Politicians are influenced these days by Mr. De Soto

Politicians are influenced these days by Mr. De Soto


Paul Van Der Molen
Paul Van Der Molen
Director, International
Office of cadastre and land records (oicrf)
The Netherlands
[email protected]

New forms of tenure, like starter title, right of occupancy, cadastral certificate, ranch title, village title honor much more the nature of indigenous rights should be introduced, opines Paul Van Der Molen, who also chairs Commission 7 of the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG). He shares his views on multiple aspects of cadastre and LIS

What governed the inception of OICRF? What are OICRF’s functions and how is it related to FIG?
In the fifties there was a growing need for information about the design and development of land records and cadastres. The FIG, being a federation of land surveyors associations, observed the growing activities of their members in the field of cadastral mapping and cadastral boundary surveys. This was traditionally a main field of interest within FIG, as the Federation was established in 1878 by five associations of licensed surveyors, who as private surveyors had to earn a certain turnover in the cadastral boundary surveying. Enhancing the professional skills of their members became a major concern of FIG. The development of a documentation center was part of this. But the FIG also wanted to support countries in their search to new or better systems. Within the FIG the centre became a ‘permanent institution’.

The Office International du Cadastre et Régime Foncier (”OICRF’) was assigned the tasks to collect and systematically file and index all documentation material relating to existing cadastres and land registration systems, to make comparative studies of that material followed by publication of the results, to give information and advice on all cadastres and land registration systems to all interested persons and institutions, whether for the purpose of study or to help countries wishing either to introduce a cadastre or land registration system or a to improve the existing system, and to maintain the documentary on a day to day basis.

Today, the OICRF is a modern digital library of about 6000 papers and articles with easy internet-access to its databases for its thousands of users. I am happy to act as a director of the Centre, being active together with dedicated staff.

What are the impediments in the evolution of computerized land record system in developing and developed nations?
If we look at the existence of land registration systems and cadastres a study of OICRF in 2003 showed absence in about 50 countries, at good standard in another 50 countries, and cumbersome functioning systems in the remaining 100 countries. This is regrettable, if we recognize that both the new land approach of the World bank, of the European Union, in UN-global documents, and many bilateral policy documents (DFID, DGIS, GTZ) see the land issue as of major solution for the eradication of poverty, sustainable agriculture and housing, and management of natural resources. Politicians are influenced these days by the writings of Mr. De Soto, who puts emphasis on the inclusion of informal property rights into the formal economy, as a driver for economic growth. So in my view we face a serious problem here. The analysis of the OICRF revealed that there are actually both institutional and operational impediments. That both aspects play a role is no wonder. A land registration- and cadastre system is not just a GIS, with spatial units and attributes etc. The main data concern the relationship between a human being to a specified lot of land through a property right. This is a relationship that is defined in a jurisdiction and ideally socially accepted.

The way a country deals with access to land and land related opportunities as part of its land policy, determines to a great extent the way land tenure is secured, how the land market is regulated, how spatial planning is pursued, and resources are managed. As a result of all this, ‘at the end of the day’ the land registrar might write the name of a person in the land register representing a rightful claimant, and the land surveyors draws a line on a paper representing a cadastral boundary. In many countries the institutional conditions do not provide for transparency and clearness, the mandates in the public administration are not clearly allocated and legal frameworks are neither sufficiently developed or enforced, resulting in confusion for land owners and users in real life and by consequence, decrease of perceived land tenure security. Computerization of something that is not clear has always been problematic. But even if institutional conditions are appropriate, the organizations involved in land registration and cadastre are not always keen in keeping their operations at good order.

In the first case one could say that politicians and policy analysts are to blame, in the latter case we as land registrars and land surveyors are to blame, because we do not our utmost best to create well performing organizations. What is the problem? On one hand the creation of work processes with good IT support should fit within a strategy to serve the customers aligned with keen choices about what to apply from the ICT-market place. Lack of funds is often mentioned as the main obstacle, and of course that has a certain truth, however we should be more innovative in rethinking what is the critical minimum of what should be computerized; if we can set priorities (e.g. areas with booming land market) and if we can suffice with some basic element in our data model instead of trying to capture the whole world of data.

Another impediment is that we tend to believe that our land registration system and cadastre is unique in the world, and differs substantially from our neighbors. This understanding results in designing and developing information systems from scratch, exactly focusing on all kinds of special specifications we created ourselves. This makes life of course very expensive. Therefore the OICRF and the FIG encourage very much the development of the core cadastral domain model based on the ‘Cadastre 2014’ principles, that forms the base for better standard software, that after a little customizing can be applied in country-specific situations. You can find may relevant documents in the OICRF.

How helpful can be Geospatial technologies/GIS in attaining various objectives towards which OICRF works?
OICRF as a digital library, is not so much dependent on geospatial technologies. However, the aim beyond the tasks of OICRF is of course to encourage the introduction and development of sound land registration systems and cadastres in the world. With that respect, one cannot imagine such systems without the application of geospatial and GIS-technologies. Officials in the Russian Federation realized the country covering valuation of real estate using mass valuation methods strongly supported by IT. ‘

This shows that using computers make a difference….’ they said. Generally spoken, we should not computerize our existing data, work processes and organizational structures. At the contrary, we should use the computerization to rethink our tasks and goals, to redesign our processes, to revitalize our organizations. A recent study by OICRF revealed that embarking on customer orientation, and application of ICT, make such rethinking an inevitable activity and might lead to the use of organizational models that have proven to be beneficial in other countries.

Apart from that an analysis of OICRF showed innovative development in countries with various forms of customary tenure, like in Africa. New forms of tenure, like starter title, right of occupancy, cadastral certificate, ranch title, village title honor much more the nature of indigenous rights. Also the cadastral parcel as object for exercising rights is different and replaced by other forms of spatial units.

What is the status of the initiatives for development of 3-D cadastre?
We know that land registration systems and cadastres operate in 2D space, namely the cadastral land parcel. For apartment and condominium rights practical solutions are applied, like the registration of construction drawings.

The aim beyond the tasks of OICRF is of course to encourage the introduction and development of sound land registration systems and cadastres in the world. With that respect, one cannot imagine such systems without the application of GIS-technologies.

This is an actual matter in say 10-20 countries currently. The interesting aspect is that the registration of a 3D spatial object is useless if there are no three-dimensional property rights. Here we see again the relationship between institutional context and technological application. A few countries are operating (or about to operate) 3D objects within their existing cadastres, like New Queensland, Columbia, Norway and Sweden. Within OICRF almost all papers and articles on 3D Cadastres are accessible.

Kindly highlight the achievements of OICRF.
OICRF is working on a day by day basis to file the most recent papers and articles on land record and cadastre. Thousands of users benefit from free internet access and use the information for study or policy-development.

Our staff makes extracts from all documents to make life easy for the users. Thanks to sound systems the access is very user-friendly and the retrieval of relevant information is quick. We try to analyze the documents is comparative studies, that are almost always presented within FIG.