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    Press Release No:  UNIS/SG/2571
    Release Date:   19  May 2000
    Secretary-General Requests UN Development Programme to Explore
    Assisting Renewed Land Reform Programme in Zimbabwe

    NEW YORK, 18 May (UN Headquarters) — The following was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

    The Secretary-General has asked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to explore the possibility of helping facilitate a renewed land reform programme in Zimbabwe.  The UNDP is well placed to play such a role because of its experience as a trusted partner in Zimbabwe, including co-chairing with the Government the 1998 International Donors Conference on Land Reform and Resettlement, recognized by international donors, the Government of Zimbabwe and the Commercial Farmers Union.  The unanimously endorsed principles and processes established at that conference remain the basis for a sustainable land reform programme. 

    The inequitable land ownership patterns have long been a source of political and economic tension in the country.  Currently, some 4,460 large-scale commercial farmers own 11.2 million hectares, much of it the most fertile land, while over 6 million people, living mainly in communal areas, occupy 16.4 million hectares.  The 1998 agreement envisaged the transfer of 5 million hectares of land over five years that would resettle 150,000 families.

    The key objective of any reform and resettlement programme must be to encourage equitable ownership patterns, incorporating both large- and small- scale farming, that help alleviate widespread poverty.  However, in the current climate, it has become difficult to re-establish the framework for such a process.  UNDP’s role, as a development organization, would involve working with the Government of Zimbabwe and the international community, especially donors, and those involved on the ground to set up a mutually acceptable plan of action. Such an exercise would be:

    -- Wide-ranging in scope, encompassing broad policy reforms, including land-tenure arrangements, with the overarching goal of achieving broad-based, equitable redistribution of agricultural land;

    -- Predicated on a programme of land purchase, adequately funded with assistance from the international community, that provides compensation at fair market prices;

    -- Based on a transparent, fair, legally enforceable process; and

    -- Involve ongoing consultations with all stakeholders and ensure that the main beneficiaries of international assistance to land reform are the poorest people, including those currently living in congested communal areas.

    Evidently, moving beyond exploration of the issues to attract resources for an adequately funded programme will depend on changes in the broader political context that are beyond the competence of the UNDP to address.  Nevertheless, by initiating such a process now the Secretary-General hopes it will help defuse the current confrontation and pave the way for a just and equitable resolution to the problem.

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