Waldemar Vrey, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for Rule of Law, says land rights and land management are critical for the social cohesion and the safeguarding of communities to promote sustainable peace in Liberia, which makes the passage of the Land Rights Act timely.
Mr. Vrey made the observation on Tuesday at the peoples’ forum organized by the civil society working group on land reforms in Liberia under the theme, “Bridge the Gap; Ensure Land Rights for all Liberians,” and was witnessed by several local and international partners.
Vrey emphasized that land is the foundation of development for many nations and the ability to access the land for cultivations and other purposes remained critical for the country’s population.
“When the Land Rights Act is passed into law, it will provide the instrument for settling land disputes and differences where the international community will recognize the Act as a legal tool that will prepare rural communities essentially for maintaining national peace and reconciliation,” Mr. Vrey said.
He assured the gathering of the United Nations’ commitment in ensuring that all land tenure is consistent in Liberia to prepare all citizens equally, irrespective of gender, age, or religious background.
According to him, the United Nations and the international community including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Bank as well as European Union (EU), are committed to support the people of Liberia for their efforts to see the passage of the Land
Rights and Land Reforms Act.
The international community, he said, continued to engage the Liberian government to advocate for the passage of the Land Rights Act.
He noted that the gathering of people to discuss some issues surrounding land rights shows the importance of land to every citizen and humanity, adding that protected lands do not have to be under the government as has been reported in some quarters.
“Land reform has long been on the development agenda of Liberia, and Liberians are aware that land conflict is one of the reasons for the long civil crisis that destroyed many lives. After the 14 years civil crisis, we now have to put in place those things that led to that,” Vrey added.
He then lauded the civil society organizations and those who organized Tuesday’s gathering to ensure that the issues of land rights are discussed for the benefit of reducing conflict and other problems that might arise in the country.
Stanley Toe, head of the Interim Land Taskforce (ILTF), recounted some of the benefits associated with the passage of the Land Rights Act, including community and individuals obtaining legal recognition of their lands.
“There will be enormous benefits for community lands, including economic growth, poverty reduction, conflict reduction and social cohesion as well as good land governance, where community dwellers will have access to low cost credit through the use of their lands as collateral. Under economic growth, there will also be incentives for land tenure,” Toe said.
He said there are provisions in the law that individuals and communities will have to go through to claim access or ownership, adding, “There will also be high productivity as land will move from less efficient to more efficient production through sale and rent. When you have ownership rights, which the Act says, you have the right to sell, rent or lease and bring economic benefits or growth to your respective communities.”