1.secure tenure rights-01.png

Commitment 1

Photo: IFAD

Photo: IFAD


Secure Tenure Rights

Respect, protect, and strengthen the land rights of women and men living in poverty, ensuring that no one is deprived of the use and control of the land on which their well-being and human dignity depend, including through eviction, expulsion, or exclusion, and with compulsory changes to tenure undertaken only in line with international law and standards on human rights.

Commitment 1 is overarching and cross-cutting in nature; all ILC activities and actions contribute to secure tenure rights for people who live on and from the land. The 10 commitments are an expression of our common vision, and guide ILC’s work at all levels under our Strategy for 2016–2021. They provide a benchmark for all members working towards the realisation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGTs) and other internationally agreed instruments.

With the endorsement of the VGGTs in 2012, which have since become a global reference document, ILC gained a tool for its work on people-centred land governance ILC has embraced the VGGTs as a benchmark for policy and practice and has worked at all levels to contribute to their implementation. The Coalition co-convened the VGGT+5 Forum with FAO in May 2017, organising sessions on community-based and indigenous land tenure, effective national multi-stakeholder platforms and monitoring, and contributing to the outcome document.

The VGGTs are now being used to support land governance reforms in a number of countries with National Engagement Strategies (NES), including Cambodia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, the Philippines, Togo, Nepal, Madagascar, Cameroon, and Peru.

NES processes are complemented by Commitment-Based Initiatives (CBIs) and global advocacy, as well as capacity building on tools and regional or global instruments that cover elements of people -centred land governance. As a global network, ILC has an important role in bringing diverse and often under-represented perspectives from its membership into global level discussions that have an impact on land policy and governance at country level. ILC convenes, consults, and encourages the participation, advocacy, influencing activities, and policy messages of members in global policy spaces to make sure land rights are at the forefront of discussions.

Among ILC’s priorities on Commitment 1 is its work on land and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for which 2017 marked a significant milestone. ILC has mobilised members and partners to highlight the importance of land rights for achieving sustainable development. Land was high on the global SDG agenda, including at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and the three key land indicators (1.4.2, 5.a.1, and 5.a.2) were reclassified to Tier II. This success was the outcome of a strong and collaborative effort by many ILC members and partners, including the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN)/UN-Habitat, the World Bank, FAO, the Global Donor Working Group on Land, the Global Land Indicators Initiative (GLII), Landesa, Oxfam, and the Huairou Commission.

At the global level, Coalition members and the ILC Secretariat brought the network’s expertise to the World Bank’s annual Land and Poverty Conference to broaden the discussion on land and specifically the SDGs, setting up a group of CSOs, the so-called 'momentum group', working together to keep land high on the SDG agenda and to move beyond technical discussions on indicators.



SDG Land Indicators Reclassified to Tier II

In its two meetings in 2017, the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDG) reclassified land rights indicators 1.4.2, 5.a.1 and 5.a.2, moving them from Tier III to Tier II. This reclassification was achieved through a joint effort of international organisations – the “custodian” agencies (World Bank, UN-Habitat, FAO, and UN Women) – leading the development of methodology for the indicators.

Many ILC members and partners have worked to keep land rights a high priority on the 2030 Agenda and were involved in developing, piloting, and advocating for the three land rights indicators and their reclassification. ILC supported members and partners and facilitated joint work and alignment.  

According to Dr. Peter Messerli, co-chair of the group of scientific experts drafting the upcoming UN Global Sustainable Development Report: “The transformative potential of the land-related indicators is that we can talk about land not as a threatening subject – but as having the potential to alleviate poverty and achieve sustainable development.” 

"For me, this is about recognition - land is a central aspect of improving overall development goals. It is recognised as part of the whole ecosystem for development," said Mino Ramaroson, Regional Coordinator for Africa at the Huairou Commission, and ILC Council Co-Chair.

Tier II means that these indicators now have internationally agreed, tested, and ready-to-implement methodologies, and all national statistical offices know how to collect data for them. For indicators 1.4.2 and 5.a.1, this means gathering data via household surveys and admin data; for indicator 5.a.2, data collection will be in the form of a legal analysis for each country.

As well as being a major victory for the land community, this could be the start of a profound change where land rights are recognised as being at the core of sustainable development.

Tier II

The indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, but data is not regularly produced by countries.

SDG Indicators reclassified to Tier II

1.4.2 Proportion of total adult population with secure tenure rights to land, with legally recognised documentation and who perceive their rights to land as secure, by sex and by type of tenure.

5.a.1 (a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; and (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, by type of tenure.

5.a.2 Proportion of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control.


South African Labour Tenants Win Class Action Lawsuit against Government

The Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) partnered with the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), a human rights organisation, to launch a class action lawsuit against the Government of South Africa on behalf of a group of farm dwellers known as labour tenants.

Under the 1996 Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, labour tenants were granted rights to apply for ownership of the land they occupied. However, the government has failed to implement this law, and 19,000 claims remain pending. AFRA and LRC sought to use international best practices to create a new legal mechanism, through the appointment of a “Special Master” to oversee the implementation of this legal provision by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Their application was successful and on 8 December 2016 resulted in a ground-breaking judgement, which stated that the government’s failure to process the applications was inconsistent with sections of the Constitution, and appointed a Special Master of Labour Tenants.

Following this success, the Department established a dedicated Labour Tenant Project, and a Project Manager was appointed in March 2017. The Department has also established national and district labour tenant forums in the province of KwaZulu Natal, which has the highest number of labour tenants. For the first time, labour tenants in the province have a chance to directly engage in decision-making with regards to their lands.