“Squatting” as a Strategy for Land Settlement and Sustainable Development

  • Jean Besson
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


Informal occupation or “squatting” is an escalating phenomenon in the postcolonial world. As Robert Home and Hilary Lim observed in 2004, “The millions of people in the world who lack access to land where they can find secure shelter present a great global challenge to law, governance and civil society. About half of the world’s population (three billion people) now live in urban areas, and nearly a billion are estimated to be living in informal, illegal settlements, mostly in the urban and peri-urban areas of less developed countries.”1 At the turn of the millennium, Hernando de Soto argued that such poverty can only be reduced by replacing customary land tenure with legal property rights,2 and (as Home and Lim summarize) that such property rights “are the hidden infrastructure that can help achieve sustainable development goals.”3


Land Settlement Indigenous Knowledge Caribbean Region Sacred Site Squat Settlement 
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  1. 1.
    Robert Home and Hilary Lim, “Introduction: Demystifying The Mystery of Capital,’ ” in Robert Home and Hilary Lim (eds.), Demystifying the Mystery of Capital: Land Tenure and Poverty in Africa and the Caribbean (London: Cavendish, 2004), 1. Informal occupation is also found in the so-called First World; e.g., in 2005 a London Borough Council evicted squatters (including a Rastafarian) after a 30-year dispute over the informal occupation of council housing (BBC TV News, November 29, 2005). Likewise, in 2006, a court ruling evicted Irish “travelers” or gypsies from council property in Yorkshire, England (BBC TV News, March 8, 2006).Google Scholar
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    Sidney W. Mintz, “On the Concept of a Third World,” Dialectical Anthropology 1 (1976): 377–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Jean Besson and Janet Momsen 2007

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  • Jean Besson

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