Assessment of 6th draft of the National Land Use Policy (NLUP)

16 September 2015

This assessment is in response to the 6th draft of the NLUP, released in May 2015, following months of public and expert consultations. It outlines some of the key positive and negative points of the new draft.

The new draft NLUP has taken on board many of the concerns and recommendations raised by the public during the consultation process, and includes several key issues that would greatly improve Myanmar’s land governance arrangements. However, some serious concerns remain.

As in our past responses to the earlier (5th) draft of the NLUP, we take as our starting point how the draft fulfills principles and provisions negotiated and agreed upon by the world’s governments – including the Government of Myanmar – and captured guidelines of the UN Committee on World Food Security (UN CFS) known as the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (hereafter referred to as the “TGs”). In addition, the assessment that follows is based on the English version of NLUP-6.

Our response to the 6th draft of the NLUP builds on our earlier assessment of the previous draft.

We take this opportunity to briefly remind and reiterate our overall perspective on the NLUP. Overall, for Myanmar’s land policy to succeed, it must seek to:

  1. ensure benefits to the landless and near-landless working peoples;
  2. remedy historical injustices;
  3. promote the distinct right of women to their own land rights;
  4. promote the distinct right of ethnic minority groups, and other customary communities such as Mon villagers in Karen State, for example, to their territorial claims as rural working people and as indigenous peoples;
  5. support ecological land and labor uses in pursuit of productivity; (vi) ensure state/public support for building diverse and sustainable livelihoods; and
  6. advance the rights of rural working people and peoples to access and use land for purposes and in ways of their own choosing.

This is because the current land problem plaguing Myanmar society today is rapidly increasing land polarization, which in turn, is tied to a deeper set of problems related to three main and broadly distinct types of situations affecting rural working households and peoples:

  1. some already have access to land but this access threatened or is vulnerable to threat,
  2. some currently have little or no effective access to land and control over land-related decisions, and
  3. some previously had access but lost it due to armed conflict and natural disasters (such as Cyclone Nargis).

It is these three dimensions of the land problem in Myanmar today that define the type of policy response that is needed, and which the NLUP can and must try to address. The NLUP process presents a strategic opportunity to act on these core recommendations toward achieving a solid social foundation for peace, development and democracy after six decades of war and a resurgence of armed conflict. Overall, while the 6th draft of the NLUP goes some way toward meeting this challenge, it should still go further in order to cover all three of the above-mentioned types of situations. While draft #5 addressed situation #1 (existing land tenure insecurity), and draft #6 now addresses situation #3 (need for land restitution), the current draft remains silent on the present and future problem of land concentration. To address this problem, we call on the government to adopt an across-the-board land size ceiling (not only on land concessions) with land redistri- bution and land restitution, along with recognition of informal and customary land users rights, as the core pillar of the new NLUP.

 

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