarcated plots in a manner that is both fair and supports female-headed households.  With the rainy season starting it is imperative that the overcrowded transit camps be emptied to avoid possible outbreaks of communicable diseases. 

The second phase of this work will focus on supporting Northern Bahr el Ghazal and the other four states in surveying and demarcating more plots, expanding the land registry system and legally allocating all plots.  To facilitate this process USAID has delivered survey equipment and in the next few weeks, UNDP together with UNHABITAT, will train state officials in the skills needed to professionally operate this equipment.

It is our hope that when this training is complete, each of these states will have the capacity to independently survey, demarcate and address the resettlement issues of the returnees.  In the resettlement process, it is critical to ensure land is allocated in a fair and transparent manner.  And the land management system that UNDP has suggested to the State Ministry of Physical Infrastructure can help ensure transparency.  

Your Excellency, as I conclude my remarks, let me congratulate you and your government on the enactment of the transitional constitution for your state.  As the guiding document for the state, it defines a new foundation for relationships between the different arms of the state government and with the counties in a framework of decentralization.

UNDP is committed to supporting the Government in delivering the dividends of peace to the people of South Sudan and Northern Bahr el Ghazal.  In addition to the work we have done with you on land management, UNDP has offered support to the State Ministry of Finance, Trade and Industry in planning, budgeting and budget execution as well as to the State Revenue Authority in tax administration and reform.  We will continue to stand by you and support you in fostering the rule of law, reducing poverty, and achieving community security.  We in UNDP look forward to our continued partnership and together we can help achieve a peaceful, democratic, just and prosperous nation and state. 

Thank you