IDS Bulletin Vol. 32 Nos. 4

Uncertainty and Institutional Design

Published on 1 October 2001

Summaries Emerging perspectives on institutions and uncertainty in natural resource management contexts include consideration of legal pluralism and multiple institutional domains, formal and informal structures and processes, and a focus on practice and process rather than rules. This article examines recent proposals for tenure reform in the former ‘homelands’ (or Bantustans) of South Africa in the light of the mixed experience of tenure reform in other African countries, in both the colonial and the post?colonial periods. It explores the issue of whether or not it is possible to legislate land rights and design administrative systems that take into account the realities of African landholding systems as complex, variable, and inherently negotiable – and characterised by a degree of uncertainty. The most innovative elements of the proposals are those which provide for a range of arenas and institutional settings, with state support and resources, for processes of claiming, negotiating, bargaining and conflict resolution over the content of rights, the boundaries of jurisdictional areas, authority in land management systems, and the distribution of the benefits of land?based livelihoods and development schemes.

Cite this publication

Cousins, B. (2001) Uncertainty and Institutional Design . IDS Bulletin 32(4): 54-63

Publication details

published by
Institute of Development Studies
Cousins, Ben


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