North-South Conference: Building Partnerships for Sustainable Development

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Scenario: North-South Conference


Project Region: Monrovia (Liberia)

Monrovia flood

Aerial view of a flooded Monrovia slum, looking northwest from a point near the administrative, governmental and financial center of town. In the foreground, raw sewage can be seen flowing directly into the Atlantic Ocean. Click on the image to view the sanitation problem more closely.

Monrovia is the capital city of the West African nation of Liberia. Located on the Atlantic Coast at Cape Mesurado at the mouth of the St. Paul River, it lies within Montserrado County, the most populous county in Liberia. The metropolitan area, with a population of 1,010,970 in the Greater Monrovia District (2008 census), represents 29% of the total population of Liberia and is the country's most populous city. Monrovia is also the cultural, political, administrative, commercial, communications, and financial hub for the entire country.

Founded in 1822, Monrovia was named in honor of U.S. President James Monroe, a prominent supporter of the colonization of Liberia. Monrovia was founded as a haven for freed slaves from the United States and the British West Indies thirty years after Freetown, Sierra Leone (the first permanent African American settlement in Africa).

The city's economy is dominated by its harbor and by government offices. During the Second World War, Monrovia's harbor was significantly expanded by U.S. forces; today, the main exports leaving via Monrovia's port are latex and iron ore. Located near the confluence of the Mesurado and Saint Paul rivers, the harbor also has facilities for storing and repairing vessels.

Materials are also manufactured here, such as cement, refined petroleum, food products, bricks and tiles, furniture and pharmaceuticals.

Roads and railroads and an airport connect Monrovia with Liberia's interior.

Civil War devastation:

Life in Monrovia was severely disrupted in the 1990s and 2000s by civil war – actually, two back-to-back civil wars – which ran from 1989 to 2003 and left a quarter of a million Liberians dead, tens of thousands homeless and either internally displaced persons (IDPs) or refugees in neighboring countries. Monrovia was largely destroyed. The city's economy was, and to a large extent, still is in ruins. Criminality is rampant; Monrovian residents complain that "padlocks are burst open; windows ... broken; walls ... climbed over; items are ... stolen and goods are ... damaged."

During the civil war(s), even the national museum was looted. Before the fighting, the museum housed some 5,800 painstakingly gathered treasures, of which only 233 have been recovered.

Monrovia Truth & Reconciliation Commission

Although they have little hope of success, the museum's curators continue their recovery efforts because they feel recollecting and documenting Liberia's recent history is vital to the country's recovery and sense of identity.

Despite the magnitude of the support from the international community, Monrovia's (and Liberia's) needs remain colossal, mainly due to the unprecedented level of physical and human capital destruction during the war. Need spans from huge funding requirements for physical improvements in infrastructure to capacity building, training and facilitation to re-build institutions, re-establish social contracts, and re-engage the public in productive partnerships. As needs exceed available funding, prioritization of activities has to take place.

Four major issues areas: peace & security (theft, burglary), economic revitalization, infrastructure & services, governance / rule of law.

Monrovia: urban poverty alleviation and urban development
alleviating poverty, improving employment prospects, education, the environment, health and safety. Kenyan environmental group recycling plastic waste

Challenges (in no particular order) include:

Images of Monrovia

Liberia country data

Liberia's looted museum becomes civil war shrine



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