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Sida's work in Liberia

Liberia is slowly recovering from the civil war that ended almost 20 years ago. The focus of Sida's support is peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights, and sustainable economic development.

Sida’s support to Liberia 2020

Progress has been made

Democratic and peaceful changeover in power

In 2017, Liberia held a presidential election that, according to international election observers, met an approved standard for free and fair elections. The changeover in power that followed when George Weah became president was democratic and peaceful.

Renovated hydroelectric power

The country’s large hydroelectric power plant has been renovated after being destroyed during the war. It has since then increased electricity production, although electricity prices remain high compared to other countries in the region. 

Challenges remain

Få kvinnor i parlamentet

Endast en av tio parlamentariker är kvinna.1 Genomsnittet för världen är drygt 25 procent.2

Weak state apparatus

The centrally controlled state apparatus continues to function poorly and lacks sufficient capacity and competence. Instead there are many informal power networks that operate in parallel with the formal structures.

Low trust in the government

The root causes of the conflict remain: widespread corruption,3 the concentration of power in the capital, and an unjust distribution of resources. The trust in the government is low and the risk of a new conflict is constantly present.

Development cooperation in Liberia

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world – more than half of the population lives in poverty (with less than USD 2 per day).4 Since its 14-year long civil war ended in 2003, the country has gradually evolved towards peace and stability. The country is slowly building its public sector and its justice system and strengthening the rights of its citizens.

Liberia is rich in natural resources and has a climate that is well-suited for agriculture. However, the agricultural sector is inefficient. A lack of infrastructure limits people’s access to markets, health care and education.

Democracy, gender equality, and political and human rights

Despite the strengthening of peace in recent years, the public sector is weak and the respect for human rights remains low. Political power is concentrated to the capital of Monrovia, where a small minority governs the country.

Liberian women and girls are particularly vulnerable – they have less access to care, ownership, justice and education. Rapes are common and the majority of the victims are children.5 However, awareness about violence against women has increased. For example, reporting a rape is less shameful than it was in the past. Yet, the justice system functions poorly.

Stronger justice system

Gradual improvements are being made to Liberia’s judicial system, but major challenges persist – among them corruption and the paying of criminal organisations to protect a person or business from threats. Through the Carter Center, Sida helps strengthen Liberia’s justice system. The centre works with the informal justice system and educates traditional leaders about human rights and Liberian law, supports mediation in conflicts, and offers legal aid via civil society organisations.

About the work in Liberia at the Carter Center web page

Increasing tax revenues

The lack of popular participation and economic inequalities create problems in Liberia, and there is little political will to implement necessary reforms. Sida supports a reform aimed at increasing Liberia’s tax revenues and improving the Ministry of Finance’s governance of the public sector. This support is channelled through the World Bank.

About the work in Liberia at the World Bank web page

Improved living conditions and economic development

Urban unemployment is high, especially among young people. The majority of the jobs are found in the informal sector.

Liberia’s economy has been hit hard by falling market prices for rubber and iron ore, the country’s biggest export commodities. One of the greatest challenges in the country is the lack of infrastructure – a consequence of the civil war. It hampers economic development, particularly in rural areas, and makes it harder for people to get to school and health care providers, especially during the rainy season.

Productive jobs for young people

Liberia is currently one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to run a business. This is due to convoluted regulations, corruption, limited access to electricity, poor infrastructure and trade barriers. Among other efforts, Mercy Corps works to promote the employment of young people in Liberia. Inter alia, the organisation provides career support, matches companies with jobseekers and helps young people start their own businesses – so that more young people can have meaningful and productive employment.

Upgrading rural roads

Four out of ten work in agriculture,6 where there is a great need for streamlining. Almost two thirds of the population are farmers, and most grow food for their own use. Sida supports efforts to increase productivity in the agricultural sector and to provide farmers with increased access to markets where they can sell their products. Examples of this work include the Liberian-Swedish Feeder Roads Project, which upgrades rural roads to improve the opportunities for people to sell their goods and services, while simultaneously improving access to care and education.

Liberian-Swedish Feeder Roads Project web page

Access to renewable energy

More than half of all people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity.7 Sida supports several efforts that increase access to renewable energy. Liberia is part of the Power Africa initiative, which gives more people in Sub-Saharan Africa access to electricity.

About Power Africa on the USAID website

Human security and freedom from violence

Liberia is steeped in patriarchal norms. The judicial and security systems are weak and impunity is widespread, and there is little political or institutional will to change this.

Although fewer women in the country than before are subjected to genital mutilation, the percentage remains high – nearly one third of all women have been genitally mutilated.8 The practice was temporarily banned from 2017 to 2018, but the ban was not renewed.

Court for gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is one of the most frequent crimes in Liberia, and a majority of the victims are women and children. Through such organisations as Kvinna till Kvinna, UN Women, UNICEF and Action Aid, Sida supports efforts that both prevent and address gender-based violence and improve the situation of LGBTQ people. This work is accomplished, inter alia, through a special court for gender-based violence (Court E) and the establishment of support centres around the country where victims can meet police investigators and receive medical and psychosocial care.

Meditation for local disputes

The wounds of the civil war are deep, and there is a great risk of further conflicts. Through the organisation ZOA, Sida supports the road to reconciliation at the local level. Through a kind of social group therapy, participants learn how to deal with difficult memories and traumatic experiences and get tools for resolving conflicts, fostering social community and trust, which contribute to reconciliation. Sida also supports Liberia’s own peace-building institution: the Peace Building Office, which collects and reports incidents that could lead to conflict and helps resolve local disputes through mediation.

Liberia Peace Building Office web page

Updated: 14 September 2021