Jessica Vapnek, Alfred Fofie, and Peter Boaz,
Resolving Disputes and Improving Security in Post-Conflict Settings: An Example from Liberia, 83
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/faculty_scholarship/1634
Countries emerging from civil conflict in the developing world face numerous challenges that hinder reconstruction and peace building. These hurdles, many of which existed before the war and may have contributed to the civil strife, include poverty, unequal distribution of political and economic power, land disputes and exploitation or exclusion of groups on social, cultural, tribal or religious bases. Liberia emerged from 14 years of conflict in 2003 urgently needing to address many of these concerns, in particular the burgeoning number of land disputes and the looming threat they posed to peace, security and national reconstruction. A joint effort by the Government of Liberia and the US Government led to the formulation of the Mitigating Land Disputes in Liberia Project (MLDL)1 funded by the US State Department.2 The project was launched in late 2011 with the goal of developing innovative solutions to reduce conflict, address security concerns and improve crime prevention in two rural counties3 (Nimba and Lofa) in northern and northwestern Liberia, respectively. Largely because of crucial participation by local communities and because the programme was designed with a keen awareness of customary norms and practices, the project has had measurable impacts and offers a model for effective dispute and conflict resolution in a rural post-war setting. This article first examines the role of land underpinning disputes in post-conflict settings and then outlines the origins of the MLDL project. Next, the article provides a snapshot of the system and examines the methodology and factors that led to the success of the dispute resolution and conflict early warning/early response system established and supported by MLDL. After reviewing selected disputes resolved and security issues addressed during the life of the project, the article concludes by suggesting the features of MLDL’s dispute resolution and early warning model that could be replicated in other post-conflict regions.