The Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty convened on 14-19th March 2016. Due to the support of the Regional Studies Association, I was able to attend. This report is intended to provide a summary of how the grant helped to grow my experience as a young researcher and practitioner.
This is the 17th time that the conference has been held, with the number of attendees rising each year – this year 1,403 participants registered. These included representatives from governments, civil society, academia, the development community, and the private sector. The conference had approximately 180 different sessions to choose from, with up to 12 sessions being held simultaneously. There was a good mix of presentations, masterclasses and side events.
Through attending up to 6 sessions daily, I was able to successfully achieve my objectives for going to the conference. These were: firstly – to get updated on most recent developments in the land sector, secondly – to develop professional connections, and finally – to further promote the RSA by sharing publications and information.
From community participation to taxation, changes in technology were evidently making big changes to the land industry. One which I found most fascinating, was new technologies developed by the World Bank to allow for real-time data streams, such as rainfall for the past 24 hours, or data on current regional wind patterns, and how these can be used to understand, influence and predict future land-related issues. These visuals were stunning. Work of individuals and NGOs provided an update on some of the best practices for work in the field. This included new publications to consolidate and update previous methods of improving the security of tenure for poor people and communities. I found this really interesting and I shall use this update to inform my future work in the field.
I was surprised at the diverse range of people that attended the conference. There were researchers, professionals and practitioners from a vast range of backgrounds. These included people from over one hundred different countries, all with extremely different views and expertise to bring to the table. This made coffee breaks and lunch times extremely interesting. I was able to connect with people from professions that I had not considered relevant to the land sector. Through discussion and good-humoured debate, I was able to broaden my understanding of the extremely wide nature of land issues. For example a discussion with a sociologist from an Irish charity who shared with me the harmful mental health implications for women involved in land disputes. This is just one example of how varied and profound these conversations were, through which I now have a deeper appreciation of how important this work is.
Having met so many different people from around the world, I was pleased that I could share the work of the RSA with all because of the organisation’s far-reaching, and wide-ranging extent of regional and international issues. Although many academics had already heard of the work of the organisation, newer researchers shared their interest and excitement of the opportunity to be involved in our organisation. One that actively supports its members throughout the research and the dissemination of research process.
All in all, this was an excellent experience, one which would not have been possible without the kind support of the RSA.