SDGs: International Coalition Develops Indicator to Monitor Implementation of Secure Land Rights

Secure land rights for all are a critical component of a transformational agenda, such as the member states of the United Nations wish to establish with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the end of September. Secure land tenure supports livelihoods through increased food sovereignty and by increasing incentives for the sustainable management of soil, while facilitating social justice and the societal integration of marginalised groups with inadequately protected access to land. The IASS has joined forces with a broad coalition of global and national organisations, civil society, and experts, including the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Women’s Major Group (WMG), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), to advocate for a land rights indicator for the implementation of the SDGs. This indicator would capture gender equality and progress of all people’s on-the-ground rights to land, property, and natural resources.

Protecting people's land rights is also about measuring them in the right way. (c) Matheus ZanellaProtecting people's land rights is also about measuring them in the right way. (c) Matheus Zanella

This  land rights indicator is vital to four of the seventeen sustainable development goals, including ending poverty (goal 1), ensuring food security (goal 2), achieving gender equality and empowering women (goal 5), and making cities and human settlements inclusive (goal 11). The land rights indicator recommended by the international coalition would assess the „percentage of women, men, indigenous peoples, and local communities (IPLCs) with secure rights to land, property, and natural resources, measured by a) percentage with legally documented or recognised evidence of tenure, and b) percentage who perceive their rights are recognised and protected”.

The recommended indicator focuses on the twin aims of tracking legal and administrative progress by governments in recognising secure rights to land and of people-defined progress on the quality of land rights. Thus not only the documentation, but also the perceptions of the affected people are to be taken into consideration and analysed. In doing so, this indicator satisfies the request in the recently finalised UN declaration that global indicators maintain the level of ambition of the agenda.

While critical to inform policy and to track progress, there is no globally available, nationally representative, sex-disaggregated data on land rights. Nevertheless, the supporters are convinced that the data void can be addressed and that the recommended land rights indicator is feasible, even in the short term.