Young Leaders Explore Issues of Youth & Land with GLTN and UN-Habitat

by James Tayler

Presentation at GLTN Youth Summit

By Sizwe Mxobo, CORC

Kholeka Xuza, a community leader from Langrug settlement outside Stellenbosch, and myself, a young professional from Cape Town, South Africa, met at Cape Town International Airport late in the evening on 22 January 2012 prior to boarding our first flight north to Norway. We both checked in with no challenges, except Kholeka was not happy when she lost her body lotion and face wash that was in her hand luggage, over 100 ml and not allowed to through security gates. During the wait we were both excited, realizing that there was no turning back now: the next stop is Amsterdam.

We arrived Amsterdam early on the morning of the 23rd.  As we arrived at the airport, we could tell we were very far from home due to the cold weather (around 7 degrees). We were shocked at how big the airport was, as we were running through the airport trying to make sure we didn’t miss our next flight to Oslo, Norway. After finding the boarding gate for our flight and looking at the hours we had before our next flight we toured around the airport, amazed by how cheap electronics looked in Euros. Finally around 4pm we made it to Oslo airport in Norway, and for the first time in my life I was in the snow. At this point we were very grateful for the jackets, hats and glovers that SDI brought for us. We geared up as we waiting for the 5pm bus to Ski (Shee as announced by the locals) and took some photos excited and afraid of seeing cold weather. 

Two-Days Meeting

Day 1: 24 January 2012

Opening address and Welcoming speeches.

After the introduction, the Chair of GLTN Clarissa Augustinus did the opening and welcoming speech, expressing how grateful she was that everyone made it through the GLTN Expert Global Meeting. She introduced the topic “Exploring the Youth Dimensions of the Global Land Agenda” and why it is important that we start thinking about youth involvement in land issues, as they are a marginalized group when it comes to land rights.    

After Mrs. Augustinus, Mr. Erik Berg from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed us all to their cold beautiful country. In his welcoming speech, Mr. Berg talked about the importance of human rights education for today’s youth, so that the youth can define and defend their rights, knowing exactly what responsibilities they have to their rights as the future leaders of the world.

Mr. Anantha Krishnan from UN-Habitat gave some general information about youth, including the age group that is defined as youth by UN (15-24 years old), and statistics about youth around the world such as :

  • 87 % of youth lives in developing countries.
  • 62 % of the world youth lives in Asia and
  • 17 % in Africa.

He also shared some information about land issues around the world, that 2.7 Billion worth of land is sold in developing countries and that youth represents a marginalized group in land issues.

Asa Jonhsson from GLTN, Un-habitat, officially welcomed all the participants in the Network and stated the vision of GLTN, which is to provide Land Tools at global scale, to give mechanisms that will assist the poor to influence policy making.

 Why Focus on Youth and Land?

Siraj Sait from the University of East London presented the GLTN scoping study findings about Youth and Land issues. There is a lot of information that was reflected by the study such as:

  • There is no clear definition of what age group is considered to be ‘youth.’ The UN says age group 15-24 years old, African Youth Charter says its everyone up to the age of 35 and UN-habitat fund says up to 32 years old, and those whom are “young at heart”. While in other areas, age is not sole determinant of youth, it depends on race, culture and traditions.
  • For GLTN the importance of doing research with the youth and using a human rights approach. 
  • A set of hard questions were asked, like can youth work as technical partners in tool developments?
  • Do youth want land, and can they commit to the process of developing the agenda, and do they have capacity?
  • On literature review: it was shown that there is little to no literature written about youth in land issues. In the 2007 World Bank Youth Report, there is nothing about youth and land.

The major question that the scoping study asked for me is on the Youth to Youth questions: Why or How is land important to the youth? Some of the participants also asked this question, with no clear answer being given.

During the discussion about the GLTN scoping study, facilitated by Williem van Vliet from University of Colorado, three important questions were asked:

  • How are youth currently responding to land issues?
  • What models do youth use to combat their constraints?
  • How are youth resisting the marginalization on land?

A lot was said in addressing these questions and the outcome was that the struggle for Youth and land needs to be addressed or looked at in the same way that the struggle for woman empowerment was tackled.

Panel: Examples of Projects with a Youth and Land Dimension.

During this panel, four selected projects that work with young people in land issues were selected to present the work they do in their respective countries, which are Kenya (Map Kibera), Brazil (OASIS), South Africa (SDI) and Mexico (World Bank).

  • Ms. Jamie Lundine from Map Kibera project in Kenya talked about Youth engagement in mapping of informal settlements, and how they use GIS systems and technology to empower young people through training and practice of use the GIS technology to produce a map of their community Kibera, and capture stories of their community so they can influence the development of the community. Please visit for more information on the project.
  • Mr. Joao Scarpelini from Brazil presented on Empowering communities to achieve their right to the city by playing the OASIS game in the Brazilians favelas in a period of 7 days, where young people and the older generation of a community is brought together to play a game by building a model of they would like to see their community, and take one project and construct it while discussing issues that affect them as a community and what are the possible solutions.
  • Representing SDI, myself and Kholeka Xuza presented on the topic SDI’s work in the context of youth and urban informal settlement in South Africa. The presentation covered the following topics :
    • INTRODUCTION: The challenges of informal settlements.
    • SDI INTERVENTION:- this explored the organogram that SDI works with in different areas and their role working with communities.
    • LANGRUG CASE STUDY:- This slide introduced the work done in Langrug talking about the background of the project from enumeration and mapping. At this point Kholeka took over the presentation and presentated information about her own community.
    • A WALK AROUND LANGRUG: – This presented the Langrug enumeration data and the needs of the community, while background pictures provided visuals of community.
    • LEARNING BY DOING: – this slide explores and explains some of the projects done by the co-reaserchers and the community of Langrug.
    • CONCLUSION: – Briefly explains the impact that the work done by young people of langrug has in them and their community.

The meeting attendees’ seemed very impressed by the presentation and they were happy about Kholeka being there representing the views of communities as a community member not a professional.

  • Facilitating Land access to young farmers in Mexico, is a project presented by Mr. Fernard Galeana from the World Bank, shared information about a project that invested in young farmers, by selecting a group of young people that have interest in farming and trained them and gave them a loan of about 30,000 US dollars to start their farming business, but the project failed because there was no clear follow up and the was no community participation through the whole process.

After the presentations Mr. Mabala chaired a discussion were everyone had the opportunity to ask the presenters questions and comment about the different projects, Mr Mabala comment is that all the projects illustrated that all young people have a place in Land issues, and what role they’ll play will be determined by purpose or goal in their different communities.

Group Work.   

At this point, all the participants were separated into 4 groups. The groups discussed these following questions:

 1. What are the most pressing youth and land concerns globally?

  • Foreign acquisitions of land in developing countries – pressure on land/resource constraints
  • Lack of youth participation in policy processes, youth friendly policies
  • Recognition of rights of young people
  • Civic education and public participation – realizing your rights and mechanisms to access them
  • Access to urban land – rental and ownership – landlords vs renters
  • Unemployment and underemployment (and education) as it relates to ability to secure housing or land

2. Are the any regions/countries and particular issues that stand-out as needing particular attention?

  • Marginalization (age, certain indigenous groups, girls, women, people with disabilities, etc.)
  • Inheritance for females in Africa
  • Europe – collapse of housing market, defaulting on loans and mortgages
  • The recognition of informality

3. How can youth perspectives best be integrated into Land Projects?

  • Structural integration and participation in decision making, including inter-generational integration)
  • Supporting youth structures at all levels
  • Integration of technology (meeting youth where they are)
  • Awareness of benefits of youth participation

Day 2: Wednesday, 25 January 2012.

Panel: Programme Responses To Youth and Land Challenges.

1. During this section Mr. Stein Holden presented the Norwegian Government Strategy for Youth and development. The strategy is called 3000 reasons for youth development and looks at how youth can be involved in development issues, and has suggestions on how this can be done and depicts all the role players that must get involved when to assist youth into a position of understanding development. The challenges with this strategy are that:-

  • There is no clear follow up on the strategy because of the assumption that when a strategy is released the problem is solved.
  • Little follow up has been done through UN-Habitat.
  • Is it in line with the MDG?
  • It doesn’t address a holistic approach to development.
  • And there is no checklist to measure things achieved through this strategy. 

2. Mr. Willem van Vliet presented about Youth Friendly cities. In his presentation, he showed measures that can used to create a youth friendly city, some of his strategic points were :-

  • The importance of creating a human rights approach that looks at the future and gives a room for development and growth.
  • An approach that focuses on needs, and addresses the shortcomings of lack that there is.
  • Creating safe public open spaces that promote a space for dialogue.
  • Engage young people in discussions around clean water and air.

He also talked about an assessment toolkit of a child friendly city, that makes sure that a city has spaces where children can Play, Participate in different activities in safe spaces, that have social, health and education services, and this got me thinking of the small projects that we do around Langrug like painting toilets, and abandon concrete slabs, on how important is it for the children in informal settlements and how it can spread to different communities.

3. Ms. Katie Fairlier from FIG young surveyors network, talked about Recruiting young people into Land Profession. She talked about the aims and vision of the network and the importance and the nature of the work the network does and the benefits it gives to young professionals in land issues and the exposure it gives them into different projects.

4. On the topic Lessons from working on gender and land  presented by Mr. Siraj Sait, this presentation explored a study done by GLTN and its partners, some of the subjects are that were explored are:-

  • The role women have play in acquiring land.
  • Breaking Youth and Gender may lead to fragmentation.
  • What’s the holistic approach between Youth and Woman (young woman)?
  • What are the problems facing Youth: The definition of youth and the fact that young people don’t remain in one place, they turn to move around, and 
  •  What is the specific youth political approach  

This study posed suggestions that can lead into understanding of a key approach in achieving Land and Youth Human rights approach, and recognize all working within the land sector, despite their gender.

During discussion chaired by Ms. Clarissa Augustinus on the presentations, the following outcomes were discussed:-

  • Land is about politics, technicalities and high-risks.
  • Land is still a problem for a lot of people in the world; only 30% of the world population is registered land owners, with documents attaching them to piece of land, so adding youth increases the problem of land issues.
  • An affordable solution in solving land issues doesn’t mean cheap technology, but how do we not marginalize those that are technological challenged.

This discussion with these points led to Ms. Clarissa Augustinus presentation about GLTN’s responses to Land concerns. The presentation started by defining GLTN, and stating its mission and vision in creating a pro-poor agenda in land issues, by doing research on investigation on the root courses to urban poor rights and developing a tools to combat and facilitate the agenda.


In closing I learnt a lot of information at GLTN meeting and meet a lot of people working relative in the same field as myself, that are passionate about their projects they work in, they have inspired me to look at how to include young people more, while not excluding all the other groups into land issues, and how South African in can champion young people involvement in land issues. Although the is no clear definition on what Land means for the youth and why do young people need land, is it for shelter or agriculture or livelihoods the is a clear role that young people are marginalized when it comes to land culturally and economically and the current systems although it promotes youth development but the is not enough information about young people role in land issues, and as much as this is a challenge, for it is an opportunity for young people all over the world to claim their dignity in their community.

This opportunity also gave myself and Kholeka to exposure to other projects like MapKibera, that we are looking at creating a link with so that we can share and learn from about using GIS in Langrug, and also with FIG see what organization of young surveyors they are working with in South Africa, so we can see how the can help Langrug community and other informal settlements in survey information. Thank you a lot to SDI and GLTN for making this opportunity possible.

To view Sizwe & Kholeka’s presentation, click here.