Forum Syd starts land rights program in Liberia


Sweden-based civil society platform Forum Syd opened its Liberia office on Tuesday in Gbarnga, Bong County and at the same time launched the ‘Sustainable ownership: empowering communities and civil society in Liberia’ program.

The event took place at Forum Syd office and it was attended by the Swedish Ambassador to Liberia Ingrid Wetterqvist, an array of Liberian government officials, including representations from the leaderships of Bomi, Bong and Grand Gedeh Counties where the program will initially focus.

“We are happy that Forum Syd has opened their office here in Gbarnga. This is highly symbolic and this is what we call walking the talk and not just talking,” Ambassador Wetterqvist told the audience. 

A cross section of civil society and international organizations was also present, such as the Liberia Land Authority, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Action Aid Liberia.

“We as civil society organizations have the burden on us to ensure that people are properly informed and demand their rights,” noted Marilyn Jarwoe, Executive Director at Center for Justice and Peace Studies (CJPS)  during the opening ceremony. 

In separate remarks, all of the invitees thanked the government and the people of Sweden for being a true friend and partner to the people of Liberia. 

Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvist cuts the ribbon during the ceremony.

Bong County’s acting Superintendent Anthony B. Sheriff noted in his welcoming speech that  “In the past, I used to see civil society as people who were against me. Now are realized that they were helping me to do the right things.” 

Focus on civil society support and land rights

Forum Syd will in Liberia strive to safeguard the implementation of the Land Rights Act to the benefit of local communities.  Liberia is perceived to also hold one of the most progressive Land Rights Act in the world, one that recognizes customary land rights. The Act grants people and communities equal right to ancestral land as private ownership have over the same land.

“We are excited to start our support to the Liberian civil society. Their work for local communities right to land and women’s rights are crucial to build a sustainable future in Liberia.” notes Forum Syd Secretary-General Anna Stenvinkel about the organization’s expansion to Liberia.

The land question is also highly gendered as the face of the world’s food producers is that of a woman. Although being responsible for household and micro level food security, women rarely have secure access to the land they cultivate.

Through strengthening organisational capacity and sharing insights between communities and social movements, civil society can act as a watchdog keeping government accountable to its promises.

Forum Syd aims to do this journey together with civil society in Liberia to ensure land access and strengthening services relating to land.