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liberiaPopulation: 4,190,435

HDI ranking: 174/187

HDI score: 0.388

The Republic of Liberia is a resource rich and war torn country of West Africa in the process of rebuilding itself after several years of civil war. In 2010 Liberia approved a National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance (NPDLG), which called for decentralization and transfer of political, fiscal and administrative powers to local governments and ended more than a decade long civil war. The NPDLG is the first meaningful decentralization policy adopted in Liberia after many unsuccessful attempts in the past (IREX, 2014).

Local governance at a glance

  • Liberia is a unitary state divided into 15 counties. The counties are subdivided into 68 districts, districts into chiefdoms, chiefdoms into clans, and clans into towns or villages (VOLT, 2013).
  • County authorities, city mayors, and township commissioners are appointed by the President (VOLT 2013).
  • Liberia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) is responsible for overseeing local administration in Liberia. It is mandated to “create a more open, responsive and accountable government” (MIA, 2014).
  • According to the amended law of March 2011, Liberia has no gender quota provision nor local level quotas (Quota Project, 2013).

Civil society actors include

Capacity building institutions

  • The Governance Commission (GC) drives decentralization and local governance policy in Liberia. GC conducts research, consults Liberians on issues affecting governance, and recommends policy and institutional reforms to improve public service delivery at all levels of government (GC, n.d.).
  • The Liberian Institute of Public Administration (LIPA) trains public officials on the function of government to improve democratic governance and the managerial capabilities of officials in all sectors and levels of the government (LIPA, n.d.).

Fiscal control

  • The NPDLG “gives fiscal sharing power broadly to the local governments to allow them to control their own tax base and policies.” Liberia’s Legislature determines “the tax base for each county” and “prescribe[s] the types of taxes, rates, fees, and fines” levied by the local governments (IREX, 2010).
  • “The bulk [of county authorities] expenditure management responsibilities are undertaken as agencies of central government, with no discretionary autonomy over allocations.” (IMF, 2012).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • The Liberia Decentralisation and Local Development initiative started in 2007 to support the decentralization process and help local governments access development funds (UNCDF, 2013).
  • The NPDLG, approved by the government in 2011, called for decentralization and the transfer of political, fiscal and administrative powers to local governments. This and ongoing governance reforms are yielding a more decentralized government (IBIS, 2012).
  • In 2014, the Ministry of Finance prepared a decentralization plan to drive fiscal decentralization and capacity building forward (AllAfrica, 2014).
  • The adoption of a new constitutional amendment by 2015 is expected to result in the enactment of a Local Government Act. Many hope it will foster decentralized and participatory local governance (DCID, 2014).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • Over the past many decades, Liberia has had a ”highly centralized political structure and weak administrative governance which affected governance and participatory development at the local level” (DPADM, 2004).
  • Liberia has not held local elections since the end of the civil war in 2003. Those scheduled for 2008 were cancelled, ostensibly due to a lack of financial resources (Freedom House, 2011).
  • Local governments lack institutional capacity, structured local administration and qualified staff, as well as a “system of clear, predictable and transparent financial transfers” (UCLG Africa and Cities Alliance, 2013).
  • There is no clear strategy to implement the 2010 NPDLG is hampering the attempts to fast-track the decentralization process and create a participatory local government (IBIS, 2012).

Recent posts on this website about Liberia:


List of sources:

Actions on Genuine Democratic Alternatives (AGENDA), 2013.

Duke Center for International Development (DCID), 2014: “Liberian officials trained in fiscal decentralization.”

Freedom House, 2011: “Liberia.”

Global Network for Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), 2013: “Security Council Resolution 1325: Civil Society Monitoring Report 2013.”

Governance Commission (GC), n.d.:

IBIS, 2012: “Country Strategy for IBIS Liberia 2012 – 2016.”

International Research & Exchange Board (IREX), 2010: “National Decentralization & Local Governance Policy: an Essential Step Toward Popular Participation.”

Liberia Democracy Watch (LDW), 2013:

Liberian Institute of Public Administration (LIPA), n.d.:

NAYMOTE, n.d.:

Quota Project, 2013: “Liberia.”

Republic of Liberia Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), 2014: “Liberia’s Decentralization Secretariat Program.”

Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment (RICCE), 2012.

UNCDF, 2013: “Liberia Decentralization and Local Development Programme. Final Report.”

United Nations Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM), 2004. “Republic of Liberia: Public Administration Country Profile.”

Vision For Liberia Transformation (VOLT), 2013: “Politics.”

Youth Partnership For Peace and Development (YPPD), 2012:

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