099 Realizing the VGGTs and SDGs

The role of data ecosystems, people-centered monitoring and impact evaluation in achieving global development goals


  • IFAD
  • GLTN/UN-Habitat
  • International Land Coalition (ILC)
  • Global Donor Working Group on Land
  • Property Rights Index (PRIndex)
  • Land Portal Foundation
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
  • FAO


In 2017, the fifth anniversary of the landmark Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGTs) highlighted successful integration of VGGT principles into national law and decision-making processes across several countries. The uptake of the Guidelines has steadily grown in the past five years, aided by the development of tools and resources and further supported by an umbrella programme at FAO that has carried these processes forward in 60 countries.

The notion of land governance as fundamental to development gained further traction in late 2017, when three priority land indicators – 1.4.2, 5.a.1, 5.a.2 – were promoted to Tier II within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The reclassification signaled that a clear methodology had been established and that data collection was underway. Their inclusion in Agenda 2030 marked a significant step towards the recognition of tenure security as inseparable from several of the overarching SDGs.

While global frameworks such as the VGGTs and SDGs have established clear objectives towards improved land governance, questions of how to monitor progress towards these goals and evaluate the impact of related interventions remain unanswered. The VGGTs call on States to establish multi-stakeholder platforms that would monitor implementation, while the SDGs include a clear mandate for data collection to provide "high-quality, timely, and reliable data" that reflect local contexts. 

Responding to this call, the last five years have seen a range of monitoring and data generation initiatives and tools blossom. Initiatives such as PRIndex, the ILC Dashboard, ActionAid’s VGGT Assessment Toolkit, the Land Portal database on VGGT-related information, as well as the GLTN-IFAD guide to Impact Evaluation of Land Tenure and Land Governance are generating people-centered data that, alongside custodian-driven partnerships with NSOs, offer nuance and depth to an evolving picture of local land governance in the context of global frameworks.

Building on this momentum, the current moment provides an opportunity to further reflect on the role of datasets and monitoring framework that can complement one another, adding nuance and complexity to debates on local land governance. 

This panel will reflect on the significance of these initiatives and how they are positioned to provide important insights into challenges on progress towards improved land governance in context. The debate will offer a critical reflection on the role of the growing ecosystem of data and how to further improve collaboration among actors, make people-centered data and monitoring tools more accessible, and further democratize the ecosystems of data surrounding the VGGTs and SDGs.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Ward Anseeuw, ILC
  • Everlyne Nairesiae, GLTN
  • Jennifer Lisher, MCC
  • Laura Meggiolaro, Land Portal
  • Anna Locke, Prindex
  • Moderator: Harold Liversage, IFAD

Main themes/issues discussed

After more than five years of successful integration of land tenure security as a priority in global policy frameworks, the session addressed how to monitor progress towards the VGGTs and the land-related SDG indicators, namely 1.4.2, 5.a.1 and 5.a.2, as well as how to evaluate the impact of land governance interventions in general.

Speakers and participants discussed the growing ecosystem of data and how to further improve collaboration among actors, make people-centred data and monitoring tools more accessible, and further democratize information surrounding the VGGTs and SDGs.

Summary of key points

The monitoring tools and initiatives presented – PRIndex, the ILC Dashboard, the Land Portal Database, the Global Land Indicators Initiative (GLII) and the GLTN-IFAD guide to Impact Evaluation of Land Tenure and Land Governance – illustrated the growing availability of data and called for improved collaboration amongst the different actors in the land community. Many of these initiatives are already collaborating with each other to some extent, but there is still room for improvement.

Everlyne Nairesiae talked about the role of GLII in addressing the call for developing globally comparable indicators on land. 15 GLII indicators, designed in extensive consultations with multiple actors, had been taken up by all of the initiatives present in the side event. Many of these indicators fall outside of formal cadastre systems; they cover aspects of the VGGTs and human rights, as well as corruption.

Ward Anseeuw referred to ILC's Dashboard as an initiative aimed at democratizing the monitoring of land interventions by including local communities in the definition of indicators and in data collection. ILC identified 270 land initiatives within their membership and organized 12 consultations to agree on a monitoring system, resulting in 30 widely recognized indicators for land tenure security.

Prindex, an initiative assessing people's perception of land tenure security, just launched a report with results from the first 15 countries involved in the measurement exercise. The average tenure insecurity is 25%, which represents ca. 41 million adults across these 15 countries. In countries such as Zambia, the results demonstrate that even with documentation, people do not feel safe in their lands (33% of interviewees held documents, but only 27% felt safe). Gender gaps were also assessed. Anna Locke reported that women are more worried about losing tenure in case of spouse death and divorce, and this fear can keep women trapped in an oppressive situation.

Speaking on behalf of the Land Portal, Laura Meggiolaro argued that the lack of synergy and coordination amongst key stakeholders, such as governments, civil society, academia and donors, means that important providers of information are mostly working within their own sector and keeping valuable data on projects, initiatives unnoticed to other potential beneficiaries. The Land Portal tries to address this gap and catalyse increased access to information, but recognizing that data is only valuable if delivered to the right people in the right context.

MCC's representative Jennifer Lisher highlighted the importance of impact evaluation (beyond monitoring) and the lack of consistent data to allow for this. She introduced the recently published Guidelines for Impact Evaluation of Land Tenure and Governance Interventions, which is the result of a collaborative work of many land tenure practitioners and specialists. The overall objective of this publication is to inform and strengthen the design and implementation of future land tenure and governance initiatives and achieve related impacts on poverty, food security, gender equality, environmental sustainability and security.

Key take away messages

  • For the democratization of data (people-centred perspective), it is important to broaden the scope of indicators used in the monitoring of land governance interventions. This means broadening the scope of sources who are deciding on the indicators and providing data to fulfil them.
  • The diversity of perspectives, of data providers should allow for actors who are only visible at the local level to also be visible at the global level. Good practices towards the democratization of data include creating metadata and standards, but above all be willing to be open with your data.
  • At the same time, there should be careful reflection about who owns the data and how it should be used/shared. At the grassroots level, for example, there is a risk that data are used to feed sophisticated systems which local communities might not be able to access. Or that data are being used to advance a standard procedure, such as land titling, when in fact it might compromise tenure, for example, in the case of collective lands.
  • The SDG reporting creates an opportunity to coordinate with multiple actors and have an initial overview on the state of land tenure security in the world. However, it was agreed that data alone will not solve the problem, and continuous participation and open access to information remain key for the improved governance of land tenure.
CFS - Side Event 099 - Realizing the VGGTs and SDGs