Promoting Land Rights in Vietnam: A Multi-sector Advocacy Coalition Approach

TitlePromoting Land Rights in Vietnam: A Multi-sector Advocacy Coalition Approach
Annotated RecordAnnotated
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsWells-Dang A
Secondary TitleAnnual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty
Place PublishedWashington D. C
Key themesAgriculturalModernization, Conversion-FoodSecurity, Policy-law

Land rights have become highly contested in Vietnam in recent years. Vietnam‟s land endowment is one of the lowest in the world: each agricultural household holds, on average, less than 0.5 hectare. Access to land is critical to social and economic development in the future. The national priority on “industrialization and modernization” has placed new demands on agricultural and forest land for urban-industrial expansion. The high level of public concern over land tenure and its links to political and social stability have led to widespread calls for revision of the 2003 Land Law. This paper contributes to the conference thematic area of “Securing land rights and improving land use at the grassroots” by presenting the initial results of advocacy on the Land Law and land rights conducted by a multi-stakeholder coalition including Oxfam, Vietnamese domestic NGOs, government research institutes, and media. The paper begins with a political economy analysis of land rights in Vietnam, including an analysis of the draft revised Land Law, with particular focus on appropriation of agricultural land and protection of ethnic minority forest land. Next, the paper describes local and provincial consultation on the draft law conducted by the Oxfam-supported coalition and its initial results.


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Document Type

Conference Proceedings


Overall relevance: 

This report was produced during the final stages of consultations on the 2013 Land Law in Vietnam. It shows how central land rights have been, and continue to be, in social and political discussions, movements and outcomes in this land-constrained country. The report contributes a political economy analysis of land rights in Vietnam, first through a political history of land in the upheavals that Vietnam has undergone since the mid-20th century, and then through an analysis of the conflicts and various interests brought together around land. A key set of land issues are identified: land use planning, corruption, agricultural land conversion, and ethnic minority issues associated with land. The report also provides a critical analysis of the draft 2013 Land Law

Key Themes: 
  • Land dispossession/land grabbing - Land dispossession can occur either through compulsory acquisition or voluntary agreement, and can be negotiated either by investors or by State authorities on their behalf. Investors have usually preferred compulsory acquisition managed by State authorities, with implications for the levels of compensation for affected farmers
  • Land distribution: concentration/dispersion, landlessness - Recent trends in land conversion and associated land acquisition in Vietnam has seen a concentration of land holding. This has emerged despite the unusually egalitarian allocation of land under the 1993 Land Law, based on family size and agricultural labour. A range of processes explain the concentration of land, which is highest in the Mekong Delta. These include compulsory acquisition and displacement of ethnic minorities by new settlers. The 2013 Land Law greatly increases the maximum size of individual land holding from 3 to 30 hectares, depending on type and location of land. In part this is in support of assumed economies of scale in agricultural production and the official position that agricultural labour is increasingly unproductive on small farms compared with industrial enterprises
  • Land policy and land law - The draft 2013 Land Law in Vietnam is the fifth iteration of the Land Law since the first was issued in 1987, and the third since long-term land leases were issued under the 1993 Land Law. Because of the significance of land in Vietnam, the Land Law has been described as the second most important legal instrument after the Constitution. Like other policy in Vietnam, land legislation has arisen in part from grassroots-based practice and demands, despite the centralised governance of this one-party state. Oxfam has been involved in a process of grassroots-level consultation over key provisions of the new Land Law. A number of outstanding concerns remain, including land appropriation and compensation policies associated with land dispossession for economic purposes, imbalances in rights between farmers and investors, continuing restrictions on use of “rice-designated land”, independence of market based pricing for compensation, and ensuring land access for ethnic minorities
Research basis: 

The report is based on a broad-ranging review of existing literature, documentation and legislation of land-related issues in Vietnam. It includes relevant historical and socio-political analyses. It is also based on direct involvement with the consultation process on the 2013 draft Land Law