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  • With the majority of the world’s population lacking secure land and property rights, land is at the center of development challenges.  COVID-19 is further compounding the vulnerabilities of populations living in informality.

    Eliminating poverty and boosting shared prosperity; increasing food security; facilitating urbanization; addressing climate change; increasing resilience and reducing fragility; reducing inequality and exclusion of vulnerable groups; and protecting the rights of minors and women in health crisis, all depend on secure land and property rights.

    Reducing the number of poor living on less than $1.90 per day requires a 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 the 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 securing land and property rights through systematic campaigns to record all land rights and issue land certificates. Particulate attention should be paid to women’s land rights, vulnerable groups, and Indigenous Peoples.

    Globally, significantly more men than women own land. Across 10 countries in Africa, only 12% of women, compared to 31% of men, report owning land individually. Countries outside Africa reveal similar patterns in the percentage of land owned solely by women, such as Peru (13%), Honduras (14%), Nicaragua (20%), Bangladesh (23%), and Haiti (24%). Pandemic outbreaks are known to endanger minors’ and women’s right to inherit land and property. Securing women’s access, control and ownership over land and property that they rely on for food security, housing, security, and family welfare is key to empowering women and achieving the SDGs.

    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. In addition, it is essential to protect property rights for displace people and refugees to allow for speedy reconstruction after conflict and sustaining the peace. Regularization of land rights in informal settlements is key for reducing marginalization, improving services, and improving resilience against pandemics.

    Pressure on land rights is growing. Over 4 billion people – or 55% 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 is an important pillar for agriculture and food security. Research has shown that secure tenure provides incentives for farmers to invest in land, borrow money for agricultural inputs and improvements to their land, and enable land sale and rental markets to ensure full utilization of land.  According to the FAO (State of Food and Agriculture 2010 report), closing the gender gap in agriculture could raise total agricultural output by 2.5-4%, which could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17%.

    Secure tenure and accurate up-to-date 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 (0.6% of GDP versus 2.2% for industrialized countries). Good land records allow the application of mass valuation systems providing a way towards equitable and efficient property taxes. Comprehensive inventory is key for effective management of public properties and the ability to leverage them as assets.

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

    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 up-to-date land records has a direct impact on financing and implementation of public infrastructure investments, impacting safety, public health, access to energy solutions and extractives, and access to markets and trade. 

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

    Last Updated: Apr 16, 2020

  • The World Bank is working to address land tenure insecurity through land administration and tenure security projects, analytical work, sharing good practices across countries and regions, and specialized 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, both collective and individual, whether they be smallholders, medium-, or large-scale producers.

    Aligned with the World Bank Group Gender Strategy, the World Bank and several partners launched a global campaign  “Stand For Her Land” to ensure women’s equal access and secure rights to land and property. The World Bank also supports the land rights of smallholders and Indigenous Peoples, displaced people and refugees.

    The World Bank is supporting countries in making land and geospatial datasets available for use by the private sector, local government, civil society and others to accelerate growth, improve 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 – through the provision of a historical repository of pre-disaster land use and occupancy, as well as a unified geospatial platform for planning, monitoring, and implementing responses.

    Comprehensive land records reduce informality and marginalization, increasing resilience to a health crisis that can cause loss of rights, territorial disputes, and displacement.  Joint geospatial information enables effective epidemiological surveillance systems and coordinated 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 $1.5 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 the Philippines 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 India.
    • Regularizing urban land rights in Tanzania and Pakistan.

    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 Palestine, 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:

    Last Updated: Apr 16, 2020

  • 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, the speed of regularization of land rights multiplied from 1 million to over 9 million land parcels per year between 2014 and 2019;
    • 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: Apr 16, 2020




Sameh Wahba

Global Director, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice

Maitreyi Bordia Das

Manager, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, World Bank