Liberia is the size of England or the US state of Virginia, and it is covered by foreign oil, mining, and logging concessions. Read more

With a history of corruption, land grabs, and poor governance, Liberia’s natural resources frequently do the country more harm than good.

Between 1989 and 2003, Liberia experienced two bloody civil wars that killed over a quarter of a million people. Global Witness 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 for his crimes. There have been positive signs of Liberia’s development: former President Johnson Sirleaf adopted laws to fight corruption and natural resource mismanagement, and international donors have committed billions in aid.

But Liberia’s efforts to jump start the economy through well-managed resource deals have been very mixed. Since the war, Global Witness has shown how mining companies have negotiated inequitable contracts, community forestry is being undermined by logging companies, and an oil giant purchased a Liberian oil block it knew was tainted by corruption.

The government’s investment in large-scale palm oil plantations has had a devastating impact on agricultural communities and the land on which they depend. Collaborating with local Liberian NGOs, Global Witness has helped communities affected by these plantations gain a better understanding of their rights. In 2017, we worked with local partner Save My Future to produce two community guides, on Free Prior and Informed Consent and Environmental and Social Impact Assessments.

The Liberian government has taken some steps towards harnessing its resource wealth for development. Liberia has renegotiated a mining agreement, cancelled some logging contracts in 2006 and 2013, issuing criminal indictments against some officials who broke the law, and struck agreements with the EU and Norway to save the country’s forests. However, it continues to be unclear whether the Liberian government has the capacity – and sometimes the will – to manage the immense number of companies exploiting the country’s natural resources.