Open data and transparency in property rights is a cornerstone of our work at Cadasta Foundation, where we focus on ensuring property rights information is open, accessible, and accurate, but most importantly, that it can be recorded in an equitable manner. Too often the ability to formally document rights, particularly in countries with relatively weak governance, remains held by a relatively affluent urban elite, leaving out a majority of the population – particularly those living in rural areas and marginalized groups.
In order to accomplish our goal of allowing all property rights information to be easily captured and accessible through a global platform, at Cadasta we work on two separate tracks. For those individuals and communities left out of the formal land systems, and lacking government recognized titles, deeds or other acknowledgements of rights – estimated to be 70% of the global population – we work with partners to ensure communities and citizens are able to directly capture and document land and resource rights, and are providing a platform to do so. Complementary to that, we work to ensure that formal land rights – be they titles or deeds, recognition of customary rights, concession agreements, leases, etc. are recorded in a public manner and that these details are shared – not just within localor national offices, but globally through a digital platform. It is this commitment that drives our recent work with Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) to ensure that details of extractive concessions found at ResourceContracts.org are not only made publically available, but that the spatial details of where the concessions reside is also easily accessible.
While our development team works on the initial release of the Cadasta Platform (coming in December!), we have also focused on the larger questions of open data in land in the context of governments releasing property rights information. To that end, over the past month we have been assisting the Transparency and Accountability Initiative in updating the land section of the OpenGovGuide, originally drafted by Global Witness. The updates are centered on updating relevant cases studies, expanding the focus to include urban land issues, and to contextualize how the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure can be implemented, as they had only just been endorsed by the Committee on Food Security when the OpenGovGuide was originally drafted. We look forward to continuing to work with the Transparency and Accountability Initiative to further update the land section of the OpenGovGuide, and to promote linkages to other sections of the OpenGovGuide that are relevant to land tenure and property rights – namely the sections on natural resources, records management and fisheries.
We are currently engaged in a number of activities that further the mission of promoting more open land information globally, while remaining sensitive to personally identifiable information that should not be publically released. It is only through more open and accessible data on property rights that these rights can be protected.
As an example that moves beyond just improved protection of property rights, the adoption of open government policies by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has been shown to yield significant positive economic and social impacts, as well as some unexpected benefits such as improved environmental stewardship. We hope the LINZ example will serve as an aspirational goal for other land, agriculture, mining and natural resource agencies around the world.