This document is the contents and executive summary of the Final Report of R7993 rather than the full report.
The social regulation of rights to allocate and use land is of critical importance in the development of the predominantly agrarian economies of West Africa. Increasing conflict over land takes place within a context of legal pluralism, where customary systems are still dominant, but have different degrees of legalisation. The overall aim of the project was to analyse the effectiveness and equitability of judicial, legal and administrative institutions for providing accessible dispute resolution, and for protecting the security of the urban and rural poor to hold and use land. It compares the ‘legalisation’ of the whole range of customary and non-state regulatory institutions into state law in Ghana with the greater pluralism of Cote d'Ivoire, and asks whether the revival of customary or local Alternative Dispute Resolution Systems (ADRS) systems can offer protection against uncertainty, and arbitrary dispossession. It concludes that state courts serve a real need for authoritative remedies and should be enhanced and supported. The introduction of ADRS also needs state support. Customary or traditonal justice systems have played a key role in protecting land rights where they have been legalised by the state, as in Ghana. But where there are powerful chieftaincies, as in southern Ghana, they are not necessarily suited to ADR solutions because of their formality and embeddedness in local power structures. They can still play a positive role where there is community support. Situations of polarised inter-communal conflict as in Cote d’Ivoire also undermine their capacity to be effective.