New Liberia Country Programme Brings Slum Dwellers into National Development

The Cities Alliance initiative will also help improve living and working conditions for the poor as part of the local recovery from the Ebola Virus Disease.


The Cities Alliance Interim Management Board in May approved a new long-term partnership programme with Monrovia that will bring the city’s slum dwellers – who make up 70 per cent of its population – into the national development process, and help improve living and working conditions for the poor as part of the local recovery from the Ebola Virus Disease.

The timing for a new Country Programme focusing on greater Monrovia couldn’t be better. The city’s opportunities, and challenges, are significant. The capital of Liberia and its primary economic driver, Monrovia generates two thirds of the national GDP.  It has a vibrant central business district, bustling informal entrepreneurs, and political leaders that are strongly committed to a successful future for the city.

Monrovia is also struggling to rebuild after a bloody 14-year civil war decimated Liberia’s infrastructure, economy and government institutions. Over 300,000 people died in the war, and one million were displaced – many of them coming to Monrovia, causing extremely rapid growth.

Before the war, Monrovia was planned for a population of 500,000. Today it is home to an estimated 1.5 million people, some 40 per cent of the country’s total population. This growth has severely stressed the city’s already limited infrastructure and ability to deliver basic services; 70 per cent of its residents live in slums.

The Programme

The programme, which was initiated at the request of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Government of Liberia, aims to provide direct service investments, especially for the urban poor and youth living in informal settlements in greater Monrovia through an active community, local and national government partnership.

The goal is to support Liberia by improving the quality of support provided to local governments in the country and to eventually take the programme to cities outside of Monrovia, including county capitals.

The programme will also help the MCC build capacity and position itself as a metropolitan authority, following a national decentralisation policy and Local Government Act announced in 2015 that gives local authorities more autonomy. Currently, greater Monrovia is functionally comprised of 12 different local government authorities that include two cities, nine townships and one borough. MCC has already produced its first Strategic Plan (2014-2017), and the programme will support the city in its implementation.

The three pillars of the Programme are to:

  --  Enhance the national enabling environment for greater Monrovia’s capacity to improve service delivery, through activities such as a city development strategy, National Urban Policy and municipal forums, as well as resilient urban planning training and tools

  --  Provide comprehensive, affordable housing and inclusive land governance, including a comprehensive slum upgrading strategy with a strong focus on urban wetlands management

  --  Mobilise urban poor communities, workers and youth to actively participate in city governance, profile all slum areas and provide community upgrading funds bringing stability, safety and prosperity to greater Monrovia

The Cities Alliance programme aims to mobilise a range of partners to support local authorities in greater Monrovia and the Liberian Government’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Department of Urban Affairs with implementation. They include UCLGA, UN-Habitat, SDI, WIEGO, Habitat for Humanity International, UNOPS, The World Bank, and USAID. It is expected to run from 2016-2020.

Towards a National Urban Policy

Liberian stakeholders’ commitment to urban issues was apparent at the country’s first-ever National Urban Forum, which was held in Monrovia 24-25 June. It was attended by over three hundred delegates from Government ministries, city corporations, civil society organisations, development partners, private sector and universities.

“The [Cities Alliance] programme allows for the first time for slum dwellers to be part of the national development process.”

–President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The forum was supported by Cities Alliance and UN-Habitat, and hosted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in collaboration with Monrovia City Corporation and the Land Commission.

The theme of the National Urban Forum was Towards a National Urban Policy, which has been under development by the government since 2013. The Forum gave all stakeholders a chance to share their points of view and develop a roadmap for the policy.

In opening remarks, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf drove home the message of the urgent need to respond to the rapid pace of urbanisation by making cities sustainable. She also cited the importance of decongesting Monrovia as a major challenge.

“Monrovia is where most of us reside. But we have not been able to expand services which include electricity, roads and access to water nor have we been able to provide access, within a reasonable time, to the education and health services that are required,” President Sirleaf said.

The Forum also helped build consensus on Monrovia’s recovery and development strategy, including the Cities Alliance Country Programme.

Clare Short, Cities Alliance Senior Policy Advisor, attended the National Urban Forum and highlighted that Cities Alliance was pleased to be a partner to the Government of Liberia in moving forward the National Urban Forum agenda. She stated that Cities Alliance hopes to contribute to improving the lives of the urban poor so they can actively participate in the development of Liberia.