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UN official visits UEL


United Nations official visits UEL to discuss partnership work

The University of East London (UEL) was honoured to welcome Mr Oumar Sylla, head of the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) to the Stratford campus where he addressed students, alumni and staff. 

The GLTN plays a dynamic role in co-ordinating international partners to improve land and property rights for everyone, with a special focus on the poor, women and youth. It develops, distributes and implements Land Tools which help to reform land governance, include a sustainable approach and help those marginalised in society. 

The University is one of the founder members of the GLTN which was launched by UN Habitat at the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in 2006. Professor Siraj Sait, director of research and director of the Centre for Islamic Finance, Law and Communities is a member of GLTN’s steering committee and he leads on the GLTN’s universities cluster and the gender and land stream.  

Professor Sait extended an invitation to Mr Sylla to visit the University so that students and staff could learn more about the GLTN’s work and achievements. Mr Sylla gave a presentation focusing on land grabbing and governance in Africa. 

His presentation was fascinating and it was humbling to learn key facts such as over 70 per cent of Africans live in slums or informal settlements and urban slums are multiplying. Land rights and claims are highly complex and less than 30 per cent of land in Africa is captured.  

The urban populations are advancing rapidly and expected to triple over the next 40 years.  The skills gaps in land management and inefficiencies and corruption in land administration further complicate the situation. 

The GLTN is urging African governments to prioritise and enhance land administration and governance structures so that people can secure tenure rights for food security and to protect natural resources. 

The presentation provoked a huge amount of discussion and participants pointed out that there are land tenure complexities in the so called developed world as well. A few of the attendees attested that they had bought land in Africa and had been waiting many years for paperwork and other processes to be completed. 

Mr Sylla brings a wealth of skills and experience to his role at the GLTN.  He holds degrees in local government law, African Legal Studies and Territorial Project Management. Mr Sylla has extensive experience in supporting local and national government on urban development and guiding land policy reform processes across Africa. 

Before joining the GLTN he worked as a senior advisor in the UN-Habitat’s Regional Office for Africa to support urban development and land governance initiatives, acted as Chief Technical Advisor for the UN-Habitat Land Program in DR Congo and worked as a Land Policy Advisor in South Sudan and Burkina Faso. 

UEL collaborates closely with Mr Sylla and the GLTN, including acting as co-lead on a publication on Women and Land in the Muslim World which examines pathways to increase access to land to realise human rights. The University has also contributed to the development of various tools and acted in an advisory capacity on human rights based approaches, youth and land, land rights in the Arab world, land based finance and women's land rights.

Picture above,from left to right: Professor Charles Egbu (pro-vice chancellor Education and Experience,UEL), Professor Siraj Sait, Professor Verity Brown (pro-vice chancellor Impact and Innovation, UEL), Mr Oumar Sylla and Ms Vanessa Varvas (chief marketing officer, UEL)