Yesterday, while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, David Cameron and other luminaries such as Queen Rania and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, set out some of their ideas on what the new development framework after the MDGs expire in 2015 could look like. And their views matter: Queen Rania is a member and Cameron a co-chair of the High Level Panel on Post 2015 that Ban Ki Moon has asked to think about what a new development framework should look like.
David Cameron’s particular emphasis at Davos, as elsewhere, has been around his ‘golden thread’ of development, essentially focusing on the fundamental conditions that need to be in place for development to happen. The concept is still quite fluid, as pointed out this week by the UK Parliament's International Development Committee, but key elements – like human rights - are becoming clear.
One of several key areas blocking women’s rights and development progress more generally is the right of women to own land and to inherit land from parents or husbands. In most developing countries, these rights are denied on the basis of gender alone. As a consequence, while the majority of the world’s small holder farmers – somewhere between 60 and 80 % - are women, women still own a tiny fraction of titled land - around 1% in Africa. And this is particularly an issue for young women denied land rights now but also denied future access to land as large swathes of developing countries are being sold off to private investors.
And yet, owning a plot of land means a woman can ensure some level of food is available even if there is no family income for some reason, can effectively insulate herself from swings in market prices, and can sell any surplus to cover costs such as schooling or treatment for malaria. Women’s ownership of land can be vital for securing their own health, education and prospects and that of their children.
At Davos yesterday, the Prime Minister talked of property rights, with a particular reference to women’s rights to own land, as being important. We now just hope he will be also able to convince his fellow High Level Panel members of the fundamental importance of women’s rights, including land rights, in any post 2015 framework, when they meet next week in Monrovia.
Unless there is a standalone gender goal and challenging targets on land rights and other key barriers to women’s equality, post 2015 risks being a step back rather than a step forward.