• With only 30% of land rights registered or recorded worldwide, land is at the center of development challenges.

    Eliminating poverty and boosting shared prosperity; increasing food security; facilitating urbanization; addressing climate change; increasing resilience and reducing fragility; and reducing inequality and exclusion of vulnerable groups all depend on secure land rights.

    Reducing the number of poor living on less than $1.90 per day requires focus on leveraging physical assets, by improving security of private, customary, and common land rights, so that more people can invest in and better manage their resources for future generations, start or grow a business, partner with private sector, and improve their livelihoods.

    Improving tenure security for both men and women responds to the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) target of “all men and women having equal rights to ownership and control over land by 2030.” Reaching this goal will require investing in independent and transferable rights to land for women in particular. Without a legal protection, women’s property inheritance remains often endangered and cumbersome.

    More secure collective rights to land and other resources are also important for Indigenous Peoples and marginalized groups. Strengthening communal land rights of vulnerable populations does not only respond to basic norms of equality, but has positive outcomes on human capital and development.

    Pressure on land rights is growing. Over 4 billion people or 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas; by 2045 the number of people living in cities will increase to 6 billion, adding 2 billion more urban residents that require security, infrastructure and services. Secure tenure with complete land records and geospatial data are prerequisites for managing sustainable urban growth and empowering dwellers.

    Secure tenure and covering land records enable value-based property taxes, which can contribute significantly to local government revenues and services, but this resource is commonly underutilized in low income countries (0.4% of GDP versus 35.5% in middle income countries). Good land records allow the application of mass valuation systems providing a way towards equitable and efficient property taxes.

    Secure tenure and good land governance reduce conflicts and social tension, and tenure security is a pressing need in the immediate post-conflict period. Failing to resolve land conflicts affect economic performance and prolong and create social conflicts.

    Investment in secure tenure is a direct investment in disaster recovery ability and resilience. The more secure, formal, and reconcilable the rights and systems are, the less vulnerable the land users are for eviction or loss of livelihoods in the case of a disaster. Also, comprehensive and secure land records offer critical protection of rights when population is displaced by a disaster.

    Insecure tenure and lack of covering land records tangibly hinder financing and implementation of public infrastructure investments impacting safety, public health, access energy solutions and extractives, and access to markets and trade. 

    Securing tenure has become more affordable, feasible, and accessible than ever before in the history by digitalization, automation, new geospatial technologies, and crowdsourcing. However, excessive requirements, lack of standardization, conservative professions, change resistance, and restrictive policies limit progress unnecessarily. 

    Last Updated: Oct 03, 2018

  • The World Bank is working to address land tenure insecurity through land administration projects, analytical work, and technical assistance.

    The World Bank supports government policies that recognize and record all forms of legitimate tenure: public and private, rural and urban, formal and customary, including those of pastoralists or others with weak rights, collective and individual, whether they be smallholders, medium-, or large-scale producers.

    The World Bank pays particular attention to the land rights of smallholders, women, and Indigenous Peoples, as well as their economic empowerment.  

    The World Bank is increasingly working to open land and geospatial datasets for acceleration of growth through businesses, and improving own-source local revenue creation, location-based analysis and decision-making, urban management, climate change responses, and resilience.

    The World Bank recognizes that national land administration systems and spatial data infrastructure are fundamental to disaster risk reduction and response – by the provision of historical repository of pre-disaster land use and occupancy, location-based information as well as a unified geospatial platform for planning, monitoring, and implementing responses.

    Achieving the SDG target of “all men and women having equal rights to ownership and control over land by 2030” will require a systematic effort to increase the poor households with secure property rights and an increase of investment by the global community.

    Therefore, a substantial new investment program on improving security of tenure on a mass scale in developing countries is needed. To that end, the World Bank is engaging with partners in preparation of a “Land 2030 Global Initiative” to enhance the commitment of countries and mobilize resources to achieve ambitious targets of securing land and property rights by 2030.

    World Bank Operations

    The World Bank invests in security of tenure by assisting countries to recognize equitable land and property rights for all; improve policies and laws; title, survey, and register land; resolve land conflicts; and develop digital land administration services.

    The World Bank’s focus is on employing land records and infrastructure for digital services that make transactions more transparent; promote growth; enhance planning and development; and improve equitable revenue collection, state and public asset management, and environmental protection.

    The World Bank is working on land tenure as well as land and geospatial infrastructure and systems in dozens of countries across the world, with an investment of approximately $1.2 billion in commitments, impacting millions of land holders in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. The countries and activities are manifold and include:

    • Consolidating and strengthening land administration and management systems in Ghana and Uzbekistan;
    • Developing a national Multipurpose Land Information System in Vietnam and Colombia;
    • Improving Serbia’s and Moldova’s real property management systems;
    • Improving regularization, titling, and registry services in Nicaragua and Mozambique
    • Improving the State Property Management in Turkey and Kuwait.

    Working on the frontier of technological advances, the World Bank is also investing in new geospatial technologies. 

    • In Tanzania, Kosovo, and Indonesia the World Bank is piloting the use of new technologies, including drones, to map and register property rights.
    • In Croatia, Vietnam, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries, the World Bank is supporting the establishment of National Spatial Data Infrastructures to improve decision-making for investment and natural resource management.
    • In Lebanon, Serbia, and Turkey, the World Bank supports the development of automated mass property valuation systems for more equitable and efficient property taxation, management of state assets, and transparent property markets.

    Investing in secure tenure and land administration can generate revenue. In Uganda, one dollar invested in land administration generated three dollars in local revenue. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, based on research of 13 land registration projects, the benefit to the economy of a single registration was over $16 in revenue.

    In recently years, the World Bank has increasingly invested in securing land rights in countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV).

    International Engagements

    The World Bank is working at the global and regional levels to support tenure rights, including:

    Organizing the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, which presents the latest research and innovations in policies and good practice on land governance around the world. The theme of the 2019 conference is Catalyzing Innovation

    Last Updated: Oct 03, 2018

  • Some notable examples of completed World Bank-financed projects in support of land governance include:

    • In Brazil, 55,000 poor rural families gained access to about 1.2 million hectares of land;
    • In Bolivia, over 580,000 hectares of land were collectively titled as Original Communal Territories to Indigenous Peoples groups;
    • In Bosnia and Herzegovina, property transaction time was reduced from several months to five days or less during the first land registration project;
    • In Cote d’Ivoire, a $50 million project is helping the country build the capacity and institutions for implementing a national rural land tenure security program, directly addressing the inequitable land policies and practices that caused a prolonged period of armed conflict, institutional decline, and civil strife.
    • In Indonesia, post-tsunami recovery efforts in Aceh included community mapping and issuing over 222,000 land title certificates, about one-third going to women;
    • In Kosovo, the Real Estate Cadastre and Registration project has recorded land use or ownership rights for 182,000 people, and increased the coverage of land administration services to 77.4% of Kosovo’s population;
    • In FYR Macedonia, more than 50% of land, or 1.37 million hectares, was recorded; and registration of transactions is now done 10 times faster than before the investment.
    • In Malawi, 15,000 families were assisted in acquiring access to land;
    • In Nicaragua, 1 million hectares of indigenous land were demarcated, titled, and registered, covering roughly 20% of the country’s territory;
    • In Russia, in one year, the Cadastral Map eService received 15 million online visitors who averaged 29 minutes on the site and viewed 25 million pages; and
    • In Vietnam, 5 million land use certificates have been issued under the First Vietnam Land Project, 60% of which were issued in the names of both, husband and wife;

    Last Updated: Oct 03, 2018




Anna Wellenstein

Director of Strategy and Operations, Social, Urban, Rural, and Resilience Global Practice