European Union (EU)’s Programme Manager for Climate Change and Rural Development, Vera Kellen, says land rights remain the precondition for sustainable development in Africa and the rest of the world.
Madam Kellen made the remarks on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 at the “Sustainable Ownership, Empowering Community and Civil Society Liberia” meeting held at a resort in Monrovia, organized by ForumSYD. The day-long meeting brought together both local and international partners with focus on land rights advocacy and empowerment of CSOs.
Madam Kellen said she believes that Liberians can have sustainable use of their land if only they understand or know that it is their land and have ownership of it.
The EU’s official further emphasized the important of working with women group, especially vulnerable groups and to also raise or carryout awareness of land rights in the various communities.
“EU has given grants to some civil society organizations and the Liberia Land Authorities as cooperation is very cardinal for the land sector. EU is also delighted to have ForumSYD within the land area and soliciting views from other CSOs about what they are doing in the sector,” Madam Kellen said.
“Today, through awareness, some of the women have understood their rights but more is still needed, especially women’s access to land in Liberia,” Madam Kellen further urged CSO actors.
Anthony S. Kollie, Program Monitoring Evaluation and Learning Specialist of Land Governance Support Activity (LGSA)/ United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said the LGSA supports the establishment of effective land governance systems and comprehensive reforms to help ensure equitable access to land security of tenure for all.
Mr. Kollie further indicated that LGSA also facilitate inclusive, sustained, and environmentally friendly growth and development aimed at promoting peace and security in Liberia.
To achieve this, Mr. Kollie said LGSA continues to strengthen the legal, policy and regulatory framework for land governance, improve human and institutional capacity for land governance, protect customary land rights and support CSOs, private sector and citizen engagement in land governance.
He said the organization is supporting the training of a pool of 30 surveyors through a nine-month geomatics course at the Forestry Training Institute in Bomi.
“We are supporting the establishment and operations of regional land boards. We are also supporting women’s land rights initiative. We are also supporting the professionalization of the surveying profession through refreshment training to members of the association professional surveyor in Liberia,” he said.
Mr. Kollie noted that Liberia is perceived to also hold one of the most progressive land rights Act in the world, one that recognizes customary land rights, adding that “the Act grants people and communities equal right to ancestral land as private ownership have over the same land.
Wilmot J. Yarsiah, Regional Coordinator and Focal Person for Extractive Industries for Sustainable Development (EISD)/ National Bureau of Concessions (NBC) said concessions cover huge portions of Liberia’s land.
Mr. Yarsiah said the government is concerned about the violation of protocols during the signing of several concessions agreements, indicating that “there will be no violation of protocols in signing of any concessions agreements.”
According to him, Liberia violated both national and international protocols, which the government is under obligation to observe.
He said the multi-stakeholders has been established in nine of Liberia’s 15 counties to ensure that the people benefit from concessions agreement.
“We will continue to work with you to ensure the sustainability of our people, because we don’t want to have another Bomi-Hole in Liberia,” Mr. Yarsiah said.
Roselyn Korleh Theoway, Coordination Officer of Satallite Office, ForumSYD, said land is power, and land is life, and the call for implementation of the new land rights law is crucial and challenging, and needs immediate interventions to ensure that Liberians, especially the rural communities’ dwellers are aware of their new land ownership rights.
“It is recorded in Liberia’s history that laws are usually successfully passed, but in most cases are not implemented, or enforced, and the new land rights law could be affected by this syndrome if care is not taken,” she said.
She continued: “Increased organizational strengthening of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) both administrative and financial systems, internal accountability and transparency, and with a mandate grounded in rights-holders group and communities. CBOs have developed and strengthened their monitoring skills of governmental institutions, public service providers and/or private sector actors’ in relation to land rights issues.”
According to her, the project, which is started early this year and will last up to 2021 will ensure that CBOs have developed linkages and synergies with CSOs in order to raise awareness and advocate for land rights.
The daylong event brought together several civil society organizations and international entities, including Central for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Framer Union Network of Liberia, Embassy of Sweden, Liberia Land Authority and representative of Senator George Tingbah of Lofa County. The project will be executed in three counties, including Bong, Bomi and Grand Gedeh. The program is intended to ensure that everyone has the power to effect change.
This program came into existence due to study done on 62 CSOs which was observed that sustainability was weak and access to donor grants was very weak, thereby indicating that CSOs were fragile, Asa David Chon, program manager of ForumSYD said.
He said they will support the CSOs by helping them with grants, indicating that the ForumSYD targets first 26 CSOs in the three counties. The Forum is supported by the Swedish Government.