Report

Forced Displacement and Housing, Land, and Property Ownership Challenges in Post-Conflict and Reconstruction

Sermid D. Al-Sarraf, Esq., Yolande Bouka, J. O’Neil G. Pouliot, and Andrew Solomon

EXCERPT

Background:

Post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization requires providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been uprooted from their homes and communities and consequently made vulnerable to violence, exploitation, discrimination, and other human rights violations. Responses to forced displacement should include finding durable solutions for those dispossessed of their homes, land, and other property. Many of the displaced cannot return and reintegrate because their homes and land are occupied by others who are themselves unwilling or unable to settle elsewhere. Enforcing property rights and resolving ownership disputes can be an incredibly complex endeavor, one with policy as well as legal dimensions. It can be especially challenging in countries with less formalized legal and judicial systems. This Consolidate Response will review the relevant international standards and best practices for guaranteeing and protecting the housing, land, and property rights of internally displaced persons based on the queries and responses of rule of law practitioners from the INPROL membership.

Query:

Very few of Iraq’s 4.9 million refugees and internally displaced persons have exercised their right to return to their homes. Some would like to do so in the near term, but are constrained by secondary occupants in their homes and the lack of effective enforcement mechanisms. Others are waiting for the security situation to improve before returning home. Others believe it may never be safe to return home, given the changed character of their neighborhoods and the nature of threats made before or since they left. Experience in other countries shows that regular courts often cannot handle the volume of property cases arising from displacement. With this in mind, I have developed the idea of the Peace-at-Home Trust to return the homes of displaced households in Iraq to the effective control of their lawful owners so they may choose how to use, manage or dispose of their homes. A concept paper for this trust is attached. I would welcome comments and in particular any relevant experience in other countries. Please find the concept paper here. A simple model of the concept can also be found here.

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