Land Rights Issues in International Human Rights Law

10 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2011

See all articles by Elisabeth Wickeri

Elisabeth Wickeri

Fordham University - Leitner Center/Fordham Law School

Anil Kalhan

Drexel University; Yale Law School Information Society Project


Up to one quarter of the world’s population is estimated to be landless, including 200 million people living in rural areas. For many of these people, the condition of landlessness threatens the enjoyment of a number of fundamental human rights. Access to land is important for development and poverty reduction, but also often necessary for access to numerous economic, social and cultural rights, and as a gateway for many civil and political rights. However, there is no right to land codified in international human rights law. This article, which was originally written as a briefing paper for the “Forum on Land, Business, and Human Rights” convened in Manesar, India by the Institute for Human Rights and Business in June 2009, provides a brief overview of the legal implications of access to land for a broad range of human rights. Land is a cross-cutting issue, and is not simply a resource for one human right in the international legal framework. Rights have been established in the international legal framework that explicitly relate to land access for particular groups, such as indigenous people and, to a more limited extent, women. In addition, numerous rights are affected by access to land, including the rights to housing, food, water and work, and general principles in international law also provide protections relating to access to land, such as equality and nondiscrimination in ownership and inheritance.

Keywords: international law, international human rights, land rights

JEL Classification: I30, I31, K11, K33, O10, O18

Suggested Citation

Wickeri, Elisabeth and Kalhan, Anil, Land Rights Issues in International Human Rights Law. Malaysian Journal on Human Rights, Vol. 4, No. 10, 2010, Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law Research Paper , Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1921447, Available at SSRN:

Elisabeth Wickeri (Contact Author)

Fordham University - Leitner Center/Fordham Law School ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

Anil Kalhan

Drexel University ( email )

3320 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
+1 215 804-9098 (Phone)


Yale Law School Information Society Project ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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