Spring 2012 SYMPOSIUM

Addressing the Famine in Eastern Africa Through Land Tenure Reform: Developing a Rights-based Approach to Land Use in Africa

In July 2011, the United Nations declared a catastrophic famine in the Horn of Africa amid the worst drought Africa has seen in 60 years. The famine impacts more than 12 million people and food supplies in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia are disappearing quickly. Sadly, the response of Western governments has been slow. Anti-terrorism laws restricting aid groups from having access to refugees have been detrimental to millions, and aid groups predict the situation will get worse. Furthermore, the current famine in Eastern Africa is underscored by the land tenure policies of many African governments that favor state monopoly on land development and management. The outcome of these policies has been widespread famine and internal conflicts as people compete for access to land and the food supply. In addition, the latest trend by many African governments of selling land to multi-national corporations for intensive agricultural operations further exacerbates the problem as Africans typically remain without food despite these operations. Developing a rights-based approach to land tenure reform that includes participation of a wide array of stakeholders is therefore critical to reducing famine and its accompanying poverty and human rights abuses. This symposium seeks to identify legal strategies that could be successful at addressing the East African famine through the promotion of the rights of individuals and communities in land reform processes.