Community-led rights documentation and, in some cases, recognition initiatives are growing around the world. Government, private sector actors and communities are finding value in such processes that have the potential to support dialogue, negotiation, reduce conflict and create win-win outcomes among diverse interests over land and resource uses. In some cases, it can lead to recognition and formalization of rights for local stakeholders. Yet there is a wide diversity of types of rights that are being documented from household, to community, to ethnic rights. Goals of the processes also range, from creating an evidence-base for local actors of their current and historical land-use, to facilitating multi-sector spatial planning, to integrating records into formal land administration systems.
Based on USAID’s experience in Ghana, Paraguay, Burma, Zambia and Vietnam, we find that the best practices related to general processes to document rights are relatively consistent and include a strong understanding of the community, clear outreach and communications, inclusive participation of women youth and vulnerable populations, use of appropriate technology and strong local partnerships. In all cases, locally-led rights documentation has additional impacts and unintended consequences, both positive and negative, beyond the original documentation goal.