By:Mariam Agyeman Gyasi Jawhary(Mrs)[1] 


I wish to commence this presentation by issuing a disclaimer. I make no claim to legal scholarship. I do not know what criteria the Faculty of Law applied when they decided to place me in the hallowed ranks of legal scholarship. However, having been manipulated and emotionally manoeuvred into accepting this invitation, I shall endeavour to discharge the task I have been entrusted with by sharing my thoughts with you on the topic:  Land Management as a component of sustainable development: The Role of Traditional Leadership in the Kumasi Traditional Area.

Given the composition of this audience I can assure you the language will not be too technical and I will be keeping it as simple as possible. I will be looking at what constitutes sustainable development, the history and trajectory of sustainable development, Asante customary tenure and land management structures and the enhanced role traditional leadership in the Kumasi Traditional Area can play in land management as a component of sustainable development.

I will set out that chiefs are important in the emergence of the private property acquisition since they are recognised as custodians of stool land, who have to rights to dispose of stool land and issue the relevant documents evidencing grants or alienations or disposition made by them to prospective developers in their capacity as allodial and sub-allodial owners of stool land.

This presentation will show that under the current legal regime, although the allodial interest is deemed to be the ultimate interest in land, its strength appears to have been broken by constitutional and statutory derogation from and constraints on the same.

I will make a quick comparison of the institutional arrangements made by government for land management in relation to traditional land tenure and question whether they do not have any impact on effective customary land management and development.

I will be arguing that the policy reform pursued over-strengthen the process of private acquisition of land as opposed to effective land management. This is due to the neoliberal framework of market governance of land which in some situations ignores the people in whose interest land should be managed.

I will set out the political economy of the role of the chief towards impactful/transformative development.

I will be guided by the question of whether the chief is truly a development agent? And if so, what specific role can they play to promote not just development but impactful/transformative development that will reflect in the lives of their people.

Chair, I will argue that chiefs must play an enhanced role in land management as opposed to a one-off disposition of land by virtue of private acquisition.

All countries including Ghana need to be able to meet their citizenry’s basic needs of employment, food, energy, water and sanitation. Sustainable development principles encourage us to conserve and enhance our resources. Indeed, sustainability is important for economic growth and sustainable development practices help to protect our natural resources, the protection of which resources is very crucial to the preservation of life. Economies rely heavily on trade, much of which depends on natural resources to produce goods or provide services. The goal of sustainable development is to secure good living opportunities for present and future generations. Article 36 of the 1992 Constitution sets out the State’s responsibility to guarantee efficient management of the national economy so people can exercise and enjoy their economic rights and the ownership of property among others.

Sustainable development is an organising principle that aims to meet human development goals while also enabling natural systems to provide necessary resources and ecosystem services to humans.

Sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present, without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In other words, it is a way of organising society by which it can exist for a long duration without compromising the availability of resources for future generations for sustainable development. Factors such as preserving the environment and natural resources along with maintaining social and economic equality need to be followed.

It is not a new concept and has been followed by many cultures over the course of history with the aim of maintaining a balance between man and nature as well as the economy. Sustainable development looks to create a balance between economic, environmental and social needs.

The objectives of Sustainable Development are:

i. Economic Growth – for creating an economy that is sustainable and growing in the right direction.

ii.Protecting the environment – this objective focuses on contribution by humans towards protecting and enhancing the natural environment by minimising pollution and waste, also working towards reducing the global carbon footprint and

iii.Social Inclusion – this objective focuses on providing the facility of housing for future generations and assisting in creating healthy, strong and vibrant global connections.


Why the need for Sustainable Development?

The importance of sustainable development resounds in the following:

i.The judicious use of available resources and working towards maintaining the ecological balance;

ii.To prevent degradation of the environment and laying emphasis on protecting the environment; and

iii.To prevent over-exploitation of resources.


The concept of sustainable development formed the basis of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The summit marked the first international attempt to draw up action plans and strategies for moving towards a more sustainable pattern of development. Sustainable development was conceived of as the solution to the problems of environmental degradation discussed by the Brundtland Commission in the 1987 report titled Our Common Future.

The remit of the Brundtland Report was to investigate the numerous concerns that had been raised in previous decades namely that human activity was having severe and negative impact on the planet and that patterns of growth and development would be unsustainable if they continued unchecked.

The concept of sustainable development received its first major international recognition in 1972 at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm. The term was not referred to explicitly, nonetheless, the international community agreed to the notion now fundamental sustainable development that both development and the environment hitherto addressed as separate issues could be managed in a mutually beneficial way.

The term was popularised 15 years later in Our Common Future, the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development which included what is described the “classic” definition of sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

It was not until the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also known as the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, however, that major world leaders recognised sustainable development as the major challenge the world faces today.


In 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also known as Global Goals were adopted by all United Nations Member states. The goals and targets are universal in that they apply to all countries around the world.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with their 169 targets, form the core of the 2030 Agenda. They balance the economic, social and ecological dimensions of sustainable development and place the fight against poverty and sustainable development on the same agenda for the first time.

In June 2022, world leaders met to review the journey from Stockholm 1972 to Stockholm+50. At that meeting world leaders recognised that no single entity can realise the goals of sustainable development. The meeting resolved “that humanity’s very future depends on solidarity, trust and ability to work together as a global family to achieve a common goal. No community or country however powerful, can solve its challenges alone. Multilateral action has achieved an enormous amount over the past 75 years. Our Common Agenda must be a starting point for ideas and initiatives that build on these achievements. In much the same way, the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in our development agenda must be enhanced and harnessed towards the achievement of social justice and economic opportunity. There is a need to work together for our common agenda.”

The Our Common Agenda in sum is an agenda of action designed to accelerate the implementation of existing agreements including the Sustainable Development Goals. On 9th March 2023 the United Nations Secretary- General issued a policy brief dubbed “Future Generations”. The policy brief contains suggestions for practical steps to fulfil member states’ long-standing commitment to meet the demands of the present in a way that safeguards the interests of future generations and preserves their ability to effectively enjoy all human rights.

“What we do for future generations is also what we need to do for ourselves which is to take challenges and opportunities that lie in the future far more seriously than we currently do”. There is no trade-off between meeting the needs of the present and taking into account the needs of the future. Conscious efforts to consider the future will leave generations better off. The brief defines “future generations” as “all people who will come after us”. Their lives and eventual ability to effectively enjoy all human rights and meet their needs are already influenced by our actions today. According to the policy brief, these people are distinct from and by current demographic projections will be vastly more numerous than present generations. More than 10 billion people are projected to be born before the end of this century alone, predominantly in countries that are currently low or middle income”.

“The point of a focus on future generations is that they are not yet alive to tell us what they need or think. There is a great deal about them that we cannot presume to know. But we do know that an obligation to act in a way that preserves their ability to effectively enjoy all human rights and determine their own needs in the future has already been enshrined in countless international agreements and in the very concept of sustainable development defined as meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”.


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