HRD Candidate: Anne Pickering

Milestone: Thesis Review

Title: Reconciling Customary and Formal Land Tenure: A Proposed Framework for the Process of Reform

Time: 10-11am, Thursday 27 May 2021

Where: Zoom link - 


The coexistence of customary and formal land tenure in a single jurisdiction often leads to complexity due to the tension between customary and formal land tenure, which makes reform difficult. Reconciling them is, therefore, an important challenge. This thesis formulates a new framework for undertaking land tenure reform in pluralistic countries by considering the interaction between customary and formal land tenure, and for identifying how they can be reconciled in practice.

First, the framework provides a method of conceptualising the different possible states of legal pluralism that can exist in a particular jurisdiction, which can be described as dominant–servient, intermediate–cooperative and intermediate–repressive legal pluralism. It then proposes two pathways for finding the most suitable form of reform, to effect change in the customary and formal land tenure relations, while giving adequate recognition to the path-dependent nature of change.

This framework is then applied to two case studies, Sri Lanka and the Solomon Islands. These studies highlight the complexity and difficulty of integrating customary and formal land tenure, but also the value of the framework in providing practical solutions more broadly to legally pluralist countries.