Near the end of January, Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called attention to “the need for major reform of our land and natural resource governance systems” in her annual message to the national legislature. While acknowledging some recent challenges, President Sirleaf stated that the Liberia Government “has taken significant steps, principally through the creation of the Land Commission which is tasked with developing policies, legislation and regulations that ensure equal access to productive land for all Liberians; ensure security of tenure and the rule of law with regard to all land transactions; facilitate the development and implementation of institutional framework, the use and management of land, and promote investment in land and land resources.”
President Sirleaf also announced the formation of a special Women’s Land Rights Task Force, which will assist the Land Commission to develop a structure for gender-equitable land policies. These reform efforts are supported by USAID’s Land Policy and Institutional Support (LPIS) project, which recently held a two-day workshop to help launch the Women’s Land Rights Task Force.
In addition to the LPIS project, USAID has supported the Government of Liberia’s efforts to improve resource governance through the recently-completed Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD) project. The PRADD project worked closely with the Government of Liberia and artisanal mining communities to clarify and formalize rights to land and natural resources in order to reduce conflict, promote economic growth, and create incentives for good stewardship of the land.
The project’s recent impact evaluation report noted that “miners having sold significantly more of their diamonds through local licensed brokers than did miners responding to the baseline survey.” Increasing the number of diamonds flowing through formal chains of custody is an important achievement for the PRADD project, which supported Liberia’s efforts to comply with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme – an international initiative which attempts to prevent the trafficking of conflict diamonds.