Home Articles UN – FAO: Empowering SDIs

UN – FAO: Empowering SDIs


A strong and efficient land administration provides the basis for SDIs, which have become an essential part of development 

“ Climate change is fast happening — much, much faster than one would have expected.”

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General


The world today faces many complex challenges, including the adaptation and mitigation of climate change; rapid urbanisation; increased demand for natural resources; growing food, water and energy insecurity; increased natural disasters; and resolution of violent conflict.

Many of these challenges have a clear land dimension: unequal access to land, insecurity of tenure, unsustainable land use, and weak institutions for land administration etc. Responding to these challenges is particularly difficult when land governance is weak. In response to growing concerns towards international instruments to improve the governance of tenure, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its partners developed the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (www.fao.org/nr/tenure/en). These guidelines set out principles and internationally accepted standards for responsible practices.

Improved use of spatial data is a key element to addressing these challenges. Changes in technology, in particular computerised systems that support tenure administration and management, provide valuable means by directly supporting improvements in governance of tenure, and are indirectly essential mechanisms for support to other governance initiatives. Innovative technology applied to land records and graphics improves knowledge-based decision-making and widens means for data dissemination and access to land records. E-governance in spatial data management is an area of rapid innovation in developed economies, and emerging economies can leapfrog ahead in this area. Spatial data infrastructure or SDI is potentially a game-changer for development as it allows governments to integrate planning, taxation, disaster risk management and climate change monitoring, mitigation and adaptation in new ways with great savings in terms of time and funds, while improving overall service and governance.

“States should establish policies and laws to promote the sharing, as appropriate, of spatial and other information on tenure rights for the effective use by the State and implementing agencies, indigenous peoples and other communities, civil society, the private sector, academia and the general public. National standards should be developed for the shared use of information, taking into account regional and international standards.” – FAO Voluntary Guidelines par. 6.5.


Land authorities provide the basis for SDI

In the context of land administration, the information produced and distributed by cadastre and mapping authorities is an integral part of national SDIs and represents above 85% of the so-called reference data (base maps) without which the SDI could not be built up. The computerised multi-purpose cadastre is a SDI-related tool, for efficient handling of land and property-related data that has the potential to provide many benefits across all sections of the community by adding value through combining datasets and making these widely available.

At the European level, the INSPIRE Directive 2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council (in force since 15 May 2007) binds EU member states to establish and provide geographic data in a standardised way. INSPIRE sets the legal framework and the technical specifications necessary to overcome existing barriers in the sharing of environmental information. Such barriers add significant extra costs for those who need to find, access and use environmental information.

Most of the INSPIRE reference data are typically produced by the cadastre and mapping authorities: coordinate reference systems, geographical grid systems, geographical names, administrative units, addresses, cadastral parcels, elevation, orthoimagery, buildings and land use. It is important that these benefits are widely promoted both to the leaders of government who are responsible for the allocation of resources, and to the users of land and property-related information.


SDI development and World Bank & FAO support

In the Europe and Central Asia region (ECA), the World Bank and the FAO have been working together to assist countries with their land reforms over the past 15 years. As many as 39 land administration and management projects in 23 countries, with over $1.6 billion in loan or credit funds from the Bank, augmented government programmes and assistance from bilateral donors in a region that has seen a greater level of land and property redistribution than has been experienced at any other time in history. Currently, 17 projects are running. Over 56% of the investments made have been utilised for ICT system implementation for electronic cadastre and registration services and others.

Countries in this region are now progressing to the next stage, by which the basic cadastre information is made available through the Internet and combined with other spatial information that will enable more efficient services across governments.

The World Bank and FAO experience in the ECA region has shown that most countries are already involved in the establishment of SDI, albeit still in the early stages of preparation. SDI legal/regulatory has been put in place in Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Turkey. SDI coordination mechanisms are established in Albania, Croatia, Moldova, Serbia and Turkey, and are in the planning stages in Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo. SDI strategies have been developed in Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Russian Federation and Turkey, and are planned in Montenegro and Ukraine. Geoportals are implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republica Srpska), Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, Serbia, Slovenia, Russian Federation, Turkey and recently in Ukraine (January 1, 2013).

In ECA, the Western Balkans mapping and cadastre authorities in Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are working together to share the knowhow and experience on SDI implementation under the EU-financed project “Inspiration — the SDI solution for Western Balkans”. The objective is to promote the spatial data infrastructure concept and prepare the countries in the region in implementing the EU INSPIRE directive. Project beneficiaries are the mapping and cadastre authorities, universities providing education in surveying, geodesy and geomatics, and ministries of environment and NSDI stakeholders like other governmental institutions, especially ministries of agriculture (LPIS), statistical offices, local authorities, geological and hydrographical surveys, private surveying, GIS and geomatics commercial sector, and research organisations.

This is expected to result in SDI legal framework for implementation in each country; improved capacity and raised awareness among the public and governments in NSDI benefits and the EU SDI implementation process.


Future challenges

Coordination and cooperation among all key players at all levels remains the biggest challenge in the years to come. New organisational structures are needed to create an electronically processed cadastral and registration service for private and public customers. The new structures will equally affect the public sector and its working models with the private sector. Crucially, the security and privacy of personal data need to be considered and must be guaranteed.

Further, efforts will be needed to strengthen the collaboration with the private sector. Close collaboration of all the parties involved — public sector, private sector and relevant professions — is a key factor in bringing land administration products and services successfully to the consumer, especially in the context of SDI.