President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf receives the Land Rights Policy from Dr. Cecil Othello Brandy, Chairman of the Land Commission of Liberia.
The Land Commission of Liberia has completed the nation's first land rights policy, after consultation with and endorsement by all Liberian constituencies.
Consequently, the policy was presented to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at the conclusion of a two-day National Validation Conference convened by the Land Commission of Liberia in the capital, Monrovia, on 21 May 2013. UN-Habitat has supported the work of the Land Commission since its inception in 2009.
At the Conference, President Sirleaf said the policy is a major milestone in creating a more inclusive country where all Liberians are assured of their rights to own and enjoy the benefits of land.
"By clearly defining the various categories of land (Public Land, Government Land, Customary Land and Private Land) and accompanying rights and responsibilities, the Policy will assist in the development of appropriate legal mechanisms and procedures for the resolution of the numerous contentious land disputes," the Liberian leader emphasized. She stated that the recognition and granting of ownership rights to rural communities created enormous potential for economic empowerment of local communities, and reminded Liberians that with every right come responsibilities. She noted the new category of Customary Land where rural communities and their leaders must ensure that all members of their communities enjoy the benefits of the natural resources and their land.
Delegates at the Land Rights Policy Conference
Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the Land Commission, Dr. Cecil Othello Brandy, thanked the president for government's support and that of UN-Habitat and other international partners. Before presenting the president with the policy—which he described as "historic"--Dr. Brandy said that "it marks the beginning of a new effort to move forward, to unite all of our citizens – every single one of our citizens. As a result of the work we've done, everyone can now have a share, a stake in this country as it has never happened before," he declared.
Dr. Brandy emphasized that the document is an effort of over two years of work based on studies, wide-range broad-based consultations through the involvement of all of Liberians, stakeholders and international partners. He attributed the success of the drafting process to the commitment of his fellow Board of Commissioners and the support that all Liberians gave the Commission during the exercise.
The two-day conference, held May 20-21 under the theme: "Know Your Land Rights," brought together over 750 delegates, including superintendents, city mayors, township and district commissioners, traditional leaders, elders, women and youth groups, civil society organizations, resident land surveyors, among others, from all 15 Liberian counties.
President Johnson reiterated that while this Land Policy addresses inequities of the past, it also provides a clear vision of where Liberians want to go with their land sector. She thanked the Land Commission for being resolute and getting the Liberian people involved in the drafting process, and hoped that citizens' participation will be paramount at all times in addressing land conflicts or potential conflict situations.
The Land Commission, an autonomous government agency, was established by an Act of the Legislature in August 2009, with a five-year life-span. Its mandate is to propose, advocate and coordinate reforms of land policy, laws and programs in Liberia. Its goal is to develop comprehensive national land tenure and land use system that will provide equitable access to land and security of tenure so as to facilitate inclusive and sustained growth and development, ensure peace and security, and provide sustainable management of the environment. UN-HABITAT will continue to support the work of the Land Commission.