With only 30% of land rights are 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 SDG’s 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 to secure tenure is a direct investment to 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.