Ms Veniece Pottinger, Assistant Secretary General of the ACP Secretariat in charge of financing development, opened the 9th Brussels Development Briefing by recalling that land is an asset of enormous importance for billions of rural dwellers in the developing world, and especially in ACP countries where land is not just an economic asset, but has strong political, social, cultural, and spiritual dimensions. Ms Pottinger also reminded the audience that the lack of property rights is often a major obstacle for promoting investment and despite their central contribution to economic growth land and agricultural development they have failed to receive adequate attention in the Poverty Reduction Strategy processes. In her opinion, donors and governments should provide strong political will and sustained and consistent support to agrarian reforms.

Marc Debois, Head of rural development sector at the DG Development of the European Commission, presented the EU Guidelines to support land policy design and reform processes in developing countries and the EC global strategy adopted in 2002 as a new reference framework to support land policy reform in developing countries and to facilitate support to national reform processes and enhance coordination and collaboration with EU Member States and other donors. In that context, the EC supports also various global initiatives. Recognizing the importance of land access for rural development and the new challenges that developing countries have to face in the globalised world, the EC and heads of rural development of the EU Member States have also relaunched a working group on land issues. While there is a need to think at the European level to the effects of the food, financial and biofuels crisis, Mr Debois recalled that most efforts need to be done at national level and governments put in place appropriate and effective land policies.

For Dr Hansjörg Neun, CTA Director, land issues need to be looked at as are a cross-sectoral issue and linked to investment on infrastructure, Information and Communication technologies ands education. Dr Neun shared his field experience in Ethiopia showing how soil erosion and degradation can affect a rural area and how improved land access can bring economic growth and attract people in areas which they had abandoned. In his view, we need to examine the question of global land acquisition in a critical way and see if it can be an opportunity for ACP countries and revitalize ACP agriculture.