Land Administration and Geospatial Information Hard Talk: A Critical Evaluation

Dec 2023 | 19 Comments

Coordinates is pleased to publish this interview of three world experts, on critical issues concerning land administration and geospatial information. Dr. Anthony Beck, Vladimir V. Evtimov and Dr. Keith Clifford Bell, whose collective experience amounts to almost one century, provide a striking candor as they convey their respective deep knowledge and understanding to respond to Coordinates’ deep-dive questions. This special interview is a hallmark of truth to power in addressing the often-contentious topics spanned by the far-reaching land administration and geospatial information disciplines.

Dr. Anthony Beck

An independent consultant who specialises in digital transformation using the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM), formerly with Registers of Scotland and Ordnance Survey International.

Vladimir V. Evtimov

Land Tenure Officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a land professional experienced in land reforms and land administration.

Dr. Keith Clifford Bell

International Development Consultant for Land, Geospatial Information and Disaster Resilience (freelance); Industry Advisor to The University of Melbourne Center for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land Administration; Formerly staff of the World Bank, Surveyor-General of the Australian State of Victoria and senior public sector manager in various roles in Australia including national mapping, NSDI and Territory land administration.

1. To set the scene for this interview, could each briefly outline your background?

Anthony Beck: I am a geospatial and data professional. I spent a number of years in academia working on utility, smart city, remote sensing, environmental and heritage projects. This included the development of the technology infrastructure behind award winning utility data integration projects in Scotland and England. I then transitioned to industry, predominantly working on digital transformation projects. I started my Land Administration journey at Registers of Scotland: I supported the digital transformation processes in response to the 2012 legislation reform. This included the conceptual alignment of Scots legislation and registration practice with the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM) and other standards. I then moved to Ordnance Survey International where I supported their global activities. This included specialist consultancy services to support the implementation of a new Land Register platform and associated operational capability in Saudi Arabia. I supported the alignment of operational and digital approaches against the published regulations, proposed the strategy for data quality verification and enhancement and provided a best-practice overview for parcel-based cadastres.

I am now an independent consultant with specific interests in land transactions, automation, legal integration, implementation patterns and ontologies. I take a standards-based approach that aims to include legal, policy and practice perspectives. I also provide advice and feedback to British Standards Institute (BSI) and International Standards Organisation (ISO) in respect of the revision to the LADM (ISO19152).

Vladimir V. Evtimov: A land professional experienced in land reforms, modernising land administration and geospatial information systems in many transitional and developing countries across all regions, I hold a MScEng (hons.) in geodesy, photogrammetry and cartography (1986), and a real property valuation license (1994) in my native Bulgaria. Collaborating with key global development partners in the land sector since 1991, I provide technical advice to government investments in land reforms and building institutional capacity of national land/geospatial agencies. As of 2004, I work for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a Land Tenure Officer. I was part of the FAO core team which supported the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (2012) often referred to as the VGGT. My recent sideline is GeoTech4Tenure1 – a joint IFAD2 – FAO capacity development initiative for improving tenure security of development investment beneficiaries by combining inclusive, participatory methodologies with geomatics and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

Keith Clifford Bell: I am probably best known through my service as staff at the World Bank, 2003-21, where I led the land and geospatial program in the East Asia Pacific Region until 2017. I also led and/ or advised on post-disaster reconstruction projects in several locations including Aceh and North Sumatra 2005-10, Haiti 2010-1, Philippines-Leyte (Tacloban) after the super-typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan in 2013, and also in Nepal 2018-20. Following my time at the World Bank, I worked in Saudi Arabia, based in Riyadh for over a year 2021-22, for the Public Investment Fund as the Strategic Advisor, and subject matter expert for Land Registration and Geospatial. Prior to joining the World Bank, in my home country Australia, I served as Surveyor-General of the State of Victoria, General Manager of Land in the Australian Capital Territory and I worked in various senior national roles with the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group (now Geoscience Australia) leading national mapping programs and NSDI development. In my earlier days, as a licensed surveyor I worked in cadastral, engineering, and hydrographic surveying, and as a civil engineer I worked in port development and construction, dredging, infrastructure and airport development. I have also maintained a parallel career in the Australian Army, which I joined as a recruit immediately after high school and subsequently continuing as a senior officer in the Reserve. My journey continues as a strategic development consultant, an industry adviser to the University of Melbourne’s Center for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land Administration (CSDILA) and Army. There has never been a dull moment.

2. How do you see the role of surveying in solving the issues of Land Administration? How has it changed over the past two-three decades? Where do geospatial specialists/scientists fit in?

AB: Change will remain a constant. The Land Administration ecosystems will become digital. These digital systems will become data driven. By efficiently sharing and re-using authoritatve data a resilient ecosystem is created. An interconnected network of linked data should lead to better decision making across the ecosystem and provide a platform for innovation. Citizens should benefit from improved data quality and service innovations. Regulators will adapt their processes as the systems mature and the changes in regulatory and policy need become apparent. The roles of surveyors, analysts, geospatial scientists and other key stakeholders will evolve accordingly. This will go hand in hand with changes to implementation and so-called best-practice frameworks e.g. Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF), Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF), and Framework for Effective Land Administration (FELA). It is likely that cadastral surveyors will continue to focus on data collection, interpretation, validation and application, while geospatial scientists will focus on reuse and integration. It is also likely that aspects of data collection and reuse will become more specialised. This will include ensuring that the ecosystem can expose indicators and metrics to support monitoring programmes.

VVE: Surveying is a foundational profession underlying land governance from the outset of human civilization. A few millennia later, land surveyors – géomètres – still meticulously measure space-time to capture data and model our reality, pioneering innovative technologies and inclusive, participatory processes in a constant endeavour for refined, equitable land governance, tenure security, socio-economic and environmental resilience – naturally within the paradigm of land management and land administration. The past couple of decades witness a peculiar democratisation of state-of-the-art geomatics tools for land administration: today, a much wider array of non- professionals can use affordable land survey instruments, remote sensors or tools, allowing even to crowdsource some geospatial information collection. Professional land surveyors, however, remain and will remain the synergists of land management and land administration efforts by various other professions, – like land lawyers, ICT experts, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialists, land valuers, planners, developers, public administrators – since they have the unique skillset to synergistically integrate all their inputs into effective and efficient land administration and geospatial ecosystems.

KCB: Surveyors undertake critical roles in land administration and it’s far more than measurement, demarcation and the spatial elements of the cadastre. In many jurisdictions, cadastral surveying is regulated with licensing or registration of surveyors. Surveyors collect evidence of occupation and interpret the evidence, which includes measurements. Surveyors must ensure the relevant laws, regulations and standards are followed to ensure rights are correctly recorded and registered by the land registration authority. Further, surveyors may be called upon to appear in courts to provide evidence in land and boundary disputes.

A lot has changed over the past decades with new technologies which have improved measurement and positioning. Theodolites and steel bands have given way to total stations, Global Navigation Satellite System-Continuously Operating Reference Station (GNSS-CORS), drone-based platforms for imagery acquisition and so forth. The digital ecosystem has become more pervasive with electronic lodgement of plans, online access to the cadastre and e-conveyancing. Updates to the cadastre are more frequent and closer to real time and overall spatial accuracy is higher. But surveyors have a far broader role in cadastres than just measurement. In common law countries, and also many civil law countries, under the well-accepted hierarchy of cadastral evidence, measurement or geospatial carries the least weight. It is the evidence of intention which carries the highest weight and that is usually defined by natural boundaries and human-placed boundary markers and borders. Surveyors are usually regulated and have greater accountability and liability, so professional indemnity is now even more important. Finally, surveyors spend quite a bit of their time in the field and do engage with land occupants as they go about their work.

There are most definitely roles for geospatial scientists especially in value-adding to cadastral data, analyses and applications, and these are predominantly office-based tasks and not directly dealing with the people on the land. Geospatial scientists are commonly not professionally regulated. As we increasingly see the digital ecosystem for land administration emerging, geospatial specialists will most definitely have increasing roles to play, and especially in emerging areas like 3D and Digital Twin.

3. As you have a lot of experience in this domain, would you like to highlight the key differences in terms of approach and status in land administration in developed countries and developing countries?

VVE: Based on my observations and professional experience, the levels of socio-economic development and geospatial maturity of an economy are strongly interdependent and closely correlated. Land Administration (LA) – as vital pillar of geospatial maturity – in developed countries is characterised by fit-for-purpose, flexible approaches and technology, while transitional or developing economies often follow ossified approaches and prescribed, dated technology. Thus, Land Administration Systems (LAS) in developed countries are mostly service oriented, accessible, accurate, interoperable, affordable, effective and efficient, in contrast to transitional or developing economies where LAS are often characterised by red tape, inaccessible, slow, costly, outdated, impractical and inefficient. Of course, there are wonderful exceptions from this general trend, particularly in some isolated customary and Indigenous Peoples’ communities, but these exceptions do not refer to high levels of socio-economic development, and only confirm the need for fit-for-purpose approaches and technology. LAS in developed economies resulted from years on end of purposeful, focused efforts, trials and errors, – and everything achieved by hard efforts requires further efforts to be maintained. If the efforts wane, the achievement falls apart. The mentality of constant LA and geospatial systems maintenance is often uncommon in transitional and developing economies, – thus failing otherwise excellent achievements of LAS development projects. In a country where LAS modernisation is ongoing, the head of the national mapping agency, which is also in charge for land administration, shared that there had been already two prior donor-funded projects to successfully develop an automated Land Information System (LIS) supporting the LAS. The agency had twice slipped back to paper-and-pencil technology immediately after the donor left and the financial support ceased. Luckily, there was the back-up of paper-and-pencil technology, otherwise the land administration services in the country would have had collapsed. A positive maintenance culture, – looking at LA and geospatial systems as crucial infrastructure for sustainable development and resilience, – is an asset which is frequently missing in developing and transitional societies. Shifting mentality takes time, and is usually a matter of bringing up and educating a new generation of LAS professionals and managers. Continued support by foreign development partners, peace and stability may help to bring up the LA capacity and mentality required in transitional and developing economies.

KCB: I think it is always important to be aware of, and understand, the political economy of developing countries when considering support for investment in land administration. Every country is unique, and there can even be significant differences at sub-national level. Arguably, we live in a “two-speed world”, a term I believe was first raised at the 2013 World Bank Land and Poverty Conference, distinguishing between developed and developing countries and economies. Developing countries often lack technical capacity for undertaking land administration reform, development and implementation. Such capacity limitations may also be experienced in developed countries. All too often, they lack funding, both for normal institutional operations and development investment, and seek donor support, for which they are then obligated to adhere to donor obligations and reporting. Further, in many developing countries governance is a significant issue. One thing I have usually observed in developing countries is decentralization of land administration from provincial to district and sub-district levels. Stable power (electricity) and access to communication connectivity can be key limiting factors in developing countries, especially in remote locations. In many developed countries, land administration may be more centralized and as online services are more widely adopted, people may be less likely to visit an office. So, being mindful of the aforesaid factors will contribute to the approach to land administration support in developing countries. Many developing countries experience conflict and/or political instability. At the present time, there are around 32 of the world’s countries experiencing conflict, which equates to more than 15 percent of all countries.

4. In your experience, how effectively have ICT and geospatial technologies been used for land administration? Would you like to share any or some success stories? Have there been any examples of failures?

AB: I would like to address this question from the perspective of future expectations associated with integrating data across the ecosystem. Technology has significantly disrupted Land Administration over the past few decades. This will continue. New sensors and improved data extraction and integration frameworks will continue to redefine the art-of-the-possible. However, Land Administration should not be uncritically led by technological development. The challenge is to align technological development with standards, knowledge, the legislative need, the operational capability and most importantly the social context.

Loosely coupled integration allows bespoke views to be built over the different data resources. This may, for example, allow data from utilities, building regulations, cadastre, thermal modelling, and building sensor to be aggregated at a property level to produce a bespoke ‘digital twin’. While the integration of such data will provide new opportunities it will also present new risks. It is critical that data ethics and privacy issues are duly considered. This is particularly relevant for Machine Learning approaches: the non-deterministic nature of generative Large Language Models means that the same inputs can result in different outputs. This has ethical implications. It also has potential legal implications if the results can neither be replicated or justified in a dispute.

Digital transformation involves change across a wide range of areas. By focusing on technology, we may lose sight of the companion changes required in other areas. Moving to an integrated ecosystem requires social, organisation and legal as well as technological change.

VVE:ICT and geomatics are now at the heart of modern LAS, even though their application is not a silver bullet as they do not guarantee inclusion, equality or efficiency.3 LA and geospatial systems are critical for sustainable development and their digitalization has rationally o alternative, – they are an integral building block of e-governance. However, digitalized LA systems should offer options for analogue paper-and-pencil service delivery to avoid risks of exclusion or marginalization of vulnerable groups. I have seen both success stories and failures in modernising LAS. For example, the establishment of a modern LAS in Kyrgyzstan (2002-2014) was a success, in my view, due to the incremental in-house development of fit-for-purpose ICT and Land Information System (LIS) in support of LA, combined with strong political will and national ownership on the reforms. In other transitional economies there were failures by leading global ICT service providers to deliver tailored LIS in support of the local LA practices, mostly due to shortage of political will and poor national ownership on the LA reforms, presumptuous ambitions of development partners, lack of maintenance culture, no viable mechanism to trigger updates, no habituation of local communities to use the formal LAS, and ignoring the LA specificities and traditions in the target jurisdiction.

KCB: I have seen successes especially in terms of digitalization of land registries (digitization of records and computerization of systems and processes) and the application of digital orthro-rectified imagery to support the cadastral mapping bases across East, South and Central Asia. The innovations with geospatial technologies in Türkiye were especially profound, particularly in 3D visualization. I understand that a new World Bank investment project in Digital Twin is pending and very much look forward to its success.

On failures, perhaps the most extreme failures I saw were in Afghanistan – and well before the Taliban retook power in 2021. Notably, the three significant and separate project failures that I came across did not involve World Bank support. The failures I speak of were not due to the Afghans, rather due to the donor, especially regarding project design and implementation oversight, or supervision as it is often called. Firstly, a major investment in a CORS network failed within 6 months due to the donor giving little to no consideration to capacity building, security and stable, continuous power, amongst others. Secondly, the Land Titling and Economic Restructuring in Afghanistan (LTERA) Program, 2004- 09, with an investment of around US $46 million, reported to be a huge success in improving property rights for millions of Afghans and resolving land rights disputes through formalized property rights by establishing clear documentation and transfer of land ownership – this was simply not true. Thirdly, the Land Administration Reform Afghanistan (LARA) Project, 2011-2014, saw around US$42 million expended with little delivered, which was reported as a great success – this was also not true. I was shocked with what I witnessed in my first mission to Afghanistan in June 2013. We found vast quantities of unopened boxes of equipment in Kabul, software not installed, poor facilities and training allegedly provided was overstated and under-delivered. An independent review was commissioned where concerns and failings were confirmed and backed by strong evidence. Investigations by the US’s own Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) were especially critical of support in these areas.4,5 But, perhaps more importantly, the then newly created Afghan Land Authority (ARAZI) was highly critical, and it was initially left without donor support largely due to the widely held perception that it had already developed great capacity and was well-equipped. Fortunately, funds from the Multi-donor Trust Fund, administered by the World Bank, were made available to help address a number of the deficiencies and together with support from Türkiye enabling a new investment in land administration to be prepared. There will always be failures in project implementation, but these three experiences in Afghanistan saw significant less than effective investment, in ICT and geospatial technology as well as broader capacity development and land administration reform. Unfortunately, the donor’s reliance on largely unchecked lead contractors, under which was Technical Assistance (TA), was a huge mistake. Of course, the country was in conflict and so all personnel were at risk. Sadly, the examples of Afghanistan, are not unique as I have witnessed over the past almost two decades. Fortunately, as I have observed, such extreme failures are not common.

5. How do you view the role of technologies like Internet of Things (IOT) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, drone) Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laser imaging, Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) in Land Administration?

AB: There’s a mixed bag of technologies in the list. New remote sensing sensors deployed on a range of different platforms will continue to deliver metric survey outputs in 2, 3 and 4 dimensions. However, multispectral, hyperspectral and dedicated thermal sensors allow the extraction of a multitude of data themes that impact on the range of Land Administration activities. Machine Learning will supplement traditional classification techniques and support extraction of novel data which can improve current decision-making frameworks. The Internet of Things (IOT) provides massive amounts of data from spatially located sensors. All this information needs integrating in a co-ordinating platform to support exploratory analysis, policy and decision making.

VVE: I believe that land surveyors inherently utilise drones, LiDAR and AI for topographic and cadastre mapping and updating, as well as for 3D modelling our reality, and thus these technologies have direct impact on refining LA and geospatial services. Further, IOT has a constantly growing role, – particularly in the context of 3D and Digital Twin City modelling, – offering major land management, resilience and disaster management innovations. Piloting such technologies in land administration and land management in countries where I work, like Guyana, Türkiye, Kenya, Bangladesh, shows great promise. In this vein, the future will see more 3D cadastre initiatives emerging.

KCB: The role of technologies is very important, cross-cutting and far-reaching. Technologies using location-based services, drones and autonomous vehicles, 3D modelling, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, Big Data and the Internet of Things are impacting both land administration and geospatial. It’s a combination of both foundational and disruptive technologies. Increasingly we will see land administration in many jurisdictions embracing a digital ecosystem which will have impacts on privacy and identity. Every day we hear mind-numbing statistics about the amount of data that’s being produced. Also, every day the hype-spin about the value that data-driven decision-making can bring is thrust on us. So, for both government and business, there must be a continued focus on improving data acquisition, processing and management. But it goes beyond that. So, I would like to raise the further topic of what is termed “Datafication” – a term being used to describe the phenomenon of many aspects of life being turned into data on a huge scale and then realized as some new form of value, for example, through predictive analytics. If data are not used to improve overall decision making, governance and people’s lives, the investments in acquisition, processing, analyses, storage, maintenance, providing access, and so forth are largely wasted.

6. Recently, a lot has been talked about the role of blockchain technology in land administration. What is your view about it? Is it the best alternative?

AB: I am wary of the utility of blockchain in Land Administration and especially wary of it in Land Registration. Blockchain is an intrinsically digital solution and implies a fully digital environment. This is rarely the case. At its heart blockchain is a ledger-based system which creates an immutable cryptographic hash for each transaction. This makes it relevant for deeds-based registration systems where each deed represents a transactional change to a register. However, this can make blockchain less relevant for Titling systems which represents ‘state’ rather than ‘state change’. It is often argued that blockchain provides transparent transactions that remove the need for an intermediary. I would argue that this depends on the nature of the `thing` being transacted. For banking transactions, the granter and grantee tend to have a complete, or near complete, understanding of the implications of the transaction. However, the same is not true for land. Rights are complex. Overriding interests, restrictions and responsibilities, and other obligations may not all be stored on the land register. The new owner may not understand what these rights mean. It is important that the rights implications of a land transaction are clearly understood. This is likely to mean involving a legal intermediary. Land is not money and what may work in one context may be inappropriate in another. In summary, blockchain technology is not a substitute for good land policies and institutions – it has too many shortcomings. However, where the circumstances are appropriate blockchain can complement and support them. Blockchain is definitely not a ‘silver bullet’.

VVE: My empirical knowledge of attempts to use blockchain in LA indicates that the technology does not meet basic requirements of LIS supporting LA, and there are better fitfor-purpose LA database management solutions. Generally, experienced LA professionals voice healthy scepticism about using blockchain in LA.6 In my professional work, blockchain is completely unrealistic for LAS in transitional and developing countries due to its demanding prerequisites like full digitization of LA records and fundamental government registers. Therefore, one should be able to critically assess the applicability and sustainability of proposed digital technologies and separate hype from reality.

KCB: I will be very blunt. Blockchain remains on the Gartner Hype Cycle at the Peak of Inflated Expectations.7 I have seen multiple examples over the past 6-7 years of FinTechs lobbying governments and making bold claims, all of which have turned out to be hype-spin. To be frank, all too often, purveyors of blockchain, are pushing a solution for a problem that either does not exist or has not been defined. I have also found that almost all reported blockchain implementation for land registration is actually pilot testing rather than actual implementation, and much of the reporting is by FinTechs rather than the government.

In that vein, I would refer readers to two excellent publications concerning blockchain, which provide good insights on how to determine whether a blockchain solution may be suitable for your needs: “Blockchain Technology Overview” published in 2018 by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology8 and “Blockchain Beyond the Hype: A Practical Framework for Business Leaders” published in 2018 by the World Economic Forum.9 In particular, the WEF paper provides a decision-tree tool which is intended to enable rapid initial analysis of whether blockchain is an appropriate solution for a defined problem. The tool has more than 12 steps (boxes) which require Yes/No responses. With a No response, the tool advises “Do not use blockchain”. I have tested this tool in at least 7 countries, when asked for advice, and all my tests have reached a rejection of Blockchain by only Step 3. I could delve into relevant issues including immutability, transparency, handling of geospatial and energy consumption – but perhaps for another time!

7. How do you view public private partnership (PPP), especially for land registry services?

VVE: There is always scope for various levels of PPP in LA, including land registration (LR). LA and LR do not exist in a vacuum, on a global scale the land sector is perceived as highly corruption prone. Thus, PPP for LR services is highly risky, and should be applied only when there are efficient and rigid safeguards, including strong regulation, in place, – which is hard to achieve. In many transitional and developing countries such safeguards against corruption are impracticable, so very careful incremental introduction of PPP in LR services is advisable.

KCB: It’s probably best I refer back to my Trilogy of articles, “Global experiences with public private partnerships for land registry services: A critical review”, which Coordinates published over three consecutive months Nov 201910, Dec 201911 and Jan 202012. I would encourage Coordinates readers, to especially review my concluding remarks. There are most definitely valid justifications for government to pursue PPP for land registration services especially, where the government is lacking in any or all of the following: (i) expertise and experience; (ii) investment capital; and/or (iii) good governance in the public sector. Further, PPP can be a lower risk option to pursue, with the partner maintaining and operating the infrastructure. However, the government as the purchaser and regulator, must ensure the private service provider delivers and good governance is maintained.

As I previously commented in Coordinates: “Although the decision to contract with a private sector partner may be taken for primarily political reasons, and there may be significant negative public sentiment, nonetheless, the public interest and the rights of citizens, should always be protected by adequate safeguards, which are monitored and transparent. The ability of the government to ensure the safeguards may not be easy.”

It seems that in some jurisdictions, key government watchdogs, viz. AuditorGenerals and information privacy commissioners have raised strong concerns and are likely to be ignored if the government has a strong majority. There is a role for Auditor-Generals in reviewing risks, accountabilities, due process and business cases and to audit performance. The privacy of personal information must be protected and not exploited by the vendor.

The PPP path for geospatial information services such as a national geodetic network of Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) and even for production and maintenance of fundamental geospatial data sets for the national spatial data infrastructure, may also be useful to consider. For both, the government should always retain the strong regulatory oversight roles to ensure the authoritative requirements of NSDI are retained. In the end, any decision for PPP is for the government of the day.

8. A number of tools and frameworks have been developed over the past 15 years. LGAF, IGIF, FELA are three which come to mind. What are your thoughts on the uptake and effectiveness of these?

AB: In many respects LGAF, IGIF and FELA are all different views on how to implement best practice (such as VGGT), to drive positive change and to measure impact. The utility of these frameworks very much depends on the requirements of the implementing country and the maturity of their systems. The frameworks can then be tailored to the situation on the ground. In terms of effectiveness, I defer to Keith and Vladimir.

VVE: Policy and/or technical frameworks and tools, which summarise existing empirical knowledge and wisdom in a thematic domain, are generally useful in providing standardisation, structure, guidance, and common understanding for decision makers and practitioners to improve governance and resource allocation and prioritise reform interventions. Their longevity and sustainability depend on the objective needs of countries, and on updates reflecting the dynamic changes in the thematic or technical domain. As far as LGAF, IGIF and FELA are concerned, their development and uptake seem to have been more donor-fed, than demand-led, they do not shift paradigms, nor introduce totally new concepts, mindset or cognition, but raised much needed global awareness of issues in the land and geospatial sector. From a pragmatic viewpoint, the utility of such frameworks and tools could be radically improved if they facilitated objective comparisons, monitoring and evaluation of development progress in the land and geospatial sector. From my practice in the field of geospatial information management, countries prefer unassisted, affordable, easily applied, rapid assessment tools tailored for their specific context, rather than global ones like IGIF. While FAO certainly made inputs to LGAF and IGIF, it is deliberately just an observer in FELA.

KCB: There have been quite a few, and I must say, many have been supply-driven by international agencies and their consultants with really little actual evidence of user demand. I think all provide useful checklists, but some are painfully slow and expensive to implement and actually may not bring new information to the table. In several countries, for both LGAF and IGIF I found that a rapid approach was far more expedient and effective, enabling delivery of results that were good enough. With all the frameworks, it is important to differentiate the consultant hype from reality. Unfortunately, for many countries requiring donor assistance, there may be pressure or an obligation to commit to such tools as a part of the donor’s consideration for investment.

One further comment I would like to make on the frameworks specifically concerns IGIF. Undeniably, UN-GGIM has been comparatively effective in raising global, regional and national awareness of geospatial information. In my own examination of the published IGIF documentation, notably the 9 pathways of IGIF prepared by a World Bank led team of consultants working with UN-GGIM representatives, and subsequently approved by UN-GGIM, I beg to differ that it is anything new. I would add that at the World Bank, I did peer review early preparatory work for what became IGIF, so I am not coming to this as a novice. Further, I have a background of 30 years with NSDI arising from my experience in Australia in managing programs to migrate from national mapping to NSDI foundation layers. I was blessed with the opportunity to engage with Doug Nebert, of the United States Federal Geographic Data Commission (FGDC), who was the inspirational leader responsible for conceptualizing, developing and promoting NSDI in the US. It was through Doug’s leadership of NSDI that realized US Presidential Executive Order 12906 – Coordinating Geographic Data Acquisition and Access: The National Spatial Data Infrastructure, April 11, 1994, approved by then President Bill Clinton. I had the opportunity to visit FGDC around 1993, and directly engage with Doug.

One of the profound principles inculcated in NSDI was that it should be considered a soft infrastructure. In the past, national mapping and related programs, often struggled to be funded for both maintenance and further capital investment. Thus, by considering NSDI as a soft infrastructure, it was envisaged that governments would adopt similar approaches taken to the funding of hard infrastructure like roads, bridges, dams, utilities and so enable maintenance, further development and improvement. All infrastructure must be maintained otherwise it inevitably degrades and may become obsolete or non-functional. In sum, whilst one of the IGIF pathways is financial, it has really missed the raison d’etre of why NSDI is an infrastructure. When you compare the conceptual diagrams of NSDI and IGIF, there is a lot in common, but sadly IGIF claims it is more than an infrastructure, it is a framework. The framework context is very much embodied in NSDI and its sustainability and development is enshrined in the conceptualization of being a soft infrastructure.

Coordinates published a well-referenced article in May 2013: “Elements, issues and challenges in implementation of NSDI”, which draws on the early FGDC thinking and other experts on the first two decades of NSDI development including the predecessor of UN-GGIM, the Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific (PCGIAP). The original elements of NSDI, including its framework and background rationale transcend the nine IGIF pathways. So, with respect, there is nothing profoundly new in IGIF other than its re-branding and packaging.13

However, and I do reiterate, credit is due to UN-GGIM for its global, regional and national advocacy of geospatial information including NSDI through IGIF. But, as stated earlier in my response to this question, the IGIF assessment process is costly and drawn out, and more often than not, supply-driven (by the donor) rather than demand-driven (by the country). Thus, it may arguably be not fit-for-purpose. My experience in many countries has shown that a rapid approach is more cost-effective and timelier to assess a country’s needs for NSDI and design its investment approaches.

The world has learned a lot from Doug Nebert’s groundbreaking work, conceptualization, advocacy and awareness-raising of NSDI. Tragically, Doug, aged 51, and his 4-year-old granddaughter lost their lives in a light airplane crash in Oregon in May 2014. Doug has left a profound legacy in NSDI that continues across the globe.

9. Has the VGGT advanced land administration?

AB: The VGGT is thorough, succinct, with little ambiguity and provides a solid foundation. It firmly embeds tenure within the surrounding social governance frameworks. In my opinion it, quite rightly, identifies that tenure issues are related to the quality of governance. Further, the governance principles discuss the duality of rights and duties reflecting the complex social and spatial relationships that are framed between landowners, right holders, jurisdictions and citizens. We need more documents like this.

VVE: The VGGT is a globally negotiated and CFS14 endorsed document setting out principles and internationally accepted standards in tenure governance, with an emphasis on conservation and protecting the interests of vulnerable and marginalized people. It was recognized as one of the ten greatest achievements of FAO by its 70th anniversary in 2015. Its tangible positive impact on land administration is best felt in transitional and developing countries, markedly or recognition and administration of legitimate customary and indigenous tenure rights, communal and women’s tenure rights, with best examples in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Uganda, Liberia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Colombia, Guatemala, Mongolia, Laos, Nepal. VGGT has influenced tenure reforms also in developed economies like Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Scotland and others. The VGGT discourse in CFS is recently turning towards supplementing the land, fisheries and forests tenure governance with water tenure governance. I believe this shows the utility of VGGT for refining LAS.

KCB: I believe it has. VGGT provides a very comprehensive and useful set of principles to draw upon. In my last decade at the World Bank, the VGGT proved to be very valuable, especially in informing project design.

10. Also, what about LADM and STDM?

AB: LADM is an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard describing a conceptual model of social relations with land articulated through rights. LADM has been designed to be generic and applicable to all jurisdictions. As a standard, LADM dominates the domain and supports nuanced representations of PartyRight-Land relationships. STDM is a specialised subset of LADM. From a digital transformation point of view a standard like LADM is essential. However, the first edition of the LADM has a number of weaknesses notably a focus on Land Registration rather than the broader Land Administration ecosystem and poor transaction, process and legal elements. The lack of detail on transactions has led to some people questioning whether the standard is suitable to represent deeds-based registers.

The revision of the LADM extends the scope of the 2012 standard towards addressing the needs of the broader Land Administration ecosystem. Given the range of agencies, parties, and activities associated with the ecosystem this is a significant change in scope. By making the standard applicable across the ecosystem rights duality issues, which are inherent in Rights, Restrictions and Responsibilities (RRRs), can be made transparent. Rights duality dictates that if a Land Register records a duty (as a restriction or responsibility) then within the Land Administration ecosystem there exists a specified third-party or authoritative agency which holds the corresponding right.

LADM is an essential part of the digital future of Land Administration. However, at present I see LADM as a guiding, rather than prescriptive, standard. That said I have modelled both deed and title registers using the underlying concepts. I expect the standard to go through further revisions as the needs of the broader ecosystem are identified.

VVE: LADM is instrumental in achieving valuable standardization in digitalizing LAS, while STDM is useful in regularization of legitimate people-to-land relations. Due to my limited experience in this field, I prefer to refrain from further comments.

KCB: LADM provides a useful framework to draw upon for the broader subject of land administration, rather than land registration. However, all too often LADM is pushed as something that must be implemented in its entirety for land registration. Many of the interests of LADM are highly relevant to the broader and administration context and are interests that should not be and do not need to be registered. Having them accessible, online, rather than registered as part of the tenure Rights, Restrictions and Responsibilities (RRR) is important. LADM is long-overdue for revision. It was endorsed by ISO back in 2012. Full credit to those who developed LADM and have promoted it. As for STDM, it’s really a subversion of LADM and has been usefully promoted especially by UN-Habitat.

11. Cadastre 201415 was published in 1998 by FIG. Is it still relevant? Any other thoughts?

AB: Cadastre 2014 is a milestone publication. It has been the catalyst that frames many of the significant developments and thinking over the last 25 years. Fit-for-purpose can be seen in the comments about aspiring to ‘cadastral perfection’. LADM can be seen in the way concepts, rules and relationships are described and the modelling requirements of statement 4. Communities need a vision, a “north star” which will guide developmental trajectory. Cadastre 2014 provided this. Clearly some ‘course correction’ needs to be applied to reflect current technical, political and social contexts. However, the 6 statements are still broadly relevant and represent challenges that the community still need to properly address.

VVE: This flagship FIG publication is a major factor to motivate and inspire reforms and improvement of LAS worldwide – very notably in my own region. I personally translated it into Bulgarian, built awareness and popularised it in the Balkans, in transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is still quite relevant in many transitional and developing countries where the digital divide is apparent, and whose LA and geospatial system reforms are lagging behind. Even though in my view the paradigm shifted from (multi-purpose) cadastre to spatial data infrastructures, the essence of ‘Cadastre 2014’ messages is unchanged and helps in promoting the concept of continuous improvements and making LA reforms business as usual.

KCB: At the FIG 2018 Congress in Istanbul, I was the first speaker in the final plenary session, chaired by one of the authors of Cadastre 2014, Dr.Daniel Steudler. Daniel is now FIG Vice-President. As it was the 20th anniversary of the publication, I took the opportunity in my opening remarks to congratulate Daniel and to commend Cadastre 2014 as a wonderful “think-piece’ and arguably the most praised and criticized land administration publication.16 Cadastre 2014 remains relevant, with due regard given to its context and purpose.

12. FIG published Fit-For-Purpose Land Administration, Publication 60, in conjunction with the World Bank in 2014. Has it been the game changer that is sometimes espoused?

AB: Fit-For-Purpose Land Administration (Publication 60: FFPLA)17 is an important publication. It is about the pragmatics of change. While the original publication feels like it is geared to developing countries, the core principles can be applied to any jurisdiction at any stage of maturity. The thinking behind FFPLA is fundamental to any digital transformation programme and I’ve definitely found it useful in my work. Every agency should have a mantra stating the “accuracy relates to the purpose rather than technical standards” and build in “opportunities for updating, upgrading and improving” processes and data. The phrase “fit-for-purpose” has become a useful short-hand during discussions.

It would be useful to distil FFPLA and some of the other core thinking into something similar to the agile manifesto32 for software development. At just 68 words the agile manifesto is snappy, accessible, and has had enormous impact in the software development domain. A succinct summary of the high-level guiding principles of Land Administration could have similar impact.

VVE: FFP LA is another FIG flagship publication – a must-have reference bible – for development professionals in the LA and geospatial domain. It encourages positive disruption and reform for many LAS in transitional and developing countries, reminding decision makers and practitioners of good old fit-for-purpose principles of surveying and mapping.

KCB: That’s a good question! Personally, I don’t think Fit-For-Purpose Land Administration (Publication 60)19 has been a game changer, but it has been an excellent think-piece to inform, consider and provoke. From that perspective, I can reflect on my own contributions as a co-author, and I consider it one of FIG’s most useful publications. My sincere congratulations and respects to lead author Stig Enemark who has so effectively promoted FFPLA over the years since the launch in 2014. In short, FFPLA provides a very useful reference to support the design of a land administration system and to support incremental improvement of existing systems. There is no blueprint or template to be followed as every jurisdiction is unique, but you can learn from the experiences from elsewhere.

13. Any thoughts on the continuum of land rights?

AB: The Continuum of Land Rights attempts to represent how rights of tenure are given legitimacy (security) through different social frameworks. I think it does this poorly by simply stating that different tenure types have different tenure security attributes. This ignores the social legitimacy given to tenure through formal and informal governance frameworks. Something that is well described in the VGGT.

In many jurisdictions social legitimacy is provided through a legal framework. However, social legitimacy can be provided through community or other social frameworks. It is possible to have high tenure security within a community governed system as long as there is social recognition of both the right and the claim of the right holder. The issue is how resilient the governance frameworks are to disruption.

The Continuum of Land Rights does not represent this nuance and results in something which could be misleading or unhelpful. The diagram seems to view tenure through a ‘western lens’ that oversimplifies social relations, transhumance and overlapping rights scenarios and undervalues the role of governance. The fact that UN-HABITAT and Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) produced an 88-page document to support scenario building using the continuum of land rights20demonstrates the complexity of the topic.

VVE: The phrase enjoys popularity, even though a ‘continuum’ of land rights is a nonsense. A discreet plethora, or range of rights exists within the bundle of land rights, and they neither can be clearly arranged as lesser or superior, nor are a continuum. Anyway, incremental or sizeable leaps to better tenure security can be practically achieved by development interventions, depending on the specific legal framework of a jurisdiction, windows of opportunity, local circumstances and other complex factors. I disagree with the term but agree with the idea of phased improvements of tenure rights security. The globally negotiated and agreed VGGT have no mention of a ‘continuum’ of land rights, perhaps the term ‘continuum’ was deemed misleading. It was coined recently, so if one strives for perfection and tries to use precise terminology, the ‘continuum of land rights’ should be replaced with a more precise phrase. Sticking to a wrong term deflects the message that LA and geospatial community of practice is trying to send to policy and decision makers and donors.

KCB: Indeed, I have thoughts – long held thoughts – on which I have spoken out over the past 15 years. I profoundly disagree with the concept of the Continuum of Land Rights or the Continuum of Tenure Rights, as it is sometimes called.21 By definition a continuum is a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct. Now, that’s a dictionary definition. Tenure is not a continuum – it is not a continuous sequence. There is a broad spectrum of tenure types. I would argue that what is wrong with the Continuum is the inference that it’s a progression from left to right from informal tenure through a range of different types to leases and registered freehold. The concept poorly reflects customary and community tenures including nomadic rights. I also reject that the Continuum of Land Rights is a metaphor. A metaphor is a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract. The Continuum is misleading and under- represents the full spectrum of different tenure types and would wrongly imply that registered freehold is the highest form of tenure type.

14. How beneficial is the role of multilateral agencies like the World Bank in Land Administration? Share a success story example.

VVE: Frankly speaking, I may be biased, since I have been collaborating with multilateral agencies, including the World Bank, since the 1990s, and I currently work for the largest UN technical agency. It is hard to imagine what would have been the status of LA in my own region without development support from multilateral agencies, or without the international knowledge exchange that they stimulate. Land surveyors are among the first professionals who recognized the value and importance of international knowledge exchange by establishing FIG, the Fédération Internationale des Géomètres, in 1878. For me, the development partners support for reforms in the LA and geospatial domain is sine qua non. One indicator for perceived benefits of WB and other development partners support in LA and geospatial reforms is the fact that several well-developed economies – even among the G20 – keep requesting WB and other development partners assistance. The key effort should be to further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of such international support. I already mentioned Kyrgyzstan as an example, where the WB supported LA projects of the government, which were considered to have improved people’s lives. The Kyrgyz LAS achievements ranged from four hours on the average to register an apartment sale with a hypothec, to the fact that short term loans using land as collateral became so efficient and accessible, that the total annual amount of LAS-registered loans to citizens (supporting local economic development) exceeded the foreign direct investments.

KCB: Overall, I would say it’s been positive. Back in the October 2011 issue of Coordinates, I had an article published, “Experiences from World Bank Development Support for Land Reform”. It is relevant to the question being discussed here.22 There have been successes but there have also been failures. Success requires clarity, ownership and sustainability. Land administration projects require welldefined objectives, activities, and should focus on what is truly achievable within the investment life of the project. Such investment should identify the issues and challenges and build on successes. To be effective, the project should have well-defined targets and baselines within a responsible project results framework. However, things can and do change, so flexibility is essential which means project revision – or restructuring – may be necessary. I am not aware of a single World Bank supported land administration project that did not require restructuring within the first two years of a typical project period of five years.

I would say the three Land Titling projects in Thailand, supported by the World Bank and Australian Technical assistance, over the 18-year period 1984- 2002, were very successful. The projects implemented the first three phases of a proposed 20-year land titling program. Subsequently, the government continued to implement the land titling program, using its own funding. I would like to also report that I consider several other successful land administration projects including Laos Second Land Titling Project, Philippines Second Land Administration and Management Project, Indonesian Reconstruction of Aceh Land Administration System Project, Vietnam Land Administration Project, Uzbekistan Modernization of Real Property Registration and Cadastre Project and the Support to the Land Administration and Geospatial Modernization Project and Türkiye Land Registry and Cadastre Modernization Project. The World Bank project website has all the project details, data and documents for free download.

15. We frequently see in publications and reports from development agencies, including the World Bank, that 70% of the world’s land parcels are not registered. That suggests a huge challenge still remains despite more than three decades of development assistance by the World Bank, et al. What are your thoughts?

VVE: This kind of fake statistic, with obscure underlying assumptions, is used by well-intended activists mostly for populistic advocacy. For the sake of argument, is a percentage of nonregistered land parcels a good proxy of land tenure insecurity and land inequality? Unintentionally, FAO may have contributed to generating and disseminating such confusing numbers on the global land tenure status. The unflattering truth is that we very well know there are widespread land tenure insecurity and inequality in the access to land and other natural resources, – adversely affecting livelihoods and human rights of the marginalised and vulnerable ones, constantly fomenting conflicts and hampering socio-economic development and environmental resilience, – but reliable statistical data about the global dimensions of land inequality and tenure insecurity are still missing. The landrelated indicators were hastily patched to the SDG in the last minute, with insufficient participation and inclusion of key stakeholders – for example, the FAO Land Tenure Unit supporting the VGGT was practically not part of the consultations. This highlights a long standing negligence and absence of land access and tenure insecurity issues from the global sustainable development agenda and priorities. SDG indicators 1.4.2, 5.a.1 and 5.a.2 are apparently insufficient to get the full global picture of access to land and tenure insecurity. Moreover, they are not properly reported by the UN member countries so far. The magnitude of the challenge has to be well estimated in order to enable managing the problem and monitoring the progress towards its mitigation. Land tenure statistics are close to my heart: one of my first FAO assignments, even before I joined FAO, focused on land tenure statistical data in Central and Eastern Europe. LAS should be among the key providers of land tenure data for statistics, but there are many tenure data types that should be collected by other land sector stakeholders. In fact, many LAS lack the capacity to provide adequate land tenure data for national statistics. Anthony Beck emphasized in a discussion that this should be addressed. Modern LAS should be able to provide flexible statistics to support exploratory analysis, policy and decision making. If they cannot, then the implication is that they have been designed in an inflexible way. My opinion is that the global importance of land tenure statistics is commonly underestimated, and such statistics are not yet adequately mainstreamed in the UN Statistics Division. On a positive note, FAO supports the initiative to establish a global land observatory and periodically publish a global land report, which is a step in the right direction to fill the current gap. Hopefully this initiative will be soon backed by multiple international, government and civil society stakeholders in the land sector to make it a success.

KCB: Firstly, no one knows how many land parcels there are in the world, let alone being able to advise a percentage of an unknown figure. That should just be plain common sense. The background to what has become known as the Zombie Myth – 70 percent of the world’s land parcels are not registered or alternatively only 30 percent of the world’s land parcels are registered – is a profoundly false equivalence from an exercise by eminent land expert Willi Zimmermann who was tasked by FAO, around 2010, to estimate the percentage of the world’s population which lacked secure tenure. I understood this was a consideration for development of the VGGT. Importantly, Willi Zimmermann did not report on the percentage of land parcels. I discussed this with Willi some years ago due to the growth of the Zombie Myth and its many variations. Willi, with inputs of 10 experts did some very rough guestimates and considered that around 70 percent of the world’s population lacked tenure security. So, it’s completely without basis to claim that 70 percent of the world’s land parcels are not registered or not titled. Regretfully, this Zombie Myth continues to be reproduced, or a variant of it, in many publications, reports and presentations by leading development agencies, including the multilaterals. I understand that the UN Statistics Division, the parent of UN-GGIM, has access to the periodic population housing censuses and agricultural censuses of some 150 countries of the world’s reported 195 countries. Reliable figures on tenure security could be obtained by using the census data, and periodically revised from new census data, to monitor progress.

16. Any comments on the World Bank Doing Business (DB) ratings for Registration of Property (RP)? It was last published in 2020.

VVE: I am familiar with the RP section of the DB and have seen it used to advocate for tenure reforms, but I have my doubts on the representativeness and objectivity of its ratings and see it as a populistic hype. First, RP methodology did not measure LAS efficiency for the mass land transactions – sale of a residential property, – but used instead the sale of a hypothetical warehouse – quite a rare transaction, – thus considerably reducing its representativeness. Second, it was so populistically advertised without revealing the underlying assumptions, that it created a hype and unhealthy competition between governments to score well, – since a good rating meant better chances for foreign investments in the economy. In at least one country, government counterparts advised about special missions of top officials to Washington D.C., negotiating amendments of their RP rating, – which is a blemish on RP and DB presumed impartiality. Therefore, I was not surprised when the WB group announced DB termination

KCB: Just a few comments. Firstly, I do recall Coordinates carrying a brief news update on DB back in September 2020 concerning “data irregularities”.23 Of course, the irregularities were not isolated to any single indicator. One year later, following an independent investigation by the US law firm Willmer Hale, the World Bank advised that it was discontinuing DB and made public the Willmer Hale report24, 25. So, the last report prepared was June 2020. To quote from the World Bank media release:

“After data irregularities on Doing Business 2018 and 2020 were reported internally in June 2020, World Bank management paused the next Doing Business report and initiated a series of reviews and audits of the report and its methodology. In addition, because the internal reports raised ethical matters, including the conduct of former Board officials as well as current and/or former Bank staff, management reported the allegations to the Bank’s appropriate internal accountability mechanisms.

After reviewing all the information available to date on Doing Business, including the findings of past reviews, audits, and the report the Bank released today on behalf of the Board of Executive Directors, World Bank Group management has taken the decision to discontinue the Doing Business report.”

Subsequently, the World Bank has announced it will be implementing Business Ready (B-READY), to replace DB. B-READY will assess the business and investment environment, or business enabling environment (BEE) worldwide annually. Whilst I am not aware of the exact status of B-READY, I understand it’s past the Concept Note stage and the first publication will be Spring 2024. B-READY will provide a quantitative assessment of the business environment for private sector development. The assessment will cover ten assessment topics following the typical life cycle of a firm from opening, operating (or expanding), and closing (or reorganizing) a business. It is my understanding that Registering Property will not be included in B-READY – which is appropriate as it is intended to assess the business and investment environment rather than the bulk of land registrants which are ordinary owners.

To return to the topic of DB Registering Property, many did not realize it was a hypothetical assessment and it did not cover residential or agricultural property. Rather it was a hypothetical owner-occupied warehouse or factory of particular characteristics of size, location, mortgage-free and so forth to address private sector use of property for business. To be frank, warehouses and factories do not often get sold. Most are subject to lease agreements. Thus, such transactions would be among the least common in any land registry and most definitely not a valid proxy for general registration of property. Thus, to reiterate, it was about the doing business aspects of property – private sector business – and not about general rights over residential and agricultural lands for ordinary citizens. Further, to see countries with poor and incomplete cadastral systems often achieving high ratings for Registration of Property was just extraordinary. Over the period from 2010-17 I used to annually prepare a spreadsheet tabling DB RP against Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index26 and the International Property Rights Index (IPRI)27. Many, but not all, of the highly ranked DB RP countries had poor CPI rankings and did not do well under IPRI. One example that stood out in 2017, my last effort, was Russia, which ranked very high on DB RP at 12thout of 190 countries covered under DB. IPRI had ranked Russia 111th out of its 125 ranked countries and TI CPI ranked Russia 133rd out of its 180 ranked countries.

17. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals with 169 targets that all 191 UN Member States have agreed to try to achieve by the year 2030. We are now at the mid-point of the period of the SDGs – 2016-2030. The SDGs contain land-related targets and indicators under SDGs 1, 2, 5, 11 and 15. What are your thoughts?

VVE: My organization is aware that despite the need for responsible governance of land tenure for the achievement of nearly every SDG, the world’s attention to this matter was sadly dropped off of the global priority list. This undermines efforts to foster sustainable agrifood systems, as well as to fortify the protection of human rights. We are not at all on track to achieve the SDG targets by 2030 and the world is currently facing unprecedented challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity, climate change, land degradation, biodiversity loss and ecosystem disruption, water scarcity, forced migration and conflicts. From narrow LA and geospatial perspective, to overcome these challenges, it is crucial that governments and their development partners take stock of lessons learned and double down on efforts in strengthening the responsible governance of tenure, in line with VGGT.

KCB: According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023: Special Edition, in terms of all targets, only 15 percent are on target, 48 percent are moderately or severely off track and 37 percent are at stagnation or regression.28 Let’s focus on tenurial rights as reported under SDG 5. The Special Edition advises that agricultural land ownership and legal protection of women’s land rights remain low. Specifically:
• When it comes to legal frameworks, close to 60 percent of the 71 reporting countries have no or low levels of protection for women’s land rights.
• In 46 of the reported countries, less than 50 percent of women and men have land ownership or secure rights.
• The share of men with ownership is at least twice that of women in the reported 46 countries.

On the positive side, 51 percent of the 41 countries with laws recognizing customary law or customary land tenure explicitly protect women’s land rights. However, the actual reporting of such a small number of countries out of 191 UN member states is surely a serious issue.

It is the midpoint of the SDGs. UN Secretary-General Guterres has advised:

“Halfway to the deadline for the 2030 Agenda, the SDG Progress Report; Special Edition shows we are leaving more than half the world behind. Progress on more than 50 percent of targets of the SDGs is weak and insufficient; on 30 percent, it has stalled or gone into reverse. These include key targets on poverty, hunger and climate. Unless we act now, the 2030 Agenda could become an epitaph for a world that might have been.”

It seems that the UN either rejected or ignored the advice of former UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, in his final report, to restructure (revitalize) the SDGs.29 Alston was also highly critical of the World Bank’s measures of extreme poverty. Clearly, the failings of the first set of goals, the Millenium Development Goals, were not effectively addressed. In previous SDG Annual Reports, dating back to at least 2020, UN Statistics Division, and its parent the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) advocated the acquisition of more data, including geospatial information, to address the SDGs, rather than restructuring. That has clearly been proven wrong and sadly Alston’s advice was either ignored or rejected. Clearly, there are missed opportunities. It may be too late now to fix things before 2030. Any fixing is likely to just revise targets and improve data collection – and that could be interpreted as restructuring to make things look not so bad. Perhaps attention needs to be paid to lessons learned and to prepare for the next set of 15-year goals. There is no doubt that geospatial information is important for monitoring of targets and UN-GGIM’s advocacy of such is appropriate.

18. One question on disasters striking at so frequent intervals of ‘never imagined’ intensity. What is it all indicating towards and what does it mean for land administration?

VVE: Regardless of whether the increasing frequency of news on natural disasters and their intensity is a result of climate change, or of improved global information and communications, the takeaway for LA and geospatial systems is that they should plan how to improve their own resilience to disasters, and how to help improve the national and community resilience in their countries by improving their services. I believe that public investments in LA and geospatial systems and PPP expansion in this domain should be prioritised in order to achieve better resilience in the long run.

KCB: It highlights a number of critical issues, especially concerning resilience. Firstly, land registry records must be secure and should be digital and frequently archived and stored separately. My experience in Aceh after the tsunami showed how vulnerable paper records were to destruction. I have also seen it with other disasters including fire. Secondly, planning approval is an important subject under land administration. Residential occupation of lands subject to flooding, storm and tidal surge should also be projected, unless it is mandated to build above perceived flood levels. That is, an additional amount of height above the Base Flood Elevation should be used as a factor of safety (e.g., 0.6-1.0 m above the Base Flood) in determining the level at which a structure’s lowest floor must be elevated or floodproofed to be in accordance with jurisdictional planning floodplain management regulations.

This is called Freeboard. A further issue is not occupying land below the Mean High-Water Mark (MHWM) and, in some circumstances, pulling well back from MHWM. I recall that working in Leyte following super- typhoon Yolanda and advising on a no build zone for coastal properties, which was subsequently fixed at 40 meters setback from MHWB for residential purposes. Business purposes land use setback was not changed. I recall advising a higher setback from MHWM, but ultimately, it was a government decision.

In sum, land administration systems must be resilient and sustainable, with all information being secure and maintained. People’s rights and utilization of rights must be protected. Access to authoritative data, including elevation and buildings, underpinned by a reliable cadastral base, enables simulation for disaster planning and mitigation. I see enormous opportunities for Digital Twin applications in supporting resilience.

19. Any final brief thoughts?

AB: Firstly, Digital Twins essentially establish two parallel systems: the abstraction (or the model) and the reality. Inevitably the model will never fully reflect reality. Individuals and organisation become heavily invested in the modelling. Frameworks and metrics are also developed to support implementation and to benchmark, measure and evaluate change. Careers and reputations can be built on how well such models are adopted.

Where the model is demonstrably weak or inappropriate for a scenario then there is also a risk that vested interests will defend the abstractions. This can create a tension between the model, reality and the problem in hand, which can become a significant distraction. In this world of digital twins, LADM, LGAF, IGIF, FELA, FFPLA, and SDGs we should remember the words of statistician George Box: “All models are wrong, but some are useful”30. The point being that the utilityof a model should be judged on how useful it is; when a model stops being useful then the model is not fit-for-purpose.

Finally, I would like to see horizon scanning documents identify high level implementation roadmaps. Horizon scanning is useful for exploring the future and identifying potential threats, opportunities and developments that may affect current policies and practices. I like it. However, horizon scanning can very easily create unrealistic expectations (a little like the Gartner hype cycle31). I feel this is happening in respect of the application of technology to Land Administration. For example, UNECE Principle 20 (UNECE, 2021, p. 13)32 states that “The land administration system offers real-time registration of transactions, largely subject to automatic digital checks only”. This is highly aspirational. It requires the development of foundational prerequisites including an LADM style ‘data’ architecture, automated validation of cadastral surveys, a party indexing system which can be dynamically accessed to determine identity, professional accreditation and power-of-attorney details. This doesn’t even consider the range of associated legal reforms a jurisdiction would need to put in place to make such a proposal viable.

Expectations shape the art-of-the-possible and influence future policy. It is important that architects of change can develop policy that can be implemented and recognise what companion steps are needed to deliver the intended changes.

VVE:I am very grateful to Coordinates for inviting me to participate in this virtual interview. I hope that this interview will instigate further useful discussion.

KCB: For all those engaged in international development assistance, including research and analytical works, and especially in the areas of land administration and geospatial, please keep an open mind. Be prepared to challenge the apparent consensus, sometimes dominated by loud voices and hype, which really grew during the pandemic. Good ideas and approaches can only emerge from constructively challenging and questioning. As General George Patton (1944) is often cited:

“If everyone is thinking alike,
somebody isn’t thinking.”

I hope this interview provokes discussion and debate. Many thanks to Coordinates for inviting me to participate and share some of my thoughts alongside my respected colleagues Vladimir and Anthony.

End notes


2International Fund for Agricultural Development

3Cf. Bill Gates: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

4 files/2018-06/5-306-09-004-p.pdf

5 audits/ SIGAR-17-27-AR.pdf

6Cf. Hull S. et al. An Overview of Frontier Technologies for Land Tenure: How to Avoid the Hype and Focus on What Matters, https://www.

7 methodologies/gartner-hype-cycle

8 ir/2018/NIST.IR.8202.pdf

9 Whether_Blockchain_WP.pdf

10 global- experiences-with-public-private- partnerships-for-land-registry- services-a-critical-review/



13 elements-issues-and-challenges-in-implementation-of-nsdi

14UN Committee on World Food Security

15Kaufmann J. and Steudler D., Cadastre 2014: A Vision for a Future Cadastral System, FIG 1998.

16 watch?v=Tyl7VA3SlzI

17Fit-For-Purpose Land Administration, FIG Publication 60


19Fit-For-Purpose Land Administration, FIG Publication 60

20 files/download-manager-files/ Framework%20for%20Evaluating%20 Continuum%20of%20Land%20 Rights%20Scenarios_English_2016.pdf

21 download-manager-files/Secure%20 Land%20Rights%20for%20All.pdf

22 from-world-bank-development- support-for-land-reform/

23 doing-business-world-bank-issues- data-irregularities-statement/


25 doc/ 84a922cc9273b7b120d49ad3b9e9d3f9 – 0090012021/original/DB-Investigation-Findings-and-Report-to-the-Board-of-Executive-Directors-September-15-2021.pdf




29 parlous-state-poverty-eradication- report-special-rapporteur





  • Andre Tomlinson said:

    Kudos Coordinates! This is a much-needed discussion – long overdue.

  • Tom said:

    This is an outstanding interview. But, it’s far more than that – as it is well referenced through the endnotes. I spent several hours going through these and I found it very sobering.

    This has clearly been a major undertaking by Coordinates as the interview is almost half the entire month’s issue. Coordinates deserves great praise for such an investment and of course great credit to the expert panel for their insights and candor.

    For years we have seen representatives of GLTN-Habitat, World Bank, FIG, Kadaster, UN-GGIM, etc. delivering their presentations, publishing papers and articles – more often than not, unchallenged. What we can now appreciate is that so much is simply not fact, and some has been partial truths, hype and indeed “myth” as reported by the panel. World Bank Land Conferences have been opportunities for promoting false claims, hype and rhetoric. Hopefully, the return of the World Bank Land Conference in 2024 will be an opportunity for “truth to power” to be instigated. Perhaps that’s just wishful thinking as leopards don’t change their spots. There is every chance that we will see many of the same names presenting their vested agendas.

    Mr. Evtimov has made that clear with his comments especially on FELA. I have been skeptical about UN-GGIM and its IGIF push – now I am sure it’s nothing new and has all the hallmarks of being supply-driven, especially by donors – thanks to the insights of Mr. Evtimov and Dr. Bell. Are these frameworks just fads? Well so much for LGAF. I am not seeing great traction with either FELA or IGIF, but a lot of nirvana hype.

    Great insights from all on blockchain.

    On LADM, I appreciate Dr. Beck’s insights and look forward to its revision. On the SDGs, I am dumb-founded as to how poorly formulated the land-related indicators are. Also, I am astounded that the UN has ignored early calls to restructure all of the SDGs. It is all but too late for the SDGs now. Over the past decade we have also seen FIG, especially its Commission 7, push agendas which may also serve vested interests, at times.

    Real progress will only be achieved if development agencies, UN, countries, civil society and professional bodies are fearless and frank. Indeed, “truth to power”, as Coordinates have stated!

    My personal request to Coordinates- please do this type of exercise every year. Truly awesome!

  • Tea Dabrundashvili said:

    This is very timely and useful publication for all professionals and beyond. It inspires everyone to think more creatively, hence constructively. Congratulations!

  • Mark Drozdov said:

    Great article!!

  • Greg Armbrister said:

    This is a very informative discussion. For me, it has certainly filled in the gaps and joined the dots.

    Much appreciated gentlemen.

    “Be a free thinker and don’t accept everything you hear as truth. Be critical and evaluate what you believe in.” Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)

  • Merte Aydin said:

    Very useful insights. My mind is now wide open.

  • Tsveten Boev said:

    Remarkable interview!
    Revelations, Insights and Visionary Ideas!

  • Kumar Abhas said:

    This is a very useful discussion of topics. My deepest thanks to the panel and to Coordinates. I would like to raise 2 questions:

    My first question concerns FELA – Framework for Effective Land Administration. By what authority did UN-GGIM approve it? It seems it was approved at the global forum of UN-GGIM in 2020. UN-GGIM is the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management. Land Administration may have connections to geospatial information, but it seems to me that UN-GGIM’s representation is not land authorities. So why has UN-GGIM pushed something outside its technical thematic mandate? I would welcome responses from the panel, Coordinates, and readers.

    Second, UN-GGIM reports to, or falls under, the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) – at least in terms of its secretariat. Also, UNSD is under the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). I see that it is DESA which produces the Annual Report on SDGs. I especially note the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Annual Reports report on the importance of geospatial information is advocated and integration with statistical information. It would be expected that DESA’s advocacy of geospatial information is on the advice of UNSD and UN-GGIM Secretariat. Specifically, the 2019 annual report states: ” The integration of geospatial information and statistical data will be particularly important for the production of several indicators.” The 2020 and 2021 annual reports advocate the integration of geospatial and statistical data. What is striking, was that no attention was given to the early reporting of the SDG’s failing including by Special rapporteur Alston, as reported in the interview. Things were looking really bad from the first few years’ reporting. So, why has DESA, UNSD and UN-GGIM simply pushed for geospatial information rather than fixing the flawed SDGs. One of the panel referred to this as “restructuring”. Has there been a hidden agenda and let me use the term “by vested interests”. Something is not right. I would welcome responses from the panel, Coordinates, and readers.

    I hope I have not been too verbose with my questions. Again, thanks to the panel and Coordinates.

  • Keith Clifford Bell said:

    Tom – thanks for your very thoughtful comments on the interview.

    I agree with your comments. I also hope there is a new approach to World Bank Land and Poverty Conferences. I last attended in 2017.

    On FIG C7, I am also inclined to agree with you.

    If I may draw two excellent books to your attention, and also to the attention of readers of “Coordinates”. I raise these two excellent books without making specific comments on content. But, I strongly recommend both as must-read books for all who engage in international development, including land administration.

    Firstly, Catherine Caulfield, 1996, “Masters of Illusion: The World Bank and the Poverty of Nations”, New York.

    Secondly, William Easterly, 2014, “The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor”. Easterly is a former economist and senior adviser at the Macroeconomics and Growth Division of the World Bank and serves as a Professor at New York University.

    I will leave it to Anthony and Vladimir for further responses, as they may feel.

  • Keith Clifford Bell said:

    Kumar Abhas – thanks for your feedback. You have raised two very important questions.

    On your first question concerning FELA, I can advise that I raised a similar question at the FIG Commission 7 Annual Meeting in October 2020. It was a virtual event. In session 1, Opening Asia-Pacific – Land Administration 2020, where I was a panelist/presenter I asked a similar question as to whether UN-GGIM was the right authority to be addressing FELA. The video recording is posted and I include the link herewith. I raised the question at around 1:01 (that is 1 hour 1 min of the session) at the end of a presentation by two speakers from UN-GGIM/Kadaster International reporting on “Framework for Effective Land Administration Adopted”

    The response was fundamentally – if it is not with UN-GGIM where should it be and what is the alternative other than do nothing. So, that was a fair response.

    I also raised a second issue concerning frameworks. There was some reasonable discussion on that too.

    In sum, I agree with you that UN-GGIM’s overwhelming geospatial agency representation and its lack of broad land agency representation membership does not really qualify it to mandate land administration tools or frameworks.

    On your second question, you raise good points. It would seem now, at the mid-term of the SDGs it is too late to restructure. In fact, as I have commented in the interview, at this late point, any restructuring would be interpreted as the UN adjusting targets to make things look better than they really are. As to why UN DESA, and ECOSOC rejected the early advice of Alston to restructure I don’t know the reasons. But, time has proven DESA and UNSD to be wrong regarding the SDGs.

    However, I do respect the solid advocacy of UN-GGIM to promote geospatial information usage globally and regionally. Perhaps UN-GGIM could have been more direct in its advice to UNSD to not only advocate geospatial information and statistical data integration, but to recommend restructuring of the SDGs and thereafter utilization of more proactive geospatial monitoring. Over the past few years, I have made similar comments at various for a, including two organized by the University of Melbourne:

    “International Forum on Digital Infrastructure for Climate Resilience”, October 20, 2023, where I chaired the first session, and commented after two speakers on UN-GGIM – link to video:

    “Thought leaders series: Building climate resilient infrastructure”, April 28, 2021, link to video, where I was a panelist and drew attention to the failing SDGs and the advice of former UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston:

    Anthony and Vladimir may also wish to comment.

  • Vladimir V. Evtimov said:

    The subject of UN endorsement of good practice frameworks keeps emerging, and therefore I offer a reality check below.

    The VGGT are the first UN endorsed comprehensive global instrument on governance of tenure and its administration prepared by intergovernmental negotiations. ( The need for codifying a global consensus on tenure governance and its administration emerged in the early 2000s, and the VGGT materialised after ten years of profound and inclusive global consultations, which involved the drafting and negotiation process steered by FAO. The VGGT consensus is complementary to agreements on aspects of tenure that were reached in earlier international instruments (for example, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948), but is far more comprehensive.

    The VGGT were officially endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at its Thirty-eighth (Special) Session on 11 May 2012. CFS is the United Nations’ forum for reviewing and following up on policies concerning world food security. During 2009-2011, government officials, civil society organizations, private sector representatives and academics identified and assessed issues and actions to be included in the VGGT, which were finalized through the CFS-led intergovernmental negotiations that took place in three rounds during 2011-2012, attended by some 98 member countries plus the European Union as a member organization. The negotiations included the participation of practically all other stakeholders: international agencies, civil society organizations, farmers’ associations, private sector representatives, academic and research institutions.

    Regional concerns regarding tenure governance were identified in 10 regional consultations held between September 2009 and November 2010, which brought together almost 700 people from the public and private sectors, civil society and academia, representing 133 countries. Four consultation meetings were held specifically for civil society organizations of Asia, Latin America, Europe and Central and West Asia, and Africa, which drew a total of almost 200 people from over 70 countries. In addition, a consultation for the private sector was attended by over 70 people from 21 countries.

    The consensus at the CFS was further strengthened by the endorsement of the VGGT by the G20, Rio+ 20, the United Nations General Assembly, the Francophone Assembly of Parliamentarians, and others. UN GA Resolution 67/228 (2013, reaffirmed in its resolutions 68/233 and 70/233 states: «The General Assembly … … 31. Encourages countries to give due consideration to implementing the VGGT, as endorsed by the CFS on 11 May 2012; 32. Requests the relevant entities of the United Nations system, in accordance with their respective mandates and in the most cost-effective manner, to ensure the speedy dissemination and promotion of the Guidelines; …».

    To the best of my knowledge, related frameworks like IGIF, FELA, and others were endorsed mostly by the UN-GGIM, rather than by the UN proper (the UN General Assembly). The Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) is a committee of experts under the auspices of the UN Statistics Division (UN SD), which serves under the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). UN-GGIM’s membership comprises national experts from member states, as well as experts from international organizations as observers, and observers from academia and the private sector. I hear already some claims voiced, for example through FIG Commission 7 (cf. December 2023 Newsletter … “the UN endorsed Framework for Effective Land Administration”) which ignore or neglect the reality about UN endorsement of framework documents. In the context of FELA particularly, the mandate of UN-GGIM on Land Administration issues is contentious, since geospatial information expertise and land administration expertise are not synonymous, geospatial information is not the only (nor the single most critical) ingredient of land administration information, even though it is important in Land Information Systems (LIS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) supporting land administration and land management. Country representatives in UN-GGIM are not plenipotentiary ministers of their governments (like the CFS voting members in the case of VGGT), but specialists and private experts, whose mandate stems in their academic and research interest or government post – mostly in national mapping organizations, which are not necessarily representative for the land registry, cadastre, land valuation and taxation, spatial planning or land development aspects of land administration and land management. In my view the FELA process was far less inclusive, superficially global, not considering in depth the regional, civil society, private sector or land holders’ organizations and interests.

    On the other hand, the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF), in contrast, was officially endorsed by the UN General Assembly Resolution 69/266. Specifically, the actual process for GGRF was as follows: UN-GGIM created a Working Group for a Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF), who formulated and facilitated a draft resolution for GGRF, which was adopted by UN-GGIM in July 2014 and thereafter by ECOSOC in November 2014. On 26 February 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN resolution on the Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development. (

    To sum up this comment: being UN-GGIM endorsed does not make a document UN endorsed. It would need to follow a similar process as what took place with GGRF and VGGT. The process is extensive and requires high-level decision making from the highest level of UN member state representatives.

  • Ex- Geoscience Australia said:

    Having read this article and as I monitor the growing posting of comments, I feel it is time for me to make a comment. My apologies in advance, as there is quite a bit to say.

    The most recent comment posted, at the time of my writing, is that of Mr. Evtimov. His comments on what constitute United Nations endorsement is authoritative – spot on. I am very familiar with the process undertaken for GGRF where Geoscience Australia played a key role, leading to approval by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. It was a huge effort. As advised Mr. Evtimov, GGRF are officially endorsed by the UN. Now that is the case for either IGIF or FELA.

    I just read FIG Commission 7 News Brief December 2023 circulated by the Chair, Dr. Rohan Bennett. Unfortunately, Dr. Bennett has incorrectly reported that FELA is UN endorsed. FELA is not UN endorsed as confirmed by Mr. Evtimov. Rather, FELA is UN-GGIM endorsed. That is one hell of a big difference, i.e. being endorsed by a group of experts versus being endorsed by the UN General Assembly. I would encourage Dr. Bennett to take stock and correct this misinformation he has reported.

    Now, is UN-GGIM mandated to deal with land administration? I think not. Let me quote:
    The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) established the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) with ECOSOC resolution 2011/24 entitled “Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management”. ECOSOC established the Committee of Experts as the apex intergovernmental mechanism for making joint decisions and setting directions with regard to the production, availability, and application of geospatial information within national, regional, and global policy frameworks.

    FELA is land administration and is not about “the production, availability, and application of geospatial information within national, regional, and global policy frameworks.”

    UN-GGIM has undoubtedly stepped outside its mandate with FELA. Spend some time examining FELA and you will see. Let me quote from a paper co-authored by Dr. Bennett, himself, “Advancing FELA – The Framework for Effective Land Administration:, presented at the 2022 FIG Working Week:

    “Inspired and aligned with IGIF, the FELA promotes the documentation, recording, and recognition of people-to-land relationships in all forms (Figure 1). The FELA further includes references to existing concepts, approaches, and mechanisms, such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGTs) in the Context of National Food Security (FAO, 2012), the continuum of land rights (UN-Habitat, 2008) and (Barry & Augustinus, 2015), and the Land Governance Assessment Framework (Deininger, et al., 2012). The framework also considers standardisation developments by international bodies such as the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM) (ISO, 2012) and defines a reference for the development, improvement and modernisation of national and regional LA and land information systems (LIS).”

    So is FELA all about serving vested interests?

    I would also like to comment on IGIF. I do agree with Dr. Bell that IGIF is nothing new. Rather, at best, it’s a re-packaging and branding of NSDI. Let me refer specifically to a presentation given by Greg Scott to the Eighth Plenary Meeting of UN-GGIM Asia-Pacific 3-5 November 2019, National Convention Centre, Canberra, Australia. Rather than utilize the full US FGDC framework for NSDI, Mr. Scott has just used the foundation data overlay diagram and compared that with the IGIF 9 pathways. Mr. Scott has failed to use the NSDI framework diagram that was posted in the Coordinates interview. The one posted dated 2005 is a slight variant of the original from the early 1990s.
    Bridging the Geospatial Divide is fair comment and I agree on the importance of geospatial information supporting the monitoring and implementation of the SDGs. But, as Dr Bell has raised, why was the restructuring of SDGs early in the piece not undertaken? Why did UN DESA, advised by UN SD chose to promote integration of geospatial information with statistical data rather than fixing the very flawed SDG design, especially poorly conceived baselines and target values?

    I am not sure I agree with Dr. Bell that UN-GGIM has been very effective in its advocacy of geospatial infromation. I would say it has been more case of UN-GGIM promoting vested interests.

    There are many joint postings by Mr. Stefan Schweinfest, Director UNSD and UN-GGIM about addressing the 2030 Agenda through bridging the geospatial divide, leveraging the “data ecosystem” and integration of geospatial information with statistical data to achieve such. One such event was the “UN Sustainable Development Goals: Transforming Our World” at The Cambridge Conference 2017 Mapping Nations: The Next Decades.
    I can’t fathom why UNSD and UN-GGIM continued to push the bridging the geospatial divide approach, using IGIF rather than fix the flawed SDGs as advised by the former Special Rapporteur. Let me restate what the UN Secretary-General Guterres has advised, which Dr. Bell has raised in the Coordinates interview:
    “Halfway to the deadline for the 2030 Agenda, the SDG Progress Report; Special Edition shows we are leaving more than half the world behind. Progress on more than 50 percent of targets of the SDGs is weak and insufficient; on 30 percent, it has stalled or gone into reverse. These include key targets on poverty, hunger and climate. Unless we act now, the 2030 Agenda could become an epitaph for a world that might have been.”

    In my view, after 8 years of the SDGs, the key targets on poverty, hunger and climate completely compromised. Surely, an investigation is warranted as how this has been allowed to happen under ECOSOC through UN DESA and UN SD. Why has UN-GGIM seemingly had so much influence in diverting from what needed to be done back in 2020 or 2021? Is it little wonder that the world has little faith in the UN’s capacity to actually achieve anything.

    The UN is an intergovernmental organization whose stated purposes are to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and serve as a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

    Perhaps off topic, but the UN’s credibility is very much in focus now with the Gaza Genocide with talk is not being walked. Resolutions are not being acted upon. Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, described his “darkest moment” as the inability or failure of the United Nations to stop the Iraq War.
    So whether its failure to stop a war or failure to fix the SDGs, the UN’s credibility is very much in question.

    To close, let me also give credit to panelist Dr. Beck, especially for his comments on LADM and Blockchain. I also give credit to Dr. Beck for his alerting us regarding the growing vested interests with the various frameworks. So true!

  • Sedat BAKICI said:

    It was the most qualified article on land management and geospatial technologies that I have read in recent years. In the article, no topic was left untouched in the fields of land management and geospatial technologies. I would like to thank both “mycoordinates” editors and especially my dear friend Dr. I congratulate the distinguished experts, especially Keith Clifford Bell.

    The Turkish Land Registry and Cadastre Administration (TKGM), in which I served in the top management for 32 years, benefited greatly from the World Bank projects. For TKGM, the World Bank is more than a financial resource; WB is a project discipline, citizen-oriented service, and sustainability model as an important part of the projects. Valuable World Bank experts such as Wael Zakout, Neil Pullar, Mika Torhonen, and Keith Bell have great contributions to the Turkish Land Administration in the use of high technology and became citizen-oriented, through World Bank projects that I have been implementing on the TKGM side.

    On the other hand, as an expert who has actively worked on both the Institutional Development Program for Land Administration (IDPL) and Afghanistan Land Administration Project (ALASP) projects in Afghanistan, I can say that; Government support is crucial to the success of a project. While the tremendous support of the esteemed Minister Jawad Peikar in the writing of IDPL and the first years of the implementation of ALASP caused the project to make measurable progress, the unexpected change of Minister caused the project to stall and even deviate from its purpose. Governmental and administrative support was an important factor behind the success in Turkish Land Administration (TKGM).

  • Zaher Sultani said:

    Remarkable Hard Talk
    I would like to add comments about the failures of land-related projects in Afghanistan. Mr. Keith Clifford Bell mentioned several important points regarding why these projects were unsuccessful. I would also like to highlight a couple of reasons too:
    Before 2013, land administration functions were spread across several institutions with overlapping mandates, lacking coordination mechanisms. This situation further undermined institutional capacities to address the challenging land administration issues in the country.
    In May 2013, the Afghanistan Independent Land Authority (ARAZI) was established. Under strong leadership, clear policy direction, guidance, and robust political support, ARAZI has evolved into a one-stop shop for all issues related to land administration in the country.
    Another contributing factor was the legal framework for land administration issues in the country. After 2013, several laws and regulations were amended and issued to combat land grabbing, resolve land disputes, and register all types of land.
    The ALASP Project, funded by the World Bank in 2019, was well-designed and well-timed. The legal basis had been established, capacity had been improved, and there was technical support from TKGM-Turkiye for capacity building. However, due to COVID-19, the project faced delays, and with the Taliban retaking power, the project was ultimately canceled. I believe that ALASP is still implementable.

  • Jawad Peikar said:

    The interview provides a comprehensive exploration of critical issues in land administration, encompassing the roles of surveying, the impact of ICT and geospatial technologies, and challenges unique to various country contexts. The diverse perspectives offered by the three professionals, Keith, Vladimir, and Mr. Beck enhance the depth and breadth of the discussion.
    Having a personal acquaintance with Keith for nearly a decade has afforded me the opportunity to witness his exceptional professionalism and leadership in the field. Working with him in Afghanistan, where we worked to transform the country’s land administration from a traditional to a modern system, proved to be an invaluable learning process for me. Keith’s responses in this interview significantly contribute to the discourse by providing a seasoned perspective on land administration, elucidating the role of technology, and addressing challenges in diverse country settings. The candid reflections on failures add authenticity and depth to the discussion, presenting a balanced view of both successes and setbacks in land administration projects. His insights, incorporating political, economic, and technological considerations, foster a holistic understanding of the field. Notably, I appreciate his acknowledgment of the ongoing need for a focused approach to data acquisition, processing, and management, reflecting a pragmatic stance in navigating the evolving landscape of land administration.
    In a similar vein, Vladimir’s responses make a substantial contribution to the discussion, offering a nuanced understanding of the intricate interplay between development, geospatial maturity, and effective land administration. His insights, drawn from both success and failure cases, coupled with a forward-looking perspective on technology, enrich the overall discourse. Although my acquaintance with Vladimir is relatively recent, his profound knowledge of land governance and land tenure security has left a strong impression.
    I recommend continuing discussions with seasoned professionals like Keith, Vladimir, and Mr. Beck whose wealth of knowledge and experience in land governance, land tenure security, and the role of technology spans both developed and developing countries. These discussions, drawing from global success and failure cases, serve as valuable case studies for the relevant academic institutions and a practical reference for countries seeking to learn from diverse experiences worldwide.
    Best Wishes, Jawad Peikar, Former Acting Minister of Urban Development and Land, Government Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

    PS: I rate this interview with 5 ✨!

  • Tom Phandry said:

    Interesting to read the blog and then go back to Coordinates November 2021,
    UN-GGIM marks a decade of global cooperation in unlocking the value of geospatial information:

    Two stand out attributions from Nov 2021:
    1. Mr. Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs said:“Impacting the entire world, the pandemic has reinforced that – as with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) themselves – the most vulnerable countries continue to face the greatest challenges in collecting, analysing, maintaining, and using timely and reliable data, including geospatial and other disaggregated location-based data.”

    2. Described by Stefan Schweinfest, Director, UN Statistics Division, as the ‘creme de la creme’ of the complex architecture and achievements in the past ten years of UN-GGIM, the UN IGIF is the globally agreed paradigm for Member States to achieve a comprehensive and integrated approach to data. The Committee’s endorsement of the Strategic Plan of the High-Level Group on the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (HLG-IGIF) will sustain the considerable progress towards implementation made by countries, by providing strategic leadership and oversight for its continued development and improvement.

    But now we know for sure, as reported by the most senior UN official, the Secretary General himself, has reported that the SDGs are all but failed.

  • Yasin Noori said:

    It was an incredibly insightful article on land management and geospatial that I have read in a long time. The article uncovers valuable insights, and I enjoyed reading this profound article. I would like to thank the distinguished experts, especially my dear friend Dr. Keith Clifford Bell. I have known Dr. Keith since 2013 through our work with the World Bank, on development projects in Afghanistan. I have benefited from his vast knowledge and caring guidance, and I sincerely thank him for his knowledge-sharing and contribution. Regarding Afghanistan, I completely agree with Dr. Keith’s points and hope Afghanistan’s failure will lead to success in the future and we can always learn from mistakes. I would like to add that the Afghanistan works have resulted in promoting knowledge generation and strengthening the institutional and policy framework on land management. Needless to add some of the supported studies in the past 20 years in Afghanistan didn’t build upon the historical facts and have resulted to cause tension among tribal and ethnic groups.
    This is a very comprehensive and useful article on land management, and I have already recommended it to my colleagues. I am sure that many people will benefit from this interesting article.

  • Andre Tomlinson said:

    Great to see the January issue follow-up on reviewing posted comments. Awesome!

  • David M said:

    So, in 2029, UNGGIM, and its parents SD and DESA, will probably still be promoting acceleration of the SDGs through geospatial information under IGIF. In 2030, what will they say? Perhaps they will claim “it was a metaphor to be inspirational”. Watch that space! Meanwhile what will come out of Pvblic and SDG Data Alliance now entrenched with UN-GGIM? Seriously, will the hype train ever reach its terminal destination? I hope Coordinates keeps both the original article and the review of comments on public record and revisits in the coming years. I have submitted this comment for both.

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