When President Obama made history by becoming the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar, he caught the attention of inaugural Kravis Prize winner Roy Prosterman.
Prosterman founded Landesa to advocate for international land law and policy reform, and his latest contribution to Landesa’s Field Focus blog applauds President Obama’s remarks on the importance of land rights.
Prosterman’s post noted that the president’s Nov. 19 speech at the University of Yangon drew a clear connection between the right to self-government and property rights – and the fact that the two together can help lead to prosperity.
In his speech, the president said:
“When ordinary people have a say in their own future, then your land can’t just be taken away from you. And that’s why reforms must ensure that the people of this nation can have that most fundamental of possessions—the right to own the title to the land on which you live and on which you work.”
That notion is central to Landesa’s mission and its work, and Prosterman’s blog post asserts that securing farmers’ rights to the land they till and the crops they raise is key to fulfilling Myanmar’s agricultural promise and improving rural livelihoods:
“If Myanmar does not protect the land rights of its largely rural citizenry who have labored for years in their fields with government control of their planting and marketing, and address the further issue of its large population of completely landless rural poor, it cannot build a solid foundation for sustainable development that will lift the country out of extreme poverty.”
His post also quotes President Obama’s offer of assistance to Myanmar’s people and its leaders as they seek to recover after decades of repression and hunger, despite the nation’s abundant minerals and fertile soil:
“It’s not enough to trade a prison of powerlessness for the pain of an empty stomach. But history shows that governments of the people and by the people and for the people are far more powerful in delivering prosperity. And that’s the partnership we seek with you.”
Find the complete post here.