Michael Taylor - Director International Land CoalitionRome, Italy


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Does the inclusion of land rights in the global development agenda bear the potential to promote the secure and fair distribution of land rights? Yes, our author believes – provided that the land-rights community does not rest on its laurels and really addresses the crucial aspects.

When world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, they took a bold step in recognising the reality that ‘sustainable development’ is complex and multifaceted. While many criticised the explosion of targets and indicators compared to the slimmed-down Millennium Development Goals, supporters pointed to a common agenda whose breadth does a better job at encompassing the reality of what it will take to positively transform human well-being and environmental sustainability.

Land rights are emblematic of this shift. While land – and indeed agricultural production – were absent in the MDGs, land rights feature in the SDGs under goals 1, 2 and 5 (see Box below). And rightly so; land rights are absolutely critical for a transformational sustainable development agenda. For local land users, having secure tenure over the land that provides food and shelter – the root and giver of life in many facets – is fundamental to progress being achieved in virtually all SDGs.

So, a great step forward in terms of recognition, but the land-rights community that banded together in the lead-up to the SDGs to promote this shift cannot rest on its laurels. The challenge that lies ahead is enormous.

Land rights in the SDGs

Goal 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere, Sub-goal 1.4: By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance. 

Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture, Sub-goal 2.3: By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.

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