Guest Article #5

Donors are Improving Information, Policy and Action for Better Land Rights: A New Global Database and Common Ground for the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Secure land rights are essential for improving the livelihoods of the poor and, more broadly, for economic development. In many emerging economies however, land remains a largely unprotected asset, one that lacks documented tenure and property rights. In a world of rising demands on scarce resources coupled with a rapidly growing population, interest in land has increased significantly, leading to many new challenges (conflict, corrupt deals, forced evictions), but also offering opportunities to lift up poor areas through infrastructure, good jobs and access to new markets. There is thus an urgent need to improve land rights - for women and men, for communities and for responsible businesses - in order to incentivize much needed investment and to empower people to improve their lives. Yet, investment must not come at the expense of people's legitimate land rights. While increasing attention is being paid to the role of land rights, we also need to improve transparency, information exchange and coordination, and we need new forms of collaboration to improve the impact of aid to end poverty in our lifetime.

It is for these reasons that in August 2013, donors focusing on land tenure and property rights formed a new group to improve global information exchange, coordination, lesson learning and, where appropriate, to take joint positions and action. The resulting Global Donor Group on Land currently has 22 bilateral and multilateral members and remains open to new members and observers. The Chair of the Group rotates among members, with the United Kingdom (UK), represented through its Department for International Development (DFID), holding the inaugural Chair.

The Global Donor Group's priorities for 2013-2014 are to:

  1. Launch a new donor programme database on land and maximize its use and expansion;
  2. Ensure a strong role for land rights in the post-2015 development framework;
  3. Help develop a global indicator framework on land governance; and
  4. Support the country land partnerships launched under the UK G8 Presidency as documented in the UK G8 Presidency Report 2013.

The Group is supported by the Global Donor Platform on Agriculture and Rural Development. More information, such as the Terms of Reference, members, minutes of meetings and interviews can be found online.

Recent Developments

Since its inception, the Global Donor Group on Land has been working to achieve its priorities and has just announced, on 22 January 2014, the launch of its new global donor database and map on land programmes. The database includes an initial 445 programmes with a combined worth of US$2.8 billion. The purpose of the database is to improve understanding of who is doing what and where in the land and resource governance sector and to improve coordination. The database contains information on the location, duration, funding and scope of each programme. A total of 14 bilateral and multilateral donors have already uploaded their data. Others are in the process of contributing their information and additional stakeholders have been invited to join. Donors have committed to updating their data at least twice per year to ensure that all active projects are represented and to also include those that are still relevant and closed less than a year before the latest update. The database and map are publicly available via the Group's webpage. The Donor Platform will manage and update the database with inputs from members.

We hope that this new tool will help governments, investors, donors and civil society to access relevant information and engage actively in land governance. Our vision is that this database and map will expand further to include all relevant information on land-related activities, whether led by donors, governments, research institutions, the private sector or by civil society.

In addition to the launch of the database and map, the Group has also published a policy brief on common ground for the role of land in a post-2015 framework. While the brief abstains from setting out detail that will be subject to intergovernmental negotiations, it discusses areas of basic agreement, including the huge relevance of a land target and what suitable indicators could look like. Members of the Donor Group are also participating in an expert working group to develop indicators on good land governance, based on a rigorous assessment of the evidence and what works. A summary of recommendations can be found online.

The Group has also agreed to support lesson learning and accountability by publishing relevant documents on the G8 land partnerships on its webpage. In addition, a selection of the partnerships at the upcoming World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty will soon be featured. Further support is under discussion.

Going Forward

For the future, the Global Donor Group is exploring additional opportunities to support strategic information sharing and lesson learning, strengthen other global processes on land, such as reporting on implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure through the UN Committee on World Food Security, link up with coordination efforts at the local, national and regional levels, and ultimately: Secure land rights for all.

The next physical meeting of the Donor Group is scheduled to take place in Washington DC, US on 28 March 2014. The Group expects to take important decisions on next steps at this meeting.

For further information, please contact: Iris Krebber, Group Chair, DFID at I-krebber@dfid.gov.uk and Christian Schulze, Platform Secretariat at Christian.schulze@donorplatform.org.