Guideline for
land problems

This treatment guideline provides recommendations on interventions that should lead to good outcomes for people dealing with land related disputes. They are drawn from a range of interventions available in international literature.

Guidelines are developed according to the Guideline Method. Find out more by clicking on the button below.

11 recommendations

Directed to front-line land justice practitioners

Aimed at reaching good outcomes for people dealing with land conflicts

Designed to empower users

Recommendations according to The Treatment Guideline method

This treatment guideline shows a set of recommended interventions that are actionable. They can be applied in land disputes, such as disputes on borders. We have drawn interventions that are beneficial for the wellbeing of disputing parties from international literature in the field of justice. 

The recommendations on this page will be reviewed by external experts. Similar to recommendations in the medical sector, they will be updated accordingly.

HiiL’s prof. dr. Maurits Barendrecht, Tim Verheij, Isabella Banks and Manasi Nikam have developed the methodology for different justice issues.

More research where interventions are systematically compared and evaluated is needed. Combining research with experiences from justice practitioners make more solid recommendations, which are tailored to the local context.

To Whom Is This Guideline Addressed?

 A broad range of land justice practitioners, from professionals to family members who advice, can use this guideline. We have designed the recommendations to be actionable and applicable to the different roles that these practitioners take.

Providing information and advice to set norms or contain the dispute are important first steps of a resolution process. Often, family members and friends take this role.

  • Mediators are there to have parties convene and communicate with each other. They support both parties at the same time.
  • In resolving the dispute, lawyers, paralegals and judges often play a role. They shape solutions and make decisions. 
  • After agreements are concluded, they might need improvement over time. People’s needs change. Practitioners feel the need to keep overview and ensure that people get the outcomes they need.
  • Throughout the entire process, from preventing, communicating to resolving and aftercare, practitioners need recommendations to support them in their work.

We have developed 11 recommendations so far. They can be applied by justice workers dealing with land problems to reach fair and effective solutions for people. Many parties to land disputes help themselves, they can benefit from these recommendations as well.

The recommendations are linked to 11 building blocks or categories of interventions that can prevent or resolve land problems.

Combining research and shared practices help people reach fair solutions

Building blocks

These are the building blocks for land justice issues. Find out more about the building blocks here.


Together, these recommendations form a guideline. Find out more about the guideline method here.

Parties can prevent land problems by recording rights and agreements so they can be verified
For parties looking to document their ownership or use of land rights, fit-for-purpose land mapping is a flexible, transparent, and inclusive approach that supports well-being.
Mapping Facts
Identifying what actually happened between parties to a land dispute by establishing and mapping facts is an important first step of any resolution process.
Mapping Facts
Joint fact-finding by a neutral third party helps parties to get a shared and accurate understanding of what happened. It also tends to improve their relationship and increase the chances of reaching a resolution.
Opening a channel of communication between parties to land dispute is an essential step in the path towards constructive resolution.
Reality testing by a neutral third party helps parties to an ownership or use of land dispute make unbiased decisions about whether and how to come together and talk.
Communicating (1)
In order to engage in respectful dialogue, parties to a land dispute must work through negative perceptions of each other and take one another seriously as human beings.
Communicating (1)
Setting ground rules and roleplaying (socio-drama) are two effective ways for parties to build mutual respect. Roleplaying is recommended in closed conflict cultures, where parties may be less comfortable discussing underlying or taboo topics openly.
Communicating (2)
In order to build understanding and move towards resolution, parties to a land dispute must uncover and recognise the emotions, needs and interests of all those involved.
Communicating (2)
The "conflict onion" model is a useful visual tool for parties to understand and distinguish between the needs, interests, and positions of those involved.
Resolving (1)
Resolving a land problem requires generating and exploring possible solutions. The best solution is the one that meets the needs and interests of the parties involved.
Resolving (1)
Parties should use constructive communication techniques to generate creative and sustainable solutions.

These include, for example:
• Speaking in the first person present tense
• Focusing on the positive
• Highlighting gains and areas of potential agreement
• Drawing possible scenarios for the future
Resolving (2)
In order to reach a sustainable resolution for their land problem, parties must negotiate to distribute land and land rights in a fair way.
Resolving (2)
Principled bargaining or negotiation is an effective way for parties to share rights and resources in a fair way. The distributive and relational benefits of this approach increase the well-being of the parties involved.
Resolving (3)
Parties to a land dispute who cannot make a decision themselves need a neutral third party to adjudicate for them. The authority of the selected adjudicator will influence the extent to which the resolution is observed and respected by the parties as well as the broader community.
Resolving (3)
Tribunals in the community are generally the best forum for parties to an ownership or use of land dispute to get a quick, accessible, and culturally appropriate third party decision.
Resolving (4)
To be successful, a dispute resolution process must lead to an agreement that is considered legitimate by all parties. Once such an agreement around land use and ownership has been made, it is important for the parties involved to demonstrate their commitment to and ownership of the outcome.
Resolving (4)
One way for parties to an ownership and use of land dispute to accept and formally document their boundary agreements is to sign a written agreement, sometimes known as a “memorandum of understanding”. On top of that, parties to an ownership or use of land dispute can honour their agreement by physically demarcating the land.
Aftercare (1)
Once the parties to an ownership or use of land dispute have accepted their agreement and demonstrated their commitment to its terms, an additional step is needed to ensure their compliance with the agreement and achieve closure.
Aftercare (1)
A common feature of all rural land dispute settlements is a reconciliation ceremony that signifies and seals the end of the dispute. In this phase of the ownership or use of land dispute resolution process, communities follow national legal procedures to formally document and register their lands and receive state documentation of their rights.
Aftercare (2)
A final and optional stage of a land dispute resolution process involves disputants completing procedural closure by designing and implementing monitoring mechanisms. This can improve agreements made over time.
Aftercare (2)
Seeing land dispute resolution as a continued process in which successes can be monitored throughout requires developing arrangements and mechanisms to monitor compliance and accommodate changing circumstances. In addition to identifying “general and specific steps required to implement the decision,” parties must agree upon a number of issues in order to make these monitoring arrangements successful.

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