Q&A from Prindex Global Launch 2020

At the online event to launch our latest global dataset, we were not able to get to all the questions we received before running out of time. We wanted to pick up on all the great questions we recieved and try to answer them here. (The questions have been lightly edited for clarity.)

Q1: How do you think land and tenure security will be affected by the global pandemic?

A: We see COVID-19 affecting people who feel insecure about their land and property due to lack of money or other financial resources. The share of people who cite this as a reason is particularly high among renters and young people, especially in regions such as North America and Europe.

Q2: How will these new data be useful, including for addressing impacts of Covid-19?

A: Data collection for Prindex was completed a couple of weeks before the global outbreak of COVID-19 began in March. We consider the database as a very useful baseline for comparing the impact of COVID-19 on tenure insecurity against. This data will be complemented by the new round of data in 2-3 years, which will allow to assess effectiveness of government responses to the outbreak with respect to protecting property rights.

Q3: What are the priorities for dealing with property rights problems/insecurity and the impacts of Covid-19? What opportunities exist for making progress in these areas?

A: We see young people, renters and women as being particularly affected. Apart from extending freezes on evictions, governments will need to provide financial support to people who are struggling to afford their rents because they have been laid off due to lockdowns and other social distancing measures. That could be in the form of rent holidays (similar to mortgage holidays) or low-interest loans, such as those introduced in Germany. If women do not have formal land or property rights, they may be reluctant to get separated even when they are in abusive relationships. This is a particular area of concern because we have seen increased reports of domestic violence during lockdowns. Authorities will need to provide safe housing to people, mostly women, who are affected by this.

Q4: How can land management for poor people in developing countries be provided effectively?

A: There are various ways of achieving this. Perhaps one that is interesting to look at, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, is to completely rethink the use of land in towns and cities. Workers in the retail and hospitality sector often work in the centres of towns and cities, but are least likely to afford extortionate rents or prices in those areas. When we emerge from lockdown measures it might be time to think about how to repurpose some property for affordable housing, particularly if it is not being used anymore (e.g. because people can work from home and less office space is needed). Several other options are discussed in concluding sections of the Prindex Comparative Report, available here: https://www.prindex.net/reports/prindex-comparative-report-july-2020/

Q5: How can these data inform government strategies related the land management in developing countries?

A: We hope that our data will enable national governments to identify the areas of greatest concern when it comes to tackling tenure insecurity in their countries. Deep-dive surveys at a national and sub-national level will help guide those strategies and will identify country-specific vulnerable groups and regions.

Q6: How can land and property rights in developing countries be improved beyond issuing formal documentation, particularly for rural communities?

A: We have identified several potential policy responses that are not necessarily linked to issuing formal documents to support land/property rights. They include raising awareness of people’s land rights in families or communities, particularly of women and other vulnerable groups. Providing legal support or promoting local community champions are another way of strengthening recognition of people’s land rights. Please see other recommendations in the concluding sections of the 2020 Gender and Comparative Reports available here: https://www.prindex.net/reports/

Q7: How does Prindex treat community and customary rights over commons?

A: Community and customary rights are not included in the Prindex global survey for comparability, as every one of the 140 countries has different governance systems. However, such rights are considered for deep dive studies (e.g. Zambia). The team is open to support deep dives in other countries to take consideration of local community and customary rights.

Q8: Can we assume that in countries where all land is property of the state, the government is considered to be the renter providing for user (tenure) rights?

A: No, this is not a safe assumption. Many people self-report as “owners” even if the land is legally held by the state. Consider, for example, customary rights in many countries. We ask about the self reported tenure type. In countries which undertake land reforms, former owners may treat land as their property despite the dejure expropriation.

Q9: What does it take to do the deep dive study in a given country? How can I collaborate on this?

A: Please get in touch with Malcolm Childress directly and to discuss opportunities for collaboration. My email is mchildress1[at]landallianceinc[dot]org.

Q10: You mentioned that Prindex works with local survey organisations to administer the survey. Who develops the sampling frame? The survey organization or Prindex?

A: We developed the sampling frame together with the survey organisations, which included Gallup and Course5. Our methodology has been piloted over a number of years, taking into account inputs from experts on our Research Advisory Group. You can find out more information on the sampling strategy here: https://www.prindex.net/methodology/sampling-strategy/. Please also consult the FAQs for details on how respondents were selected: https://www.prindex.net/methodology/faqs/ and feel free to get in touch with us directly if you would like more information on a specific country.

Q11: Do you match your “perceived tenure security” findings with broader analysis of VGGT, FPIC implementation and land grabbing drivers in analysis?

A: Indeed, we are hoping to use perceived tenure security as a measure of the immediate impact that such implementation is having in a specific national or subnational context. However, some questions will have to be adapted to the local context, e.g. to consider women’s inheritance rights in sub-Saharan Africa. We are doing this in the Zambia deep-dive study.

Q12: Why are Europe and Central Asia grouped into one region when doing the geographical breakdown? This makes that region very heterogeneous, running the risk that the reported average scores are not representative for either Europe or Central Asia.

A: We used the World Bank’s regional groupings to help support global efforts on data collection. However, the data can easily be grouped into separate regions to your liking. You can download the data, disaggregated by country, here: https://www.prindex.net/data/

Q13: How can tenure security be assessed for people in island countries which are vulnerable to climate change?

A: This is another really important area we have been keen to study. We investigated the risk of climate change or natural disasters as a reason for feeling insecure in our pilot studies. The share of respondents that cited this was extremely low (fewer than 5%). However, it is likely that, as you point out, it could be a significant driver in certain countries and settings. Perhaps we can investigate it in a further deep-dive study of small island nations? We are keen to collaborate so please get in touch with us.

Q14: Does the data or survey cover insecurity of forest dwelling indigenous communities?

A: See FAQ 6 for details. However, we are hoping to cover indigenous communities in a separate deep-dive study. For obvious reasons, our methodology will need to be adapted to capture indigenous communities’ perceptions.

Q15: Indigenous peoples and local communities appear underrepresented in survey, although we know that they represent significant (and tenure insecure) populations in many countries. How can we account for this and ensure they are represented in this work?

A: This is an excellent question and one that we are working on, e.g. together with ILC and Javariara in Colombia. Our global sampling strategy is not appropriate for capturing most indigenous’ people’s perceptions as we select randomly between households and household members. The issue of tenure security of indigenous people is country specific and has to be addressed with deep-dive studies. Sampling strategy will have to be adjusted accordingly. We will need to consult CSOs and community leaders to provide a more accurate representation of IP’s feelings of tenure security.

Q16: Is a country focus on tenure security politically problematic? Doesn't it exclude the greatest drive of tenure insecurity, namely neocolonialism?

A: Fear of being expropriated by private companies is cited as a very common reason for feeling insecure in some countries, e.g. among 10% of respondents who feel insecure in sub-Saharan Africa and over 20% in North America. However, it is by no means the only one. Consider, especially, internal sources of insecurity from within the family that threaten women’s tenure security in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the most common reason for insecurity at a global scale is that the owner may ask renters to leave the property.

Q17: While so many UN and World Bank, etc. studies suggest the importance of tenure security while governments, for example Brazil and India, are doing just the opposite?

A: The political economy of land needs to be analysed at a national and subnational level to understand such blockages. Reforms that are needed to improve tenure security almost always involve some form of redistribution, and this inevitably creates veto players and blockages. It is something we need to continue research on, especially in the course of individual deep-dives. Providing data will help highlight the problem to policymakers and put pressure on solving the issue of tenure insecurity.

Q18: The following statement is taken from report: “The data suggest that tenure insecurity is particularly high in towns and cities located on the African continent and in the Middle East, where over a quarter of urban dwellers feel insecure about their tenure”.

It is known that the rate of urban expansion is high in Africa and other developing countries. These expansions of cities/towns are at the expense of rural areas and rural landholders are increasingly losing their farmland from time to time. This is particularly the case for instance, in Ethiopia. So, how could tenure insecurity be particularly high in towns and cities on the African continent and in the Middle East as compared to rural communities?

A: We are glad that you are finding the comparative report engaging. While we highlighted tenure insecurity in some sub-Saharan African towns and cities as an issue, it is by no means the only area affected. In several countries, notably Burkina Faso or Sierra Leone. It is also worth noting that just because tenure insecurity is higher in some urban contexts than rural ones, it does not mean that absolute levels in rural areas are low. Consider Liberia as example, where tenure insecurity is extremely high in both urban (42%) and rural (41%) settings.

One of the reason for urban insecurity is related to a much higher population of renters in urban areas. In most countries, renters feel much more insecure than holders of other forms of tenure.

Q19: Tenure issues are critical in post-disaster and post-conflict countries. To what extent does the global report cover this? Or will this be considered in the future?

A: That is a really interesting topic to consider, but not one that we have had the chance to analyse yet. We are investigating the link between tenure insecurity and a) gender; b) fragility, violence and conflict (FGV), and; c) deforestation. The way we are doing this is by collaborating with appropriate stakeholders and organising further deep-dive surveys. Perhaps this is an area we can look at together?

Q20: I am not sure if we are moving from a common conceptual ontology of what constitutes security. The conception that you have articulated is very much anchored in Western systems - where land is parceled. This leads to a further complication, when one links tenure security with climate change mitigation. Is this not too far fetched a claim? Climate change is likely to undermine all sorts of rights.

A: The link between climate change and tenure security is one that still needs to be explored and that we are working on. Very little research has been completed, but there are some studies that show that tenure security can lead to more sustainable investments in land, including those that can mitigate the effects of climate change. With respect to the conceptualisation of tenure security, please remember that the Prindex methodology has been designed to address the very problem you are touching on, and one that we care deeply about. Prindex does not just survey people according to whether they have legal rights over a parcel or not, but randomise within households to capture people who stay with permission, live in family-owned households or those that rent land. For reasons of comparability, we ask people to self-report their tenure status rather than surveying only those with parceled land. Furthermore, to facilitate comparability across different institutional settings, we ask people to self assess how likely they will lose the current set of rights against their will.

Q21: Does your website include regional comparisons or are they exclusively on your ppt?

A: The regional comparisons are not available on the interactive part of the website but they are all included in our comparative report and gender report.

Q22: Some EU countries score about 10% in land insecurity (Germany, Netherlands) a similar score to Kazakhstan with 11%. As a young scholar from Kazakhstan, I wonder how it is possible to interpret such (similar) results in such diverse regions? Does this mean that in some EU countries (despite very well developed legal system protecting land rights) citizens feel insecure as people in Central Asian countries in relation to their land property rights?

A: The reported levels of security and insecurity should be treated as a lower bound. There is a share of respondents who refused or didn’t know how to answer, which is quite high in Kazakhstan (9%) compared to Germany (2%) or the Netherlands (0%). Adding the non-responses to the measures of security / insecurity will establish an upper bound for the respective measures, meaning that insecurity could be as high as 20% in Kazakhstan. A separate issue is that different countries have different reasons for insecurity and strategies, people use to cope with them. For example, the share of renters who feel insecure is higher in Germany and the Netherlands than in many other countries. Improving feeling of security may therefore require stricter enforcement of regulations that protect tenants, rather than reforming legal systems.

Q23: Some non-democratic countries get a score of 2% of land insecurity. Taking into account that the data are collected via phone calls and that land issue is quite sensitive in some developing countries, how do you think could people fear of censorship may affect their answers to surveys collected via phone calls?

A: Our data collection was conducted by independent vendors who cannot be censored by national agencies. In all cases, correct procedures were followed to ensure that data collection agencies had permission to conduct research independently and without fear of censorship. For further details, please read the survey documentation on the Gallup World Poll webpage: https://www.gallup.com/178667/gallup-world-poll-work.aspx

Q24: Could you expand on the issue of customary tenure systems and tenure security, particularly in countries with large indigenous populations?

A: There are two issues to consider here:
a) Firstly, as Prindex is a global comparative survey, we need to ensure that the data is comparable. This is why we asked people to self-report their tenure status rather than considering the many different forms of governance systems that exist.

b) Secondly, our survey methodology is not suitable for measuring the perceived tenure security of some groups, especially indigenous populations. See FAQ 6 on the Prindex website (https://www.prindex.net/methodology/faqs/) for further details.

To tackle both issues, we need to conduct context-specific deep-dive surveys that consider a) local governance systems, and b) appropriate sampling strategies for certain target populations. This is what we are doing in, for example, Zambia and Colombia. Together with ILC and Javariara, we are considering ways in which indigenous people’s feelings can be captured, e.g. through geospatial data or by consulting CSOs and community leaders to provide a more accurate representation of IP’s feelings of tenure security.

Q25: High increasing human population around South West Nigeria is alarming. This has also increased the rate of land consumption for housing. The poverty level is high and people often sell off their lands because of this poverty. With this in mind, what tenure are we protecting here? Apart from the future food insecurity and lost of tenure, what else future problems should we expect in this region?

A: Thank you very much for bringing local perspectives to light. We will need these when we conduct deep-dives. West Africa, including Nigeria, has been identified as a “hotspot” for tenure insecurity thanks to the Prindex survey. We hope that this will grab the attention of local policymakers and international donors, and encourage them to look for ways of improving people’s tenure security. As a first step, we need to bring together a group of relevant stakeholders and conduct a deep-dive survey to investigate local tenure governance systems and sources of insecurity, such as the population pressure you mention. We know, for example, that married women are particularly vulnerable to tenure insecurity in divorce or spousal death scenarios, as highlighted by the World Bank’s Gender Innovation Lab in neighbouring Benin. In Nigeria, up to 73% of women feel insecure in a divorce scenario, which suggests it is an issue here as well. We would also draw attention to high insecurity among renters in Nigeria (31%), which is important because COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate levels of insecurity within this group. These are all reasons why further research is needed to design appropriate responses in this region, including Nigeria. Please get in touch with us directly if you are interested.

Q26: I would like to know if it would be possible to join efforts with Transparency International during survey and also address how corruption may affect land tenure security in different countries/regions?

A: We would love to collaborate. In fact, we already took the liberty of comparing Prindex data to Transparency’s CGI and found a strong correlation. We highlighted this in Figure 17 (p. 27) of the Comparative Report, which you can download here: https://www.prindex.net/reports/prindex-comparative-report-july-2020/

Q27: The COVID-19 has tremendously affected indigenous people due to poverty and lack of government support to enable them stay home. The second item is failure of tests, hence you may not know who is infected. The third item is that IPs assume COVID-19 is a disease of people living in the cities and big towns, since these are the areas where tests are concentrated.

A: We need this local perspective to move forward. We are planning a deep-dive study in Colombia that will look at how indigenous people are affected by tenure insecurity, but perhaps we can organise one in Kenya as well? We heard very similar stories from neighbouring Tanzania, where many people consider COVID-19 a disease that affects urban elites. We need further understanding of the nexus between land rights (both urban and rural), tenure insecurity and COVID-19. Please get in touch if you are able to help us shed light on these issues.

Q28: You made an interesting observation that how people feel about land influences how they relate to it. Studies are quite divergent on the role of tenure security in improving investments in land. In some situations, when communities have security of tenure (title deeds), in the event of shocks/crisis, they are forced to sell the land, and become landless. That is, making communities land tenure secure is giving them the license to sell the same land to become landless. I think it is fair to acknowledge that land tenure security can be a double-edged sword for the rural poor. What's your take?

A: You raise a very good point, and one which we acknowledge in our reports. Formalised, individual tenure rights (which I believe you are referring to) are not the only way to improve people’s perceived tenure security and can sometimes be detrimental, if they are not supported with the right measures. Please see the reports for more in-depth discussion on this topic.https://www.prindex.net/reports/

Q29: Any reflections on why MENA is so tenure insecure? Was this skewed by certain countries, is it related to particular governance systems or to the economic conditions?

A: we have identified the region as a high-priority area for further research, hopefully using a deep dive. You can read more about it under Case Study I in the Comparative Report (p.16), which you can download here: https://www.prindex.net/reports/prindex-comparative-report-july-2020/. Initial findings suggest that migrant workers may be particularly affected by insecurity in this region.

Q30: Does the Prindex methodology differentiate women or treat them as homogeneous?

A: The data can be cut according to data and various other social, demographic and economic factors. So yes, the methodology differentiates between different groups of women. Please see the data use guide for further information: https://www.prindex.net/methodology/date-use-guide/

Q31: An evidence-based approach to policy change is critical to policy formulation. In this respect the work of Prindex is very important. Experience, however, points towards ongoing reluctance on the part of governments to change the status quo. What are the thoughts of the panel on the outlook for global property rights, particularly in the era of Covid-19 when government priorities may well be focused elsewhere?

A: Your point is an excellent one, and one that we have discussed with our partners previously. The political economy of land needs to be analysed at a national and subnational level to understand such blockages. Reforms that are needed to improve tenure security almost always involve some form of redistribution, and this inevitably creates veto players and blockages. It is something we need to continue research on, especially in the course of individual deep-dives. Providing data will help highlight the problem to policymakers and put pressure on solving the issue of tenure insecurity. We also hope that Prindex data will be used by media and activist groups to raise public awareness regarding the tenure security. Finally, the presented data can be used as a benchmark for tracking progress towards SDGs and other development goals.

Q32: The greatest level of insecurity seems to be found in the rental sector. While we can reduce insecurity though measures to curb evictions and make rent more affordable, eliminating insecurity for renters entirely is perhaps not realistic. My question is this: is there a need for "deep dives" according to different types of tenure e.g .ownership, rental, or customary occupation of indigenous or public land, to enable realistic comparisons between countries, help pinpoint where problems are and identify appropriate measures to strengthen tenure security?

A: That’s an excellent point and one that we have been grappling with. This is indeed something we are looking to explore in greater detail in the deep-dives, particularly in countries where the share of renters who feel insecure is very high.


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