A Better World - Volume 5

[ ] 18 A B et t er W or ld Getting land rights on the map — a stable foundation for sustainable communities Amy Coughenour Betancourt, Chief Executive Officer; Madaleine Weber, Communications Director; Frank Pichel, Chief Programs Officer, Cadasta Foundation L and and property rights are not usually listed among the top priorities for human rights or development goals — but they should be. Having a secure place to call home, without fear of expulsion, is a basic human right. Secure land tenure is foundational to sustainable develop- ment and unlocks a host of development gains across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Land tenure is linked to the alleviation of poverty and food insecurity and to the increased economic empowerment of women. Without clear and secure property rights, residents cannot show proof of address, obtain credit, enrol their chil- dren in school, open a bank account, or access a range of government or private sector services. Women are disproportionately affected by a lack of secure land tenure due to weak laws, customs and practices that deny women their rights and deprive them and their families of the documented benefits of secure land tenure. 1 Homes, land, resources and properties serve as the foun- dation for individual and societal economic and social well-being, as well as for our ability to thrive. It is there- fore evident as to why 13 out of the 17 SDGs — including 59 targets and 65 indicators — relate to land and resource rights. Goal 11, focused on making cities and human settle- ments more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cannot be realized unless the issue of land rights is addressed. Left out of formal land systems By some estimates, 70 per cent of the world’s population lives without securely documented land and resource rights. 2 Unfortunately, governments of developing countries are, for the most part, failing to cost-effectively and equitably docu- ment and manage land rights for the most vulnerable people. It is estimated that one in four people worldwide feels inse- cure about their land tenure. 3 Obtaining formal land titles is out of reach for many reasons, including inadequate regis- try and cadastral systems; limited numbers of professional surveyors; overly bureaucratic and manual processes; high transaction costs and corruption; bottlenecks created by vested interests; limited access to government offices; and lack of political will. For example, in Uganda, figures taken in 2015 indicate that, given the number of surveyors in the land office, it would take 1,000 years to document the 15 million unregistered parcels of land in the country. 4 This scenario is common across continents and countries, leaving the people and communities that depend on their land highly vulnerable to evictions, land disputes, land grabs, illegal extraction of natural resources, and the effects of unchecked development and climate change. Addressing the data gaps in cities In urban and peri-urban areas, land vulnerability is threat- ening efforts to build sustainable cities that keep pace with the burgeoning global urbanization rate. Almost half of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements (also known as slums or shanty towns) where they are socially and politically excluded and lack access to basic public services and amenities. Underlying the many complexities of unregulated urban population growth is a lack of basic data that could otherwise provide citizens and governments with information to plan and make decisions. Communities and planners need to map data on the number and location of people; location of buildings and infrastructure; type of ownership; residents’ livelihood and income data; and whether and where they have access to educa- tion, health care, water, sanitation and other services. Traditional top-down land administration approaches to documenting and recording property rights are not keeping pace with increased demand for land and data. Lack of data increases informality, corruption, and the potential for conflict. Furthermore, it limits government’s ability to Image: Cadasta Foundation Informal waterfront settlement, Port Harcourt, Nigeria