A TRANSITION INTO THE NEW “LIBERIA LAND AUTHORITY”, A PRIORITY THAT REQUIRES COLLECTIVE EFFORTS

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Liberia’s land administration and management system has negatively impacted the socio-economic and political well-being of all Liberians. Property rights in land are characterized by weak governance, including outdated policies, laws and regulations, weak institutions with little institutional coordination, and limited accountability, all of which creates an unstable environment, increasing conflicts over land, and high levels of corruption in the land sector. The institutional framework for land is fragmented among a variety of government agencies, which has led to ineffectiveness, considerable confusion, poor delivery of services, and corrupt practices.

Accordingly, in February 2012, the Land Commission constituted a Land Administration Task Force, comprising the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME), the Center for National Documents and Records Agency (CNDRA), the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministries of Public Works, Planning and Economic Affairs, among others, to comprehensively review the policy, legal and regulatory as well as the institutional arrangement for land administration and recommend options for reforming and improving the land administration system in Liberia.

While the task force was progressing with its work, the Commission held discussions with the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for the speedy enactment of a new land agency Act to allow steps toward the creation of the agency to begin and to reassure donors of the Government’s continued commitment to reforms in the land sector, as well as to allow the Government provide a budget for the new Agency, which will reassure donors and increase prospects of securing multi-year donor funding for the new Agency.

Consequently, in her 2012 Annual Message, delivered in January, 2013, the President informed the National Legislature that she would submit a “Bill to separate the lands function from the Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy to establish an agency with a focus on land matters”. Consequently, The Land Commission was instructed by the President to draft the establishment Act for such an agency in consultation with relevant agencies of Government, including the Governance and Law Reform Commissions. After several consultations covering a period of more than two years, an Act was drafted and reviewed at a stakeholder’s meeting on December 17, 2014.

On June 30th, 2015, the Land Commission and the Governance Commission co-convened a Roundtable Meeting on the draft Act. The meeting brought together heads of relevant government ministries and agencies, including those in the land sector. Institutional stakeholders at the meeting discussed key provisions of the draft Act as it relates to the powers and authority of the proposed new land agency, as well as organizational matters and transitional issues; ways to strengthen ownership of the Act by key institutional stakeholders; and advanced suggestions and recommendations to improve the Act. Suggestions and recommendations relevant to specific provisions of the document were given due consideration in completing the final Draft Liberia Land Authority Act, which was officially submitted to the President in late July, 2015, for her review, approval and subsequent submission to the National Legislature for enactment. Following series of stakeholders’ consultations, the Senate Committees on Lands, Mines, Energy, National Resources and Environment, including the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Claims, Human Rights and Petitions convened public hearing on the proposed Liberia Land Authority Act on September 29, 2015 during the extended session of the Legislature.

It was anticipated then, that the Draft Land Authority Act would have been endorsed and passed into law before the Legislators adjourned sessions for their agriculture break.

The new Land Authority is expected to have broad mandates over both land administration and land management. These include (a) land policy and planning, (b) provision of land survey, registration and mapping services, (c) provision of land valuation services, (d) creation of a national Land Information System, (e) alternative land dispute resolution services, (f) coordination of access to government and public land for investment and conservation projects, (g) promotion of land use planning and zoning by local governments, and (h) demarcation and titling of the customary land rights of local communities.

In support of the Government’s Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance, and its implementing law, the draft Local Government Act, there shall be established and mobilized structures of the Authority at the local government levels [for example, county land offices of the Authority, county land boards, governance and management structures for customary land owing communities] as it is deemed necessary for the effective and efficient administration and regulation of land.

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