FIG Working Week 2000, 21-26 May, Prague

The United Nations - International Federation of Surveyors Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration for Sustainable Development A Challenge for Surveyors

by Ian Williamson and Don Grant

Key words: Land administration, sustainable development, cadastre, land tenure, United Nations.


"Sustainable development is just rhetoric
without appropriate land administration systems"

The changing humankind-land relationship and current global and local drivers such as sustainable development, urbanization, globalization, economic reform and the information revolution, demand land administration responses. Of the global drivers, sustainable development may be identified as having overall significance because of its dynamic economic-political, social, and environmental dimensions. At the heart of the challenging opportunity-cost decisions for sustainable development is the pressing need for land administration systems to evolve speedily and appropriately to support the sustainable development imperative.

Current land administration systems are the product of 19th century paradigms of land markets, which have a narrow cadastral (land parcel) focus. As a result they have failed to properly support these global and local drivers. The evidence of the failure includes issues of poverty, access to land, security of tenure, development rights and environmental degradation.

World opinion on aspects of sustainable development, as represented by United Nations (UN) global summits and declarations (for example UN Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro, 1994; UN City Summit, Istanbul, 1998; UN Food Summit, Rome, 1998), have highlighted the importance of land administration to support sustainable development, but have provided few practical implementation strategies. This ad hoc approach has resulted in rhetoric, rather than reality, in developing land administration systems to accommodate sustainable development objectives. Governments, on the other hand, have generally been willing, if not anxious, to reform land administration for sustainable objectives, but there are no clear directions or models to adopt.

As a preliminary step towards overcoming the uncertain relationship between land administration and sustainable development, a joint United Nations International Federation of Surveyors Workshop on Land Tenure and Cadastral Infrastructures for Sustainable Development was organised in Bathurst, Australia followed by an international conference in Melbourne, Australia in October 1999. These initiatives resulted in The Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration for Sustainable Development. The workshop brought together 40 leading experts and researchers from around the world, from a wide range of disciplines, including six UN agencies, the World Bank, and the UN Director of Sustainable Development. They confirmed the pressing need to re-engineer land administration systems to manage the competing economic, environmental and social priorities that constitute sustainable development as described in the UNs Agenda for Development.

The Declaration built on the FIGs Statement on the Cadastre produced in 1995 and the UN-FIG Bogor Declaration on Cadastral Reform produced in 1996. These initiatives, as well as the Bathurst Workshop and Melbourne Conference, were part of the work programs of Commission 7 (Cadastre and Land Management) of the FIG.

This paper discusses these trends to reform land administration systems in the light of the findings and recommendations of the Workshop and Conference. The paper overviews The Bathurst Declaration, and appends the Executive Summary and the Recommendations. The full program of the conference, the 25 position papers and The Bathurst Declaration can be found at

The development of The Bathurst Declaration confirms the critical role of surveyors and the FIG in pursuing sustainable development objectives. However this is only the start. There is now a clear challenge for surveyors and the FIG to pursue the objectives of the Declaration to move sustainable development from rhetoric to reality.

Professor Ian Williamson
Director FIG-UN Liaison
Professor of Surveying and Land Information
Department of Geomatics
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010

Professor Don Grant
Australian Delegate to Commission 7 FIG
Surveyor-General of New South Wales
Professorial Associate
Department of Geomatics
The University of Melbourne
PO Box 143
Bathurst, NSW 2795

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