Using Land Policy to Improve the Lives of Liberia's Urban Poor

February 2013 - In late September 2012, residents of Peace Island heard that a portion of their settlement would be demolished to make way for a new ministerial complex, potentially affecting 3,600 people.

Their situation is similar to that of many residents of informal urban settlements in Liberia's capital. Although lacking even the most basic services, these communities are a source of shelter and livelihood for hundreds of thousands of urban poor. They are also subject to a growing number of evictions and demolitions as the pace of construction and investment in Monrovia intensifies.

Currently, residents of informal settlements are not protected by law or administrative policy. This makes long-term development difficult and exposes the community to forced relocation and poverty.

Tenure security - the certainty that a person or community's rights to land are guaranteed - is vital to development. It paves the way for urban stability, economic development, investment, and improved services, such as wells and sanitation.

Tenure insecurity has the opposite effect. Indeed, local authorities consider Peace Island illegal, and have reportedly rebuffed attempts by residents to obtain basic services, such as wells.

Forced evictions can:

  • create urban homelessness,
  • lead to violence,
  • and to the development of equally insecure new informal settlements.

As part of an overall reassessment of its Land Policy, Liberia's government has begun to re-examine its urban land policy. The outcome could have profound implications for hundreds of thousands of Liberians, and determine how informal settlements and their residents could be integrated into Monrovia as it rebuilds its economy.

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