From the 26-28 of February, 2018, the First Arab Land Conference, organized by UN Habitat, the World Bank, the Global Land Tool Network, the League of Arab States, the Arabian Union for Surveying and the Dubai Land Department took place in Dubai. Taking place in one of the most quickly developed parts of the region, the palpable enthusiasm felt throughout the event was because it truly was the first of its kind. No other conference has yet brought together land experts from around the Arab world. The panels that often ran past the allotted time and masterclasses that invited intense debate suggested that this gathering was very much past due. Thoughts, ideas and every once and a while, perhaps even frustrations, could finally be aired openly with colleagues from Tunisia to Jordan and beyond.
The conference’s subjects ranged from housing land and property rights, to addressing land rights for refugees, to affordable housing for Arab youth. One of the first and most poignant questions asked at the three-day conference was the following: “What does land mean to each and every one of us? Is it simply something to be bought and sold, or does it have a deeper meaning?” The nature of the issues surrounding land access in the Arab region, including a history of colonial rule, protracted conflicts and current displacement of millions of refugees suggest that its value cannot simply be transactional.
One of the most prominent themes, however, was that of women’s land rights. Moderators, speakers and attendees alike were not apprehensive to delve into the details and to ask the tough questions. The Land Portal’s masterclass, for example, explored whether social media could be used as a tool for women in the region to better express their needs when it comes to their land rights. The event included panelists such as Raed Gharib from Seeds Jordan, Rafic Khouri one of the principal authors of the recently launched publication Women and Land in the Muslim World, as well as moderator Astrid Zweynert, Deputy Editor at the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The answers and interventions from the audience were varied and enthusiastic, but boiled down to the following: women in the region are already using social media with great enthusiasm, and while they don’t expect it to be the answer to their problems, they are excited to learn more.
Overall, the conference left us with just that feeling, the desire to learn more about land rights in the Arab world and certainly, to be part of the follow up to this first event.
For a summary of the First Arab Land Conference, take a look our Wakelet social media story: https://wakelet.com/wake/96f52179-1520-426a-958f-fffe3b084fe6