Updated June 7, 2001

Second Summit of the Americas


By including the reform of property registry systems in the Plan of Action under the rubric of poverty alleviation, the Governments in Santiago acknowledged that property is fundamental to promoting inclusive economic growth in the hemisphere. The importance of property to social stability is also acknowledged by mandates addressing the need for equitable access to property rights. For instance, in the area of Democracy and Human Rights, member nations committed to attaining legal equality among men and women by the year 2002. Property was singled out as a priority area in this realm. Additionally, improved security of the property rights of indigenous populations is called for in the Action Plan.

Moreover, OAS leaders went beyond the simple recognition of property rights. They called for steps to be taken toward the establishment of modernized, accessible and transparent systems for property registration. Specifically, the Plan of Action expresses commitment to streamline and decentralize property registration procedures through the adoption of transparent, simplified procedures for land title and registration using modern technologies, including property georeferencing, computer-generated mapping and computerized records storage. Unnecessary administrative fees for titling and registration are to be avoided. Dissemination of information regarding these procedures is encouraged. Additionally, the leaders encouraged the introduction of alternate dispute resolution mechanisms as a way to resolve property disputes and called for the adoption of measures to protect the property rights of indigenous populations.

Finally, the governments recognized the need for the multilateral and bilateral cooperation institutions, and most specifically the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank, to strengthen their financial and technical assistance programs, including information exchange regarding experiences among the various countries. These programs support simplified property registration procedures in order to improve access for the poor to those systems. The USG through USAID (responsible coordinator), the Government of El Salvador through the National Center for Registries (Centro Nacional de Registros; responsible co-coordinator), the World Bank (official support role), and the OAS Office of Summit Follow-up (partner) are directly involved in the implementation of the Action Plan on Property Registration. Their efforts are briefly summarized here. 

The World Bank:

The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Regional Office of the World Bank has moved forward rapidly with its land policy and administration portfolio. Two land-related projects in Guatemala ('Land Fund' and 'Land Administration in the Peten'), which are being processed as longer-term Adaptable Program Loans (APLs), were appraised during the summer of 1998. The Land Fund Law in Guatemala was approved by the Congress on May 13, 1999 after a consensus building process involving indigenous representatives.  The Peace Accord Accompanying Committee (including civil society and ex-guerilla representatives) made special a provision for land access by women. The proposed Land Administration Project in the Peten includes provisions for titling lands of local communities including indigenous communities, as well as information, training and legal support in indigenous languages. A land administration project is underway in Honduras that includes registry modernization, adjudication of lands to small farmers, and also some efforts on indigenous land titling. Preparations are on-going for a 'Land Fund Pilot in Honduras'. The GEF-supported the 'Honduras Biodiversity in Priority Areas Project'. It includes protected areas and indigenous lands demarcation, and was declared effective on August 20, 1998. Preparation work is also underway for 'Land Administration Projects in Nicaragua and Panamá'. In Nicaragua, an indigenous consultation process has been supported regarding the Indigenous Communal Titling Law which was submitted to the National Assembly on October 13, 1998, making the 'Nicaragua Atlantic Biological Corridor Project' effective. In Panamá, the World Bank is preparing a two phase Land Administration Program with an innovative systematic and comprehensive approach which includes the regularization of all types of land in both urban and rural areas, including protected areas and Public Registry modernization. A National Land Administration Project is underway in El Salvador that includes cadastral surveys, provisions for titling and strengthening of the National Registry Center (Centro Nacional de Registros) created by an Executive Decree in December 1994.

A study was also recently completed for Mexico, examining the impact of agricultural reforms and modification of Article 27 of the Constitution on ejidos and their development, and a seminar on International Experience with Land Administration was held in the fall of 1999.

In Brazil, the second 'Land Reform Project', financing market-based land reform, has been appraised. This is the follow-on operation to the 'Land Reform and Poverty Alleviation Pilot Project', initiated in 1998 and intended to disburse in three years, but which, due to unprecedented demand, will be completed by 1999. The proposed land program is one of the biggest Bank’s operations which will be implemented through a three phase Adaptable Program Lending (APL) for a total amount of one billion dollars.

Elsewhere in South America, the recently approved 'Caracas Slum Upgrading Project in Venezuela' and the 'Urban Property Rights Project' in Peru. Both include the regularization of urban plots. In addition, the ongoing Colombia Natural Resources Management Project has regularized land rights of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean peoples, involving them directly in the surveying process. To date, approximately one million hectares have been titled to these communities. The Bank also continues to support the Land Administration Project in Bolivia, whose purpose is to regularize land rights, to establish a geo-referenced cadastre system and modernize property registries in the country; and the Land Use Rationalization Project in Paraguay which has similar objectives.

In addition, several World Bank-supported programs focus specifically on land issues concerning indigenous peoples. These include: 1) the 'Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian Peoples Development Project', which became effective on September 11, 1998, seeks to increase the income and improve the quality of life for more than 800,000 poor indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian people. It includes components for institutional strengthening of indigenous organizations and the government branch responsible for indigenous peoples' development issues, regularization of land and water rights, and small-scale rural investments; 2) the new GEF-financed 'Atlantic Biodiversity Corridor Project' in Nicaragua has an Indigenous Communities Development component designed to support land regularization and natural resource management among the indigenous and Creole communities in the Atlantic coast region; 3) drafts of Indigenous Profiles for Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and Mexico have been completed and work is underway on similar Profiles for El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (these country level assessments will provide essential information on local indigenous populations for planners, policymakers, and other development practitioners. Among the topics covered in each one are: demography and ethnic identity; legal context and land and property rights; sources of economic livelihood; use of the natural resource base and indigenous knowledge related to it); 4) the 'Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forest includes an Indigenous Land Project' which concentrates on land legalization.

The Inter-American Development Bank

Broadly, there are two categories of projects supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) concerning land titling and land administration. First, there are larger, projects, mostly in the infrastructure, hydroelectric and mining sectors that can include activities for the demarcation and regularization of indigenous lands in order to mitigate the negative impacts of the project on indigenous or other ethnic groups.

Examples of the mitigation projects:

Second, there are cadastral and land titling programs of more general application, i.e. of national or regional coverage, that are not part of mitigation measures. Many of those are carried out in an effort to liberalize land markets with a view of promoting agricultural efficiency.

Examples of these national/regional projects:

In the past, projects involving cadastral and land titling activities have not always included measures to address the needs of indigenous peoples or other minority groups. However, as a result of technical studies and a workshop of the Indigenous Peoples and Community Development Unit of the IDB, most projects in recent years addressed the concerns of minority groups, by, for example, including the latter’s consultation and participation in the design and execution of the projects or by addressing their land claims.

USAID and The Organization of American States:

USAID has launched the Inter-Summit Property Systems Initiative (IPSI) as the mechanism through which to implement the property registration mandate. The Initiative supports USAID objective in Latin America of contributing to the alleviation of poverty in the region by improving access to income-earning market opportunities. IPSI facilitates the achievement of more rapid, lower cost solutions to the long-standing problems of defining and documenting property rights.

The OAS' Office of Summit Follow-Up, through the Summit of the Americas Information Network, is developing a "virtual office" for the USAID’s Initiative. This Internet-based office will be the focal point for information on the IPSI as well as on additional initiatives being undertaken by other governments and civil society organizations in the property registration field. It also offers a discussion forum for debate and information sharing in order to help build consensus. The virtual office will help professionals communicate and exchange experiences and techniques. It will serve as a vehicle for civil society participation in property registration projects and provide a central repository of information for use by government policymakers, professionals, students and civil society organizations interested in property registration in the Americas. For all further developments and information under this Summit mandate, please see the Virtual Office for the Inter-Summit Property Systems Initiative.

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The mandates and initiatives for property registration were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas.  For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities in this area, please click here.

Updated June 7, 2001


1  Report of the World Bank to the XV Meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group