In West Point, Monrovia, efficient information work was performed during the Ebola epidemic that led to an increase in knowledge about the virus and a decrease in the spread of infection.
Photo: Marco Nilson
Our work in Liberia
Developing agriculture, the private sector and trade will improve the situation for Liberia’s rural areas. We also support efforts to build infrastructure and interventions against gender-based violence. Sida is working in cooperation with other aid agencies to improve democracy and human rights.
The ebola outbreak in 2014–2015 hit Liberia very hard, and Sweden was one of the countries that provided the most assistance. Liberia is still one of the world's poorest countries with a young population. Now that the country has been declared free from the disease, bilateral cooperation is focusing on the country's continued peaceful development, professionalization of the public and private sectors, and on an economic development that will benefit the poor.
Decentralisation and democratic development
The ebola crisis exposed the country's major disparities. The low confidence in authorities and the state in rural areas was a cause that contributed to the epidemic spreading so rapidly. For this reason, an important part of Sweden's strategy for development cooperation with Liberia is to promote greater decentralisation. The power in Liberia is by tradition held by a small minority with a strong base in the capital Monrovia. The lack of popular participation and economic injustices are creating problems.
In our cooperation strategy, we are supporting democratic development and human rights. The power must be divided between more groups and become decentralised, and democratic structures need to be built. A transparent, effective and accountable judicial and security sector built upon democratic principles is a central part of Liberia's road to peace, security and development. Sweden supports the development of the judicial and security sector in several ways, including through a fund established by the UN’s Development Programme as well as through bilateral cooperation between the Swedish police and the forensic unit of the Liberian National Police.
The civil war in Liberia ended in 2003. Since then, a large share of development work has been based on rebuilding the infrastructure. Sida has provided support to the reconstruction work, mostly through the UN and the civil society. Many small projects have brought concrete results. In mid-2016, the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia will withdraw after 13 years’ presence in the country. The strategy therefore gives the Folke Bernadotte Academy a particular commission to contribute to safeguarded human security and freedom from violence through initiatives targeting the police and judicial system.
A focus area in the strategy for Liberia is also to strengthen the capacity of public administration through a civil service reform that aims to professionalise the occupations active in the country's public administration.
Economic development and improved infrastructure
One of the biggest challenges in Liberia today is the country’s very poor infrastructure, which also hampered the fight against the Ebola epidemic. By supporting the World Bank's infrastructure fund, and through cooperation with Hifab, Sida supports the expansion and refurbishment of the national road network. Due to the extensive rains that fall in Liberia six months a year, the roads in many parts of the country are inaccessible and in very poor condition. This hampers the development of rural areas. Sida's support to the road infrastructure sector has been very successful and is a prerequisite for rural development in Liberia. Roads to markets have improved, new markets have been established and bridges have been rebuilt. It has also become easier for the rural population to reach healthcare and schools.
The forthcoming strategy period continues to focus on Liberia's rural areas. Local government officials have been trained in their democratic responsibilities. These are important steps in recreating services in rural areas. The majority of the country’s population provide for themselves through farming and fishing. Agriculture will be developed to provide higher returns and greater incomes. Investments in vocational training and adult education aim to increase trade both within the country and internationally, with the purpose of improving the ability of poor people to increase their incomes, especially the young.
A focus area in the current strategy is to promote renewable energy. Liberia is one of the original countries for the Power Africa initiative, which has been very successful. Other important sub-areas are to strengthen the conditions for free and fair trade. This is partly achieved through follow-up of the good support run by the National Board of Trade with the Liberian Government ahead of Liberia's accession to the WTO in 2015.
Prevention of sexual violence and greater respect for sexual health
Sexual and gender-based violence is one of the most common crimes in Liberia, and women and children are most affected. Sweden therefore prioritises efforts against gender-based violence, in cooperation with the government of Liberia and seven UN agencies. Since 2010, Sweden has contributed SEK 50 million to support these efforts. The programme provides support to survivors, for instance by offering customised medical care, therapy and women’s shelters. A large part of the programme deals with prevention work to reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence, which is e.g. carried out through support to the Liberian police and courts, and through public information campaigns.
The strategy for Liberia also prioritises the work to increase respect for sexual health in the form of special contributions for access to sex education and access to contraception. Teenage pregnancy in Liberia is still common, preventing many girls from completing school before they start a family, and thus hampering the opportunity for them to lift themselves out of poverty.
Coordinating donor contributions
A stable Liberia is a fundamental condition for the country to be able to write off its debts from The World Bank and The International Monetary Fund. Our contributions must therefore aim to strengthen peace and democracy.
Our development assistance to Liberia is to the greatest extent possible implemented through the UN, through joint donor funds for development cooperation, as well as through international organisations in order to support the Government and Liberian partners. The Government has developed a long-term strategy called Vision 2030, with the goal of Liberia being a middle-income country in 2030, and a new poverty strategy Agenda for Transformation (AfT), which is a large reform package that runs over a five-year period.
Within the forum of the established international dialogue on peace-building and state-building, an initiative on special support to fragile and conflict-affected states was launched in 2011. The framework that was developed is called The New Deal and aims to link political and economic development, based on a clear national ownership. The New Deal will be implemented in a number of so-called pilot countries, including Liberia. Sweden is together with USA a partner to Liberia within the New Deal, which includes a common focus on peace-building and state-building, in order to strengthen the country's progress towards lasting peace. Sweden's commitment to the New Deal has created space for a strengthened dialogue with Liberia. In cooperation with the USA, this has led to the development of a draft of a new structure for coordination of the development agenda.