Land is a finite resource and competition for it is intensifying because of rapid urbanization, growing populations, economic development, persistent insecurity of food, water and energy, and the effects of conflicts and disasters. The divide between urban and rural is diminishing. These areas are today interconnected by flows of goods, money, resources and people. Climate change and different land-use patterns also affect rural areas, including farmland, drylands, wetlands and forests.

Given that by the middle of this century 70 per cent of the world’s people will live in urban areas, cities need to adapt to urban expansion (Angel, 2011) and there is therefore an urgent need to prepare for growth and its related land requirements. This calls for a realistic projection of urban land needs and innovative responses. Rural land also needs to be managed cautiously. Pressure on rural land is increasing as a result of a rising world population, climate change, declining soil fertility and the need for global food and fuel security.

On the global platform, the land question is critical to the achievement of a wide range of development outcomes, including the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Besides SDG Goal 11: ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’ that UN-Habitat is championing, land is also implied in several other proposed goals that relate to the sustainable use of natural resources and several depend on the use of additional land resources: Goal 2 on food security, Goal 7 on energy supply, Goal 12 on production and consumption, and Goal 15 on the sustainable use of ecosystems.

The Challenge of Land Tenure And Ownership

Everyone has a relationship to land. Unfortunately, millions of people around the world face difficulties related to the land where they live, work, grow crops, tend animals and run businesses. Even though they or their families may have lived on the land for many years, it is a serious obstacle that they have no formal relationship to it. Land is a scarce resource governed by a wide range of rights and responsibilities. And not everyone’s right to land is secure. Mounting pressure and competition mean that improving land governance – the rules, processes and organizations through which decisions are made about land – is becoming increasingly urgent. These are the problems that the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) is working to solve.

GLTN recognizes that conventional ways of managing land are not realistically going to meet the needs of millions of people. By law, practice or custom, many individuals find themselves unable to own land or to make decisions on how to use it. Women and young people tend to face disproportionate barriers in accessing land. Without secure rights to the land they live on, these residents have little incentive to invest in their homes. Poor farmers become unable to invest in their land, further aggravating environmental degradation, which may greatly affect their harvest, their income and, in turn, their survival.

UN-Habitat’s Innovative Solution: GLTN

The Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) was started in response to requests to UN-Habitat from governments and local communities worldwide. Together with several partners, UN-Habitat inaugurated the Network in 2006, which has since grown to more than 65 partners. GLTN is an alliance of global, regional, and national partners contributing to poverty alleviation through land reform, improved land management, and security of tenure particularly through the development and dissemination of pro-poor and gender-sensitive land tools. Read more about the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN)


Land and Natural Resources Tenure Security Learning Initiative for East and Southern Africa (TSLI-ESA) – Phase 2 This 3-year project which started in October 2013 contributes to the development and integration of pro-poor tools and approaches for securing land and natural resource rights into development. The project facilitates regional training and cross-country learning workshops. TSLI-ESA also directly intervenes in selected IFAD-supported projects and programmes, including implementation of some GLTN tools to address some of the land and natural resources tenure issues. The project is funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and is implemented in five countries: Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia. More on TSLI-ESA

Global Land Indicators Initiative (GLII) This initiative is a collaborative and inclusive process for the development of Global Land Indicators started by the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), UN-Habitat and the World Bank (WB), facilitated by GLTN. GLII seeks to promote inclusive partnership on the land indicators, share progress on the land indicators, nurture opportunities for land indicator development, implementation and reporting and develops and implements joint road maps and action plans. GLII also offers a platform for consultation and joint action besides engaging in capacity development. More on GLII 

Learn more about the Global Land Tool Network  

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