The 6th meeting of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on the Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), is very important.

In less than three weeks, the Inter-agency expert group on SDGs (IAEG-SDGs) will again meet in Bahrain for the 2nd and final 2017 meeting to review the progress of the methodological development of several SDGs indicators. This meeting is particularly important for its main focus on the assessment of indicators for Tier reclassification. This meeting follows an earlier meeting held in Ottawa, Canada in April 2017 which reviewed Tier reclassifications for selected indicators but also refined the criteria for reclassification from Tier III to II and Tier II to I.  

The background to how we came up with the world’s "to-do" list in form of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) may be clear, but achieving the SDGs remains a challenge. The 17 SDGs are unique but also interconnected and dependent. Below each of the 17 SDGs, we have various targets, and indicators are matched to specific targets. Because, indicators are at different levels of development, the IAEG-SDGs developed indicator classification criteria as follows;

  • Tier 1: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, and data are regularly produced by countries for at least 50 per cent of countries and of the population in every region where the indicator is relevant.
  • Tier 2: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, but data are not regularly produced by countries.
  • Tier 3: No internationally established methodology or standards are not yet available for the indicator, but methodology/standards are being (or will be) developed or tested.

As of 20 October 2017, there were 82 Tier I indicators, 61 Tier II indicators and 84 Tier III indicators. In addition, there are 5 indicators that have multiple tiers (different components of the indicator are classified into different tiers).

For indicators to move from Tier III to Tier II, custodian agencies, who are tasked with coordinating the global efforts to develop methodologies for measuring these indicators, need to:

  1. Provide information on how National Statistical Systems especially the national statistical organization are involved in methodology development;
  2. Demonstrate how and when the proposed methodology has become an international standard and who is the governing body that approved it; and
  3. Provide results from pilot studies that are regionally representative.

All these updates must be well articulated and presented in revised versions of the metadata for specific indicators.

Every year, the IAEG-SDGs organises two meetings (March and October). In 2017, IAEG-SDGs offered its two annual meetings to review and fast-track the reclassification of various indicators from Tier III to II or from II to I. The upcoming meeting in Manama, Bahrain is very important given that, based on its new calendar, the IAEG-SDGs indicators will only review requests for indicator reclassification during the fall meeting of every year, meaning that the next opportunity for reclassification request will be October/November 2018.  This also comes at a time when member states are less interested in featuring any Tier III indicators in their data collection plans since these indicators remain conceptually unclear.


PRIndex stands for the Global Property Rights Index, an indicator of citizens' perceptions of the security of property rights.

PRIndex - the Global Property Rights Index, tracks citizens' perceptions of the security of property rights.


Land monitoring and SDGs

Land monitoring efforts have been ongoing for last 30 years, but the real landmark opportunity to monitor security of tenure at the global level arose in 2000 after the United Nations Millennium Declaration was published. By signing this Declaration, countries made a commitment to improve the lives of slum dwellers. Security of tenure was proposed and included in target 7D under the slum indicator, which focused on five dimensions, namely: (a) improved water; (b) improved sanitation; (c) adequate living space; (d) durable housing; and (e) security of tenure.  Eleven years later, in 2011,  the twenty-third Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), in its resolution 23/17, encouraged Governments and Habitat Agenda partners to promote security of tenure for all segments of society by recognizing and respecting a plurality of tenure systems, identifying and adopting, as appropriate to particular situations, intermediate forms of tenure arrangements, adopting alternative forms of land administration and land records alongside conventional land administration systems, and scaling up efforts to achieve secure tenure in post-conflict and post-disaster situations.

Securing tenure for all is an important goal in the era of "leaving no one behind" in the sense that it assures social stability, drives down poverty, improves functioning of urban land markets, among several other reasons. Securing tenure is directly linked to effective land governance which covers decisions on access to land, land rights, land use, land development and systems and institutional strengthening. In many countries today, effective and efficient land governance is the key toward the achievement of sustainable development.

Within Goal 1 of the SDGs target 1.4 focuses on security of tenure, offering a unique opportunity for monitoring land governance globally and with the same standards.  In general, there is consensus on the importance of tenure security among several stakeholders working on land issues, but over the course of the last 20 years it has been rather difficult for governments and the scientific community to actively monitor and track security of tenure. Early efforts by UN-Habitat and its partners supported the development of a methodology to measure security of tenure consistently across countries and regions and this was implemented through household surveys, such as the Urban Inequities Survey. In these surveys, people or households were considered to have secure tenure when there was evidence of documentation that was shown as proof of secure tenure status, or when there was either a de facto or perceived protection against forced eviction. The documents that individuals or households possess reflect, indirectly or directly, their relationship to the land on which they live. They describe the series of past decisions and actions taken by those who have a claim to the particular piece of land.

Whether tenure systems provide security for the users of land or not, security of tenure is a relative concept that changes over time and space and, for this reason, monitoring systems need to be dynamic. Over the centuries land tenure has evolved from a communal/collective system into one of individual ownership, with many variants in each broad system. In the past, the monitoring of land tenure was shaped by the communal ethos and was different from that of private ownership-based systems. Tenure security was an articulated axis of duality involving private owners of land and “the rest”. The main hypothesis was that owners were more likely to have secure tenure than renters and others. However, the duality between formal versus informal tenure arrangements has also persisted over all these years. Today, the continuum of the bundle of rights to demonstrate security of tenure is even more complex which brings more challenges for global monitoring.


Within the MDGs, the success of monitoring security of tenure as a sub-component of the slums indicator dimensions was more constrained and therefore it is not surprising that not many countries were unable to report on this sub-indicator. Within the SDGs, there are several land-related indicators such as 5a.1 and 5a.2 but indicator 1.4.2 under the goal for poverty (target 1.4) stands out as a flag-bear for monitoring security of tenure.


The placement of this indicator within SDG Goal 1 on poverty is considered by many to be justified--land has a lot to do with poverty and vice versa. Responsible governance of tenure of land is inextricably linked with access to and management of other natural resources, such as forests, water, fisheries and mineral resources. The governance of tenure is a crucial element in determining if and how people, communities and others acquire rights, and their associated obligations, to use and control land and natural resources.  Securing tenure rights for all supports access to sustainable social, economic and environmental opportunities needed to eradicate poverty (SDG 1), as well as guaranteeing significant contribution to achieving SDG 2 on eradicating hunger, 5 on gender equality and empowerment of women, 11 on building resilient and sustainable urbanisation, 15 on reducing land degradation  and 16 on advancing peace and security.

Strengthening the global efforts for monitoring land

UN-Habitat and World Bank are the custodian agencies for SDG indicator 1.4.2. In the last one year, the two custodian agencies have organised several expert group meetings and consultations (household surveys, administrative data, spatial land data coverage, etc.) mainly to refine the concepts, language, common understanding and mechanisms of data collection for this indicator. These meetings were attended by representatives from the national statistical organisations, civil society, global donor working group members, academia, private sector, UN agencies, NGOs, donors, etc. The fruits of these discussions are summarized in the updated metadata documents for this indicator (

In parallel, the two custodian agencies for this indicator (UN-Habitat and World Bank) conducted data analysis as per the new requirements for this indicator using existing data sources and administrative data records. These efforts were crucial to demonstrate the value and wealth of already existing data on monitoring this indicator, in addition to fulfilling a very important requirement for reclassification of this indicator from Tier III to Tier II.

The analysis showed that more than 45 countries already have data on this indicator as currently defined. The two custodian agencies have requested a reclassification of this indicator from Tier III to II on the basis of good evidence of the fulfilment of the criteria set by the IAEG-SDGs team. Exploratory data analysis of existing data showed that many countries already have this data. Secondly, expert group meetings provided significant improvements on this indicator’s methodology that were achieved through largely consultative processes.  Many NSOs have confirmed having data for this indicator not only at national level, but also at important levels of disaggregation: by urban-rural, wealth quintiles and gender. In addition, new essential questions for monitoring this indicator were agreed during the EGMs [1] and these will be featured in a number of upcoming global collection processes such as Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program, Multiple Indicator cluster surveys (MICS) program, Living Standards and Measurement  Studies (LSMS), Urban Inequities Survey (UIS), and censuses. Embedding the essential questions in these global data collection processes will provide an avenue for regular data collection on this indicator. We are hopeful that the IAEG-SDGs team will be examining this body of evidence documented in the revised metadata documents and offer the custodians and the many stakeholders who have worked on refinements of this indicator a chance to work with this indicator at the Tier II level post-November 2017.


Moving 1.4.2 from Tier II to I

Significant progress has been made in the push to move indicator 1.4.2 from a Tier III to a tier II, but more efforts will be required to move this indicator from Tier II and I.  Considering its contributions to poverty and other sustainable development goals and principles, it is important to have this indicator as a Tier I in the next two years that follow. Already, the existing and global survey programs are ready to incorporate the modules and essential questions required for monitoring security of tenure in their data collection tools, which should allow for wider coverage in the number of countries collecting and reporting on this indicator within the next 3-4 years. Population and housing censuses present another important tool to obtain information on documentation and perceptions of secure tenure. This increased coverage will be the basis for requesting reclassification to Tier I, but this will only be achieved if we continue working as a team of stakeholders pulling in national statistical offices, the Global Donor Working Group on Land, civil society, academia, Global Land Tool Network, and all other multi-lateral agencies.


[1]    How likely are you to lose your land/ property or use right in the next 5 years? Do you   have the right to exclusively or jointly bequeath your land/ property? Do you have property/ tenure rights over this land/property or another property? If so, what type of rights? Do you have documentation of the tenure/ property rights on this property and/ or another property? What is the type of documentation over the land/ property? Whose name is on the document and can you show the document?


Thanks for this interesting post, Robert! There is one aspect I'd like to comment on. My curiosity was triggered by one sentence: "The analysis showed that more than 45 countries already have data on this indicator as currently defined." It would be very interesting to know which ones are those 45 countries, as well as their (tentative) score on the indicator (i.e. the proportion of the population with tenure security as defined). Is this information available? I ask this because it would make your plea for moving the indicator up to Tier 2 much stronger; after all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.