Insights into My Humanitarian Work on Youth and Land (+video)

David Suttie, Policy Advisor at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), articulates a point at a UN High-Level Political Forum (UN HLPF) side event, held July 10, 2017

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Official UN statistics statistics have revealed the troubling reality of the economic and social vulnerability of the youth demographic. It is estimated that 240 million youth live on less than US$1.00 per day; that youth unemployment is 3-times greater than adult unemployment; and that 2 in 3 youth are not fulfilling their economic potential.

David Suttie, Policy Advisor at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), speaking at a side event on ‘Land Tenure Security Monitoring in the SDGs’ at the recently held UN High Level Political Forum, indulged the audience – which included government and inter-governmental officials, and representatives of civil society organizations – in a vivid depiction of the challenge faced by youth entering the labour market over the coming years.

According to Mr. Suttie, some 12 to 18 million young people are expected to enter labour markets each year in the decades ahead, adding that, “…the majority of them are rural, and we know that there is not the emerging urban and manufacturing sectors that can absorb this demographic, and provide them with employment.” 

As his predictions veered closer to the issue of land tenure security, he further stated that, “…where there is no prospect for [young people] to access and control productive land, the opportunities for them to engage in farming and related industries are limited.”

Numerous studies have revealed that such scenarios typically lead to conflict over natural resources, and is today considered a leading cause of migration. According to Mr. Suttie, this is particularly the case among young, rural people, with “…little prospect but to work as unpaid family workers on land in rural areas.”

Under Sustainable Development Goal 1 (SDG1), Target 1.4 specifies the deadline for “…all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, [to] have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, [etc.]” as the year 2030.

Two indicators are captured under Target 1.4, one of which is perceived by key players within the land sector, as a major step forward for the global land rights agenda.

The UN Inter-agency Expert Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (IAEG-SDGs) has identified custodian agencies within the UN System, each being tasked with the responsibility of developing and advancing selected indicators.

The Global Land Indicators Initiative (GLII – hosted by UN-Habitat) – a collaborative and inclusive process involving more than 50 partners and institutions from across the globe – was earmarked to take the lead on SDG Indicator 1.4.2 alongside the World Bank.

Partners of GLII have actively demonstrated their unwavering commitment to bringing the issue of secure land rights for vulnerable groups – women in particular – to the forefront of the land indicators conversation. Many have deemed such advocacy as commendable, as the land indicators offer the global land rights agenda a promising and well-deserved political platform.

However, while SDG Indicator 1.4.2 – arguably the pre-eminent land indicator – prescribes the collection of sex-disaggregated data, the ‘Age’ parameter is notably omitted.

While indicator 1.4.2 has stated “Proportion of total adult population with secure rights…”, it must be noted that on the basis of the definitions of ‘Youth’ endorsed by the United Nations (15 – 24), The AU’s African Youth Charter (15 – 35), and UN-Habitat’s Youth Fund (15 – 32), a large percentage of youth (18 – 24/ 18 – 35) are captured within the indicator’s target demographic.

As currently phrased, SDG Indicator 1.4.2 will not facilitate reporting on the proportion of youth (of adult age) with access to and control over productive land. Creating opportunities for youth – particularly among the rural poor – demands a clear awareness of the opportunities for young people to engage in agriculture and other land-based industries, hence the importance of this data.

Similar arguments presented for securing women’s land rights, can also be offered for the youth demographic, as both are classified as vulnerable groups in many cultural contexts.

The following 8-minute documentary captures the perspectives of three young professionals, whose experience within the land sector has offered them useful insights into the subject of Land Tenure Security, its role in youth empowerment, and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – particularly Goals 1, 2, 5, 10, 11 and 15.

Filmed in Naivasha, Kenya, and Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA), this short documentary highlights the importance of mainstreaming youth considerations in land governance.


It may be considered well-timed in light of the theme of the 2017 Conference on Land Policy in Africa ‘The Africa We Want: Achieving socioeconomic transformation through inclusive and equitable access to land by the youth’; or simply in light of ongoing efforts towards the reclassification of the land indicators within the SDG indicator tier system.

Whichever way one decides the look at it, the consensus among stakeholders within the land sector, is that improved tenure security over land, serves as an avenue for escaping poverty – the key message of this documentary.

It can therefore be reasonably suggested that greater focus be placed on monitoring and improving the youth demographic’s ability to access and control productive land, with the inclusion of ‘Age’ as a mandatory unit of analysis in the phrasing and methodology of SDG Indicator 1.4.2. This however takes nothing away from the tremendous progress made in the advancement of the land indicators within the SDG indicator monitoring framework.



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