Debbie Coburn and I will be travelling to Copenhagen to take part and present at the spring 2014 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) conference on socio-economic benefits of land registration. But what is the UNECE and what do they do?
The UNECE was established in 1947 to encourage economic cooperation among its member states. It is one of five regional commissions under the administrative direction of United Nations headquarters in Geneva.
After the break-up of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, a group of land administration experts from various national governments realised that the newly founded countries would need advice and assistance to set up functioning land markets and establish secure property rights for new property owners. With support from the UNECE, the Working Party on Land Administration (WPLA) was formally established in 1999. HM Land Registry is proud of its status as a founder member of the WPLA and works actively to support its activities. We attend meetings, speak at conferences, undertake research and provide experts to participate in overseas missions to countries, who wish to develop or improve aspects of their land registration systems.
All of these efforts have helped to bring about the extension of sustainable land registration systems throughout the UNECE region, but there is an ongoing need for its work.
In 2013, I visited Moldova to take part in one such in-country study with a team of five other land administration experts. Following the success of this study, Land Registry has been invited to participate in the next UNECE mission to a central Asian country on the fringe of the UNECE region which is scheduled to take place in June.
The WPLA also undertakes specific projects aimed at benefitting land registration and mapping authorities. It recently compiled a bench-marking publication of all land registration systems across the UNECE region. This is a valuable source of reference for government, academics as well as land administration experts. This exercise updates the 2005 Land Inventory completed by our former Chief Land Registrar, John Manthorpe CB.
Another great example of the practical work undertaken by the WPLA is the institutional research project currently underway in conjunction with land academics in the Netherlands. It explores the ways in which different countries operate their land registration and mapping systems. The aim of the project is to conclude the optimal method of delivery of land registration services for citizens, legal professionals and government. The results are likely to be published in early 2015 and will be of great interest to organisations such as the World Bank and overseas governments.
Land Registry’s wealth of experience and statutory remit as a government department allows us to use our expertise for the benefit of society both at home and abroad. The work we do for UNECE is for the public good but I would like to emphasise that we aim to balance our international work carefully by undertaking commercial projects to ensure that it is a self-funding activity.