The organic law (Constitution) of Liberia recognises customary and traditional rights. According to it, civil law and customary law are parts of the formal legal system that govern all Liberians. Article 65 of Chapter VII states that the courts are empowered to apply civil law as well as customary law in accordance with the standards enacted by the Liberian Legislature.
The National Forest Reform Law 2006 establishes that the state holds all forest resources in trust for the people, however Regulation 102-07 on Forest Land Use Planning places the duty on the Forest Development Authority (FDA) to respect customary land tenure rights and the definition of customary land in the Community Rights Law (CRL) with respect to Forest Lands 2009 implies that control of this land is determined by historic right, which further suggests that communities can claim rights by establishing evidence of their traditional occupation or tenure. While this law broadly advanced rights, the CRL regulations approved in June 2011 introduced new elements that are inconsistent with the spirit of the law. An evaluation by USAID (1) identified several concerns, in particular that the regulations give the FDA the power to grant community rights to forest resources on a specified area of land, establish principles of 'Authorised Community' and 'Community Forest Agreement' that are not supported in law, and restrict community participation.
Therefore, customary and statutory laws are in conflict with each other. As noted in the 2010 annual report of the Land Commission (2), "there is unclear relationship between statutory and customary laws related to land. There are tensions between claims of state ownership of land and natural resources and claims of customary ownership of land long utilised by traditional communities”. The Land Commission is addressing these issues as part of its mandate to propose, advocate, and coordinate reforms of land policy, laws, and programs.
(1) USAID Liberia (2011) Final Evaluation of the Land Rights and Community Forestry Program (LRCFP). Report available at http://rmportal.net/library/content/liberias-land-rights-and-community-forestry-program/final-evaluation-of-the-land-rights-and-community-forestry-program-lrcfp/at_download/file
(2) Land Commission (2010) Annual Report January - December 2010. Land Commission: Liberia. Available at
|Title||a. The Constitution of Liberia (Article 2) 1986
b. An Act to Establish the Land Commission 2009
c. An Act to Establish the Community Rights Law with respect to Forest Lands 2009
d. Regulation on Community Rights Law 2011
|Source||a. Copy available from http://www.liberianlegal.com/constitution1986.htm
d. Available from the Forestry Development Authority. A reprinted copy is available online at http://www.fornis.net/system/files/Community%20Rights%20Law.pdf