International Land Measurement Standards (ILMS)

Part 1: Context

1.1 Land Acquisition

There is no clear and systematic approach to the provision of essential land information globally. It is estimated that approximately 70% of land in the world remains unregistered. Further, many land transactions take place within a weak legal and/or administrative regime that has inadequate and/or incomplete property information. This results in a high-risk environment for stakeholders, caused by an inability to verify all available evidence relating to a specific transaction. Often this increases the potential for dispute without any clear way of resolution. Consistent practice in reporting on land and real property transactions globally will therefore bring significant benefits to both mature and emerging markets. There is also a global need to recognise gender specific issues when reporting and documenting land information.

The issue of land transactions is important. It is part of the development process and it is susceptible to a lot of conflicts. For example, in a recent analysis of 289 land cases in India, 40% involved major land conflicts that affected 3.1 million people and more than $178 billion of investment (Chandran 2016). This highlights the enormous economic, political and social cost of land conflict.

Large scale land acquisition issues are also top of the agenda for the United Nations Habitat ('UN Habitat'), UN FAO and the World Bank, especially since the adoption of the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III (an action-oriented document which is supposed to set global standards for achieving sustainable urban development). According to the World Bank, approximately 10-15 million people are displaced by development and infrastructure projects each year. With such large-scale displacement becoming increasingly common across much of the developing world, there is a need for a global standard that is transparent and robust.

Such a standard will enable national governments and international agencies to provide fair compensation on land transfer and that those displaced parties receive their due compensation. When applied, such a standard will benefit this process and will help to ensure that all relevant facts and evidence are considered when valuing land and real property in the context of compulsory acquisition.

1.2 The Need for ILMS

Land is a vital and limited national resource. Yet in many countries there is currently a lack of transparency both in land rights, land interests and during the land transfer process. In many developing and developed countries, large tracts of land are held on an informal basis. Such a lack of transparency and formalisation facilitates the corruption of power and control in land transaction in some markets. The result can make it extremely difficult to achieve sustainable development goals.

Figure 1: Land Administration Framework

© Land Administration for Sustainable Development (2009) - Williamson I, Enemark S, Wallace J,‎ Rajabifard A

Effective land administration is essential for the good governance of land. And Land Information Systems (LIS) are a key enabler of effective land administration. Ideally, these contain all of the information necessary for verifying land parcels, validating real rights, establishing land use and establishing tax obligations. A properly functioning LIS facilitates the capture and reporting of information material to this verification and validation process - particularly at the point where land and real property rights and interests are being transferred. However, in many parts of the world, functioning LIS simply do not yet exist or are not yet fully developed.

ILMS aims to resolve a number of these issues by establishing international best practice around what information needs to be compiled to enable an effective practical understanding of the requirements for land transfer reporting. ILMS are land measurement standards which support a sustainable future both for people and legal entities.

ILMS have been created to improve the reporting process for the parties to a transaction. It sets out a land and real property transaction reporting framework that will provide consistency by promoting transparency and standardisation. ILMS is recommended and capable of implementation irrespective of whether or not a functioning LIS exists.

This first edition of ILMS focuses on the information required for land and real property transaction reporting. Future editions of ILMS may address wider issues such as land administration, land governance, land policy, land reform and land tenure.

1.3 ILMS and Land Governance and Administration

The UN launched its sustainable development goals 2030 in 2015 and much has already been published in support of these goals. ILMS has direct relevance to several of these important goals. 'Soft-law' issues in relation to land governance and land administration, such as proposals for the effective registration of land title, have been recommended by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in their publication Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT). Meanwhile, UN Habitat initiated the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), committed to increasing access to land and tenure security for all.

Figure 2: UN Sustainable Development Goals

See for fuller explanation.

Other technical standards, such as ISO Land Administration Domain Model (LADM) and the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM), are focussed on the data capture and the documentation of land parcel ownership, rights/obligations, tenure security and boundaries. It is envisaged that ILMS will operate in the space between the 'hard' data standards, such as LADM, and the 'soft' overarching guidelines as produced by FAO (VGGT).

The ILMS project follows the development of the International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS) and the International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS). ICMS established standards for the construction costs of buildings and IPMS established standards for measuring the floor areas of buildings. For ILMS a key element agreed by the Coalition members was that the standards would be compatible and accord with ICMS and IPMS,also feeding into International Valuation Standards (IVS) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). This will ensure that ILMS is implemented in an ethical manner, which meets the standards contained in the International Ethical Standards (IES).

The Coalition initially reviewed the 'fit-for-purpose' continuum (Figure 3) to understand where the most pressing issues are and where ILMS can be most relevant and applicable.

Figure 3: Fit For Purpose Land Continuum


Land professionals work within a continuum of land-related processes from the establishment of tenure security to valuation, transfer (ILMS) and then into acquisition, compensation and taxation. Each process is reliant on the other but not necessarily sequentially. A land valuation and/or taxation receipt can be used to establish tenure security without the need for formalisation and titling.