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Partnering to Deliver Land Titles, Justice in Honduras

This post was co-authored by Ellie Hutchison, Partners Worldwide Communications Specialist, and Katerina Parsons, the Research and Communications Associate at AJS

Recently, the Honduran Property Institute issued hundreds of new land titles to their rightful owners. After a year-long stalemate, with an estimated one million unregistered plots of land in Honduras, this is a significant victory.

This may not seem like exciting news to readers in North America, but it changes everything for people living in poverty in Honduras. To them, land titles are much more than a piece of paper.

Though families often reside in homes for decades, many do not have the land titles to prove ownership. This threatens their security, stability, safety, and familial inheritance. In addition, it makes it impossible to access credit without a title as proof of loan collateral.

In short, lack of land title distribution leaves the vulnerable more vulnerable and the poor even poorer.

One of our partners in Honduras, the Association for a More Just Society (AJS), tackles this issue head-on by working with the Honduran Property Institute—whose responsibility it is to distribute land titles.

But historically, the Property Institute has been one of the government’s most mismanaged and corrupt institutions. This leaves thousands of Honduran families vulnerable without a legal title to their land and property.

To address this, Anajansi Alvarado and Gilda Espinal from AJS’s Land Rights project work alongside the Property Institute. They offer guidance and expertise, with the ultimate goal of improving the land titling process and increasing organizational transparency.

To aid in this process, AJS developed a simple tool: the Property Institute Oversight Index. It measures the Property Institute’s growth and improvements and provides accountability for reform through auditing, investigations, and partnering.

Partners Worldwide has worked with AJS on this project by connecting them with a team of volunteer lawyers.

The team of lawyers work alongside AJS to “provide healthy pressure and proper assistance” that will result in real changes in the land titling process.

However, the project has its battles. Kurt VerBeek, co-founder of AJS notes, “The most significant issue our staff has encountered in this project is the corruption and incompetence in the Honduran Property Institute. Until recently almost every title they produced had mistakes that would lead to problems for the families holding those titles. ”

In fact, when the Oversight Index first evaluated the Property Institute, they scored just 19/100 in terms of transparency and accountability. 

Despite this, VerBeek has hope. Recently, the Property Institute has responded to pressure from AJS and has made many improvements.

This response is evident in the most recent group of land titles issued. It is the first group the Land Rights project saw through from start to finish. AJS helped ensure thoroughness and accuracy on every title so families will fully benefit from them.

AJS reports that the Property Institute “recently finished almost 10,000 titles with astonishingly zero errors.”

Last year, the Oversight Index conducted a second evaluation of the Property Institute. This time, they scored 69/100 in terms of transparency and accountability—a great improvement from their first evaluation.

VerBeek reminds us that “Honduras will not transform solely on the basis of land titling, but it is one more step in the direction of holding the government accountable to meeting the needs of the poor and vulnerable.”

Whether it is a leap or a small step, partnering to advocate for the vulnerable moves us all in the right direction.

Please pray for our partner AJS, our volunteer team of lawyers, and the Honduras Property Institute as they work together to secure justice for all Hondurans.