Transitional Justice, Foreign Direct Investment, and Poverty in Liberia's Emerging Democracy
Liberia is celebrating 16 years of “peace” after emerging from fifteen years of civil war resulting in the deaths of approximately 250,000 people, internal and external displacement of millions and the widespread destruction of the political, social and economic infrastructure of the country. As confirmed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, economic actors and activities contributed to, and benefited from the armed conflict.
Since the 2003 peace agreement, Liberia has witnessed three democratic elections. The most recent in 2017 resulted in the country’s first democratic transfer of power from a ruling political party to an opposition party in more than 70 years. Successive governments continued to flag private sector investment as a major vehicle for growth and development attracting between 2006 and 2016, more than USD$16 billion in foreign direct investment covering a third of the country’s land mass in mining, oil and gas, agro and forestry concessions. While such investments may have the potential to accelerate socio-economic development, there are great concerns how these investments would impact poverty, human rights, the environment and the conflict dynamics in Liberia.
In this talk, Mr. Brownell will discuss the current situation in Liberia and the effectiveness of diverse transitional justice measures in terms of dismantling and preventing the repetition of structural conditions that have generated poverty and conflict. He will also share about current strategies to defend human rights and the environment in this particular context.
Alfred Brownell is a renowned defender of human rights and the environment in Africa. He is the Founder and Lead Campaigner of Green Advocates International and currently served as Associate Research Professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy, Northeastern University School. He was recently named the Beau Biden Inaugural Chair for Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund for threatened scholars and human rights defenders.
He has campaigned tirelessly for the recognition of the customary land and property rights of indigenous peoples throughout Liberia and West Africa and has litigated several international complaints against major transnational corporations on behalf of local communities and indigenous peoples. He has also established a network of civil society and local community organizations across Liberia and West Africa that have succeeded in suspending the activities of a number of companies won reparations and compensation in millions of dollars.
He is active in the field of business and human rights, serving on the Steering Committee of ESCR-Net’s Corporate Accountability Working Group, the OECD Watch Coordinating committee, Steering Committee member of the ETO Consortium , the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, former Board member of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), co-directors of the the Mano River Union Civil Society Natural Resources Rights and Governance Platform and the Public Interest Lawyering Initiative of West Africa (PILIWA)
At Northeastern University School of Law, Alfred teaches a course on human rights, the environment, development and community Resilience which he designed based on more than 15 years of field experiences and the work of other public interest lawyers. Alfred is also involved with research focusing on the co-creation and co design of a Global Land Tenure Security Index, a future composite land tenure data tool that will measure, score and rank how governments protect the land rights of their citizens while consulting and engaging directly with activists, community members, indigenous peoples, land rights defenders and a diverse range of national and local level stakeholders to co create the index in digestible format and language know to them to drive policy reforms around land rights.