Between 1989 and 2003 Liberia experienced two exceptionally bloody civil wars that killed over a quarter of a million people and displaced a further 1.3 million. Global Witness’s investigations revealed how President Charles Taylor used diamonds and timber to bankroll brutal campaigns against the people of Liberia and neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Today, Liberia is at peace, and Taylor has been convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for crimes committed in that country. Efforts by the Liberian government and donors to rebuild the economy and turn the page on past mismanagement have seen mixed success – unemployment is rife and corruption endemic, while life expectancy stands at just 57 years.
As a post-conflict country where natural resources played a significant role in fuelling the war, Liberia now faces the challenge of managing its resources in a way that benefits its citizens and prolongs peace.
Successfully overcoming decades of corruption and breaking entrenched patterns of resource mismanagement will require sustained political will, civil society engagement, and support from donors and other stakeholders.
Liberia today stands at a crossroads – clear and transparent management of its resources could drive development and enable citizens to benefit from the wealth that is rightfully theirs. However, continued governmental pursuit of quick wins and acquiescence to the business lobby will entrench patterns of corruption and cronyism.
Global Witness is campaigning alongside local civil society groups to ensure that the country’s natural resources are managed fairly for the benefit of all.
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