World Bank to Support Land Administration in Laos

Land holders across the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), or Laos as it is more commonly known, including some of the most vulnerable households, are expected to benefit from improved land administration and titling thanks to a project approved by the World Bank.

The $31 million Enhancing Systematic Land Registration Project will be run by the government’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment over the next five years. Its objective is to modernise land administration and scale up land registration to support the country’s aim of extending the benefits of recognised land rights to more of the Laos population.

‘Ordinary people want to know that their rights to land are secure, and that is why this project meets a real need,’ said World Bank Lao PDR Country Manager, Alex Kremer. ‘Land rights that are transparent and fair increase harmony in society, reduce disputes, and give people confidence to invest.’

Land-use rights are enshrined in Lao law and the Constitution. The Land Law passed in 2020 recognises the rights of individuals, customary land users, legal entities, and collectives to hold and use land.

However, of an estimated 3.5 million land parcels in Lao PDR, only about 1.5 million parcels have been registered and titled, and these are mostly in towns and cities. The government has set a target of issuing another 1.2 million titles by 2025 but faces various challenges. Authorities have needed considerable additional resources to scale up land registration activities and reduce the costs of delivering titles, a procedure that is currently too expensive for many land holders.

The new project will invest in modernising land administration by making services faster, digitising procedures and by using technology to record and maintain land information. It will also improve authorities’ capacity to sustain land registration and administration services over the long term and protect land records from fire or flooding.

The project will build on the work of two previous World Bank-funded Lao land titling projects that ran from 1996 to 2009 and issued over half a million land titles. In addition to increasing the number of land use certificates issued, the project will create and expand the maps that show all land holdings across the country and support the further development of land policies and regulations.

Co-financing of over $6.3 million for the project comes from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, which will support activities including land registration, enhanced engagement with the public, handling of grievances, and improved service delivery.

In addition, the German development bank KfW is providing parallel financing of €7 million through a grant to accelerate land registration in four northern provinces, Xieng Khouang, Houaphan, Oudomxay, and Xayaboury, through a land management project.