Indicator 5. Percentage of women, men, indigenous peoples, and local communities with secure rights to land, property, and natural resources, measured by (i) percentage with documented or recognized evidence of tenure, and (ii) percentage who perceive their rights are recognized and protected.

Rationale and definition:

Whether women, men, indigenous peoples, and local communities can have secure tenure over the land, property, and other natural resources has important implications for economic development and poverty reduction.1 Yet, for many poor women, men, indigenous peoples, and communities, access to land, property, and other natural resources is increasingly undermined. In rural areas in particular, controversies involving large-scale land acquisitions by foreign and domestic investors for agribusiness, forestry, extractive, or other large-scale projects have placed land rights and the issue of responsible investment firmly on the global development agenda, and highlighted the importance of ensuring secure tenure rights for those who rely on land and natural resources for their well-being and livelihoods. Securing tenure rights is especially important for indigenous peoples, for whom lands, territories, and other resources may also hold significant spiritual or cultural import and have implications for their right to development.2

Secure rights to tenure in urban areas are also vital. The absence of security of tenure for urban dwellers over their housing and property can have important implications for economic development, poverty reduction, and social inclusion.

This proposed new indicator comprises two components: (i) percentage with documented or recognized evidence of tenure and (ii) percentage who perceive that their rights to land, property, or other productive resources are recognized and protected. Documentation and perception provide critical and complementary information on tenure security and resource rights. In addition, they both highlight outcomes and on-the-ground realities. The proposed focus on “documented or recognized evidence of tenure” is flexible enough to cover a range of tenure rights in different country contexts, and should include evidence of collective rights where appropriate.3 Because documentation alone, while important, is often not sufficient to gauge true tenure security, the perception measure provides valuable complementary information. In addition, the perception measure may facilitate more useful comparisons across countries.


As stated in the headline of the indicator, gender, indigenous peoples, and local communities are priority groups for disaggregation. Further disaggregation by urban/rural, region and other areas is desirable.

Comments and limitations:

This indicator is closely aligned with suggested indicators developed by the Global Land Indicators Initiative (GLII), a consortium of UN agencies, intergovernmental organizations, international non-governmental organizations, farmer organizations, and academics that has been working on land indicators since 2012. The indicator also incorporates work undertaken by a coalition of civil society organizations that have focused on land in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

For the documentation aspect, information from administrative data, census data, and household surveys. For the perception variable, added questions to opinion surveys or household surveys.

Potential lead agency or agencies:

FAO, UNDP, UN-Habitat.

  1. The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (“Voluntary Guidelines”) highlight the importance of tenure security over land and other natural resources, including fisheries and forests.

  2. The U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides various guidelines for protecting indigenous peoples’ rights to land, territories, and other resources.

  3. Community-based and collective customary tenure systems are used around the world, and this indicator thus should be flexible enough to cover collective rights, in order to help strengthen rather than weaken these systems. See for example Voluntary Guidelines 9.4, which notes that, “States should provide appropriate recognition and protection of the legitimate tenure rights of indigenous peoples and other communities with customary tenure systems…”