Liberia

Norway plans to contribute several hundred million Norwegian kroner to the financing of hydropower development in Liberia in the coming years. Work to develop renewable energy and improve access to electricity is in full swing.

Facts about Liberia

Population
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Millions
Life expectancy
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Years
GNI pr capita
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USD
Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
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%
HDI
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Ranking
Source:

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

The Ebola outbreak has dominated Liberia socially, economically and politically this past year. Both the national and international responses were weak and initially poorly coordinated. Coordination gradually improved through the UN, and especially when the USA deployed substantial resources.

The National Commission Against Ebola led the efforts by the authorities, and traditional and religious leaders helped change rituals connected to caring for the sick and handling the dead. A total of 10.201 Liberians were infected, and 4573 died. Practically all public and private activity ceased, including health services and education. Airlines cancelled service and contributed to the isolation of the country. The authorities and their development partners have started planning for building the country up again.

The senate election held in December 2014 was a peaceful event. The popular politician George Weah won in Montserrado County over the President’s son, Robert Sirleaf, and has emerged as a probable candidate for the presidential election in 2017.

The Constitution is under revision. A public referendum on the constitutional amendments will be held in 2016. The Ebola outbreak weakened human rights due to the restrictions the authorities imposed on the population.

Liberia has a death penalty in spite of the fact that it is a party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. The law has not resulted in any executions. Same-sex marriage is not allowed.

Liberia’s economy has exhibited high growth, but growth fell from approximately eight per cent in 2013 to one per cent in 2014 as a consequence of the Ebola outbreak. Government revenue fell by USD 86 million, while at the same time expenditure increased by USD 152 million.

Several budget support donors have increased their support to assist the Government during a difficult period. Corruption exists throughout society. The sectors with the highest level of investment are the most vulnerable. This applies to energy, infrastructure and natural resources, particularly in the allocation of licences in the mining industry and forest sector. The lack of rights to land is a major problem, and a draft land rights bill is under consideration.

The authorities have been forced to increase the health budget in order to combat the Ebola outbreak. This has resulted in cutbacks for other sectors. This represents a dilemma with regard to maintaining the level of financing for the security sector, which is important to the stability of the country.

Liberia is to take over responsibility for its own security from the UN peacekeeping force UNMIL in June 2016.

Important infrastructure projects in energy, road building and the mining industry will be delayed due to the Ebola outbreak. It will take a long time before agricultural production returns to the level of prior to the Ebola epidemic, and the higher food prices weigh heavily on a population that is already impoverished.

The country is number 175 of 187 on the UN Human Development Index (2013). Poverty has been reduced from 64 per cent in 2007 to 56 per cent in 2010 (Core Welfare Indicator Surveys, CWIQ). Infant mortality is also showing a steady decline.

As much as 78 per cent of the workforce is in the informal sector and thus without secure income from employment. The average life expectancy for Liberia’s population of 4 million is approximately 60 years. The average level of education for adults is approximately 3.9 years of school. Only a very small percentage of the population in Liberia have access to electricity through the national power grid.

Development cooperation with Liberia

 

Energy

In Liberia, Norway supports capacity building in the country’s energy institutions, development of the grid, in addition to hydropower development. The Ebola outbreak has had a major impact on cooperation. The Canadian consulting firm Manitoba withdrew its international staff from Liberia in August 2014, but they have returned in 2015.

The fact that the international staff were withdrawn resulted in major delays in the execution of the investment plan, operations and training of local employees in the national power company LEC. In Monrovia, there are now 30 000 power customers connected to LEC’s power grid, compared with 21 000 at the beginning of 2014.

A major Norwegian commitment to rehabilitate the Mt. Coffee power station, which was destroyed during the civil war, was initiated in the autumn of 2011. The power station will have the capacity to produce 70-80 MW. The project was significantly delayed in the second half of the year due to the fact that most of the international subcontractors left the country in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. Final completion of the hydropower station will probably not take place until the middle of 2017.

In spite of the Ebola outbreak, institutional cooperation between the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME) and the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), resulted in a draft Energy Act that has been subject to extensive consultative rounds, both in the public sector and among the donors. A training centre was nearly completed in 2014. Studies were initiated in cooperation with the World Bank to assess the potential for small and medium-sized hydropower plants.

Norway also supports reinforcement of the justice and security sector through training the Liberian police and expanding the infrastructure of the police academy, which has now been completed.

Climate

Norway entered into a letter of intent with Liberia concerning the forest programme REDD+ in 2014. Liberia is the most forested country in West Africa, and more than 30 per cent of the land area is covered by tropical rainforest.

After the civil war ended in 2003 and the international sanctions against the country were rescinded, the pressure on forest resources increased, especially from foreign timber companies and the plantation industry. Liberia is therefore important to the international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). 

The Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative supports REDD+ in Liberia through the environmental organization Fauna & Flora International and other international and local NGOs. The goal is to increase knowledge of REDD+ and how local communities can benefit from long-term forest management.

Fauna & Flora International has been a key premise provider for work with REDD+ in Liberia. Through a number of courses and seminars, as well as a national public awareness campaign on radio and TV, the organization has probably contributed to increasing knowledge of climate and forests in both public opinion and among politicians and other decision-makers.

The project’s efforts have also contributed to the formulation of national guidelines for more environmentally-friendly palm oil production, an industry that is often the cause of deforestation. According to a preliminary evaluation, the lack of knowledge is no longer the greatest obstacle to reducing deforestation in Liberia.

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Voluntary organizations

In 2014, eight voluntary organizations received support from Norway for work in Liberia. The organizations received a total of approximately NOK 18.5 million. The largest of these organizations was the Norwegian Refugee Council, which has managed a programme to reduce violence against women since 2009. Among other things, the programme has resulted in greater knowledge about gender-based violence and a greater number of cases of violence against women being reported and dealt with by the legal system.

Norad also supports Peace Child International’s project “Be The Change Academy”. The goal of the project is to improve the basis of existence for marginalized young women in Liberia through a 10-week course and by subsequently giving the most promising business plans the opportunity to receive a small start-up loan.

Others who received support included Digni, Save the Children, Norwegian Guide and Scout Association and Norwegian Human Rights Fund.

Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 02.10.2015