The recent escalation of private investments in land raises questions about the way such ventures impact on local economies and land tenure, and has led to increasing calls for better land governance. Many international institutions and development agencies support the implementation of policies and programmes to formalise land rights, which are supposed to address the development challenges faced by various countries. But how can this be done when there are multiple norms and forms of land tenure? What are the options for formalising rights? And what do we know about the outcomes of such policies? This paper draws on the research findings and work undertaken by members of the ‘Land Tenure and Development’ Technical Committee and its partners, highlights the political issues involved in formalising land rights, identifies the conditions for successful, sustainable and inclusive formalisation policies, and proposes possible courses of action that policy actors and their partners can use to enhance their procedures and strategies.