On May 17, Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will discuss her administration’s goals, her perspective on land rights and land tenure security, and some of the challenges facing Liberia at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker in Washington DC. A live stream of the event will be available at 2:30 p.m. EDT on May 17.
Land tenure and resource rights are critical issues in Liberia, which emerged from a 14-year civil war in 2003, and where land rights remain a source of conflict. President Sirleaf has acknowledged the importance of improving land and resource governance and made it a priority for her administration. In her annual message to the national legislature in January, she said “the administration and management of land and governance of our natural resources continue to pose major challenges and will become one of our principal areas of concentration during 2013.”
USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), along with partner organization Thomson Reuters, have supported President Sirleaf and the Government of Liberia’s efforts to address land tenure and resource rights through the Liberian Land Policy and Institutional Support (LPIS) project. Through an inclusive and participatory process, LPIS helped develop a National Land Policy that recognizes customary property rights, and also developed a roadmap for the creation of a new land administration entity. While these achievements are notable, much remains to be done. Liberia has a complex land rights environment and the country’s infrastructure and government capacity were weakened by the prolonged civil war. According to Frank Pichel, Land Tenure and Property Rights Specialist, USAID, “President Sirleaf has recognized and prioritized the critical need for reform within land administration, and with the help of leadership at the Land Commission and the Deed Registry, has made significant strides over the last three years.”
As co-chair of the U.N. Secretariat’s High-Level Panel on the post-2015 Global Development Framework agenda, President Sirleaf is playing a leadership role in the development of the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “We hope that President Sirleaf will take note of the growing support for the inclusion of a land governance indicator that could measure progress towards improved land rights for both women and men in the post-2015 MDGs,” said Dr. Gregory Myers, USAID Division Chief, Land Tenure and Property Rights. As we noted in a previous commentary, comparable land governance indicators would also help document and assess the status of land governance, identify priority areas for improvement, and measure progress over time.