LAND COMMISSION GEARS UP FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE LAND RIGHTS BILL BY THE NATIONAL LEGISLATURE

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On Tuesday and Wednesday, June 30 and July 1, 2015, respectively, the Land Commission held two important roundtable stakeholders’ meeting on the draft Land Rights Bill, currently before the Legislature, and the draft Liberia Land Authority Act, the proposed institutional structure to implement programs and activities related to land governance, including land administration and land management in Liberia.

The June 30 meeting on the draft Land Authority Act, co-convened by the Governance Commission, brought together high-level officials and senior technical staff from key stakeholder institutions such as the Law Reform Commission, Ministries of Internal Affairs, Land, Mines and Energy, Public Works, Finance and Development Planning and the Center for National Document and Record Agency. Others are the Liberia Revenue Authority and the Constitution Review Committee. Participants, including Dr. Amos Sawyer of the Governance Commission and Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott of the Constitution Review Committee discussed a range of issues in the draft Act, including the powers and authority of the proposed new land agency, organizational structures to be established and transitional issues. Participants also advanced suggestions and recommendations to improve the Act and ways to strengthen ownership by the key stakeholders. At the conclusion of the meeting, a technical working group comprising relevant agencies was established to synthesize the recommendations from participants and incorporate them in the draft Act, where appropriate.

The meeting of July 1 was organized by the Commission in partnership with civil society organizations, including the Rice and Rights Foundation, Sustainable Development Institute, Search for Common Grounds, with support from the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA). Participants at the meeting discuss outstanding issues of the draft Land Rights Bill, including those pertaining to customary land rights, and other laws that may conflict with the provisions of the Bill. Also discussed were strategies and capacities that will be drawn upon for effective and sustained advocacy for the passage of the Bill

In two separate opening statements, the Chairman of the Land Commission, Dr. Cecil T. O. Brandy, underlined the importance of the Land Authority Act and the Land Rights Bill, as well as their immense benefits and values they will add to the land sector of the Country, and how these core values are key in the transition process to the new institutional arrangement.. Dr. Brandy said these benefits and values cannot be actualized in the absence of the passage these two Acts. Dr. Brandy continued “the formulation of policies and laws is just a piece of the many obligations towards the reform needed to be carried out in the land sector, but the huge task is the establishment of the institution that will deal with the numeral problems coming out from land use and management and administration, which need to be defined and dealt with in the confine of appropriate policies and laws for the betterment of our country. He averred that the process is a delicate and needs strong hearted individuals who will be dedicated to carrying out these reforms.

If the Land Authority Act is passed in to law, it will affect several Ministries and Agencies by detaching some of their departments to make up the proposed Land Authority. In the same vain, the draft Act proposes the repealing and or adjusting of several Acts and laws that were created, providing rights to other government functionaries function in the land sector so as not to usurp or duplicate the functions of the Land Authority when it begins its function as a statutory entity.

The draft Land Rights Bill is a fundamental legal instrument that legally defines the types of land ownership rights in Liberia and the obligations thereto. Many of the provisions of the Bill, when passed into law will be implemented through the proposed Land Authority.

This Bill, which is currently before the legislature for enactment, provides the legal basis for the enforcement of the Land Rights Policy of 2013, which created the four tenure rights categories of Private Land, Government Land, Public Land, and Customary Land.

This Act also confirms, declares and ensures equal access and equal protection with respect to land ownership, use and management, including ensuring that Customary Land is given protection equal to Private Land and that land ownership is permitted for all Liberians regardless of their identity, whether based on custom, ethnicity, tribe, language, gender or otherwise.

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