Liberia has developed a progressive legal and policy framework that recognizes and legitimizes the role of communities in governing the nation’s natural resources. The 1984 Constitution commits to managing natural resources in a way that maximizes the participation of all Liberians, and “advance[s] the general welfare of the Liberian people.”i The 2006 National Forestry Reform Law (NFRL) recognizes communities’ role in forest management and the 2009 Community Rights Law with respect to Forestland (CRL) gives communities ownership rights over forest resources. Most recently, the Land Commission and the Governance Commission presented policies that render customary land rights equal in law to private land rights (Land Rights Policy), and devolves authority from Monrovia to the counties (Draft Local Government Act).
Despite these progressive reforms, more than 50 percent of Liberia’s land base has been placed under agriculture, forest, and mining concessions. The majority of these concessions were granted on customary community land, without the consultation or free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the affected communities as required by the Public Procurement and Concession Act. ii The contradiction between policy and practices clearly demonstrates the significant gap between law and reality in Liberia. This policy brief draws upon experiences in the community forestry sector implementing the CRL and its Regulations, and presents options and processes to ensure that moving forward the spirit of the law is carried out, and communities receive benefits from the land and resources already mortgaged to concessionaires.