Since May 2011 the Faculty of Law of the University of Groningen (RUG) has embarked on a new project titled “farmland acquisition and governance in China – participatory learning and experimentation (LANGPLE)” funded by the Ford Foundation. LANGPLE’s overall goal is to provide evidence-based approaches, guidelines and tools on participatory farmland acquisition in China for the maximization of farmers’ interests and rights and thus contributes to sustainable land governance in China. In working with Chinese land researchers, practitioners and policy-makers, it assists the Chinese government especially at the local level in enhancing their capacities in applying participatory mechanism for more transparent and accountable land management practices through innovative local experimentation.
On 21-22 November 2011, the Faculty of Law and the Kenli Bureau of Land and Resources (KBLR) of Shandong Province convened LANGPLE’s inception and international training workshop at the KBLR. Aimed at formally launching the project in conjunction with the delivery of the international training component, the workshop was attended by more than 70 participants, most of whom came from the prefecture, county and township government land bureaus and its key line agencies in charge of development and reform, human resources and social security, finance, agriculture, housing and urban-rural construction, and so forth.
The workshop gained a major boost with the keynote speech delivered by the Divisional Director of the Department of Cultivated Land Protection of the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) Luping Sun.Mr Sun stressed the importance of the LANGPLE project in contributing to the revision of the current Land Management Law in the area of land acquisition procedures to ensure that just compensation and resettlement issues concerning the rights of the land losers are more appropriately addressed. In addition, he believed that the project would shed light on how to make local demonstration pilots on participatory land management feasible for the rest of the country; as a result, the MLR would attached importance to the project implementation and provide necessary support. The KBLR Director Mr Bo Ma and Kenli County Government Vice Governor Mr Jubo Guo also highlighted the need of the project for enhancing their capacities in improving land management practices, thus they believed that the project would make a timely contribution to their land policy reform programmes.
Prof Leon Verstappen, Director of the Groningen Centre for Law and Governance and Prof Wilbert Kolkman specializing in civil and notarial law, demonstrated the past experiences of the law faculty in working with China on land issues and the importance of the project in contributing to research collaboration with Chinese researchers and practitioners. Although country contexts differ, they pointed out that one should also be critical of the so-called developed country experiences, the lessons of which would be useful for China. Thus the project would bridge the gap between Chinese and Western scholars in understanding the key issues surrounding sustainable land governance. Dr. Yongjun Zhao, Assistant Professor and Project Manager, provided an introduction to the project background, framework, progress and plan of action, which won wider support of the participants for effective project implementation. He also stressed the need for researchers to understand the institutional concerns of the local government better in order to offer useful assistance in the design of more appropriate locally-based solutions.
Upon the completion of the inception session, the international training workshop brought about 8 specialists from China, the University of Groningen (RUG) and the Free University Amsterdam (VU) to introduce various topics concerning:
· land law in the Netherlands, Wilbert Kolkman, professor of civil and notarial law of RUG
· institutional reform in land acquisition and transformation of development mode, Mr Xiaohu Huang, Senior Adviser to the MLR
· participation as a tool for effective governance, Dr Pieter Boele van Hensbroek , Deputy Director of the Globalization Studies Groningen of RUG
· participatory farmland acquisition: an applied framework, Mr Chujun Feng, Senior Researcher with the China Society of Economic Reform
· The Participation Manual on farmland acquisition: from concept to practice, Weichang Li, professor of rural development of the Chinese Academy of Forestry
· Spatial Planning in the Netherlands, Leon Verstappen,Director of the Groningen Centre for Law and Governance of RUG
· The municipal zoning plan and other tiers of government: the role of provincial and national government, Dr Kars de Graaf, associate professor of public administration of RUG
· The relations between spatial planning and expropriation in some Western European countries, Jan Struiksma, professor at the law faculty of VU.
It is the first time that the University of Groningen has worked with the Chinese government in such a magnitude in linking research with practice and thus putting into test the land management related theories and practices developed in the framework of the land law, governance and development of the law faculty. The training workshop was widely recognized by the participants as an invaluable asset for Sino-Dutch collaboration in land management in general and improvement to relevant land policies and practices in particular. More specific and in-depth training programmes were deemed necessary to further contribute to China’s land policy reform agenda. LANGPLE will be continuing working with the local government and Chinese researchers for applied research and the implementation of the pilot on participatory farmland acquisition, the experiences of which would be of great relevance for other regions of China.
For further information, please contact:
Prof Leon Verstappen ( l.c.a.verstappen rug.nl )
Prof Wilbert Kolkman ( w.d.kolkman rug.nl )
Dr Yongjun Zhao ( yongjun.zhao rug.nl )
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