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VGGT: The global guidelines to secure land rights for all

Jorge Muñoz's picture
A man holds his family's "red book," the land use rights certificate in Vietnam, which includes both his and his wife's names. (Photo by Chau Doan / World Bank)
A man holds his family's "red book," the land use rights certificate in Vietnam, which includes both his and his wife's names. (Photo by Chau Doan / World Bank)

Ground-breaking, far-reaching global guidelines for governments to help them safeguard the rights of people to own or access land, forests, and fisheries were endorsed five years ago by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), based at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.

Today, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) are a true global norm of reference in the governance of (land) tenure. The guidelines are pioneering – outlining principles and practices that governments can refer to when making laws and administering land, fisheries, and forests rights. Ultimately, they aim to promote food security and sustainable development by improving secure access to land, fisheries, and forests, as well as protecting the rights of millions of often very poor people.

Sounds simple, maybe even jargony, but no – they are concrete, with real impacts. All of a sudden, we had an internationally negotiated soft law or a set of guidelines on (land) tenure navigating successfully through the global web of interests on land, reaching a common ground. The consensus at the CFS was further strengthened by the endorsement of the VGGT by the G20, Rio+ 20, the United Nations General Assembly, and the Francophone Assembly of Parliamentarians.

[Read: Land Tenure: What have we learned four years after approving a set of international land tenure guidelines?]

This journey started with an inclusive consultation process started by the FAO in 2009, and finalized through intergovernmental negotiations. Importantly, no interest group – governments, CSOs, academia, private sector – felt left behind, and the States were engaged in word-by-word review of the guidelines.

This can be seen in the result. The VGGT’s power stems from the consensus on its principles that States were to:
  • Recognize and respect all legitimate tenure right holders and their rights;
  • Protect tenure right holders against the arbitrary loss of their tenure rights; and that
  • Women and girls [were to] have equal tenure rights and access to land.

And the list goes on.

Putting women’s health and empowerment at the center of development

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | 中文 | العربية
Registered nurses look after newborns at a maternity hospital in Freetown Sierra Leone. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Registered nurses look after newborns at a maternity hospital in Freetown Sierra Leone. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


Last week on World Population Day, I was thinking of the joy of children and the right of women to decide when to have them. It matters to women, but it matters to society as a whole. There can be no sustainable development without women’s empowerment, and there can be no women’s empowerment without access to comprehensive maternal and reproductive health services. Family planning is part of them.

From crisis to resilience: Helping countries get back on track

Joachim von Amsberg's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية | 日本語

Just two weeks ago, the citizens of Sierra Leone celebrated the end of Ebola transmission in their country with cheering and dancing in the streets of Freetown. It’s a milestone worth celebrating in a country that has suffered nearly 4,000 deaths from the deadly virus.

#EndPoverty images tell a powerful story

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
Image of Radha, a rag-picker in Jaipur, India © Tierney Farrell

​In the photo, a beautiful woman named Radha holds her young child in a bleak landscape strewn with refuse. The photo caption reveals she is a rag-picker in Jaipur, India, one of millions making a living from collecting and selling the things other people throw away. We learn that shortly after the photo was taken, her husband died. 

Radha’s image and story, captured by photographer and artist Tierney Farrell (@tierneyfarrell) in June 2014, was one of 10 photographs selected by National Geographic Your Shot as winners of the  #endpoverty hashtag challenge this summer.

In a note to the photographer, National Geographic’s Erika Larsen explained why the photo was chosen: “This is a beautiful image but more importantly you have given us a story. You have followed her life for an amount of time and made us care about her situation.”

There is no planet B

Paula Caballero's picture
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Zanizbar, Tanzania. Photo by Sonu Jani / World Bank

At this week's UN Sustainable Development Summit, the world's oceans will be getting the attention they have long deserved -- but not always received. They are the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 14: "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development."

The inclusion of oceans for the first time in the international-development agenda illustrates the ambitious and holistic view of challenges and solutions that nations are embracing. With the SDGs, nations are calling for a future in which nature is managed to drive economies, enhance well-being and sustain lives -- whether in Washington or Nairobi, on land or sea.

Fifteen years ago, nations convened at the UN and created an unprecedented set of guideposts, the Millennium Development Goals. In that timespan, the number of people living in extreme poverty was more than halved. But the oceans were not part of those goals. We now have the opportunity to focus minds globally on restoring healthy oceans for resilient economies and thriving communities. 

This attention comes not a moment too soon.

'Fish Queens' in Africa

Jingjie Chu's picture
A woman cleans a fish while carrying her child on her back in Ghana. © Andrea Borgarello/World Bank
​​Intriguing, I thought when I first heard the phrase. In Ghana’s small-scale fisheries, the 'Fish Mommy' or 'Fish Queen' is the matriarch of the fish landings. She also doubles as the local authority on all post-harvest operations, exercising a great deal of control over the local market by setting the prevailing price of that day’s fresh catch every morning on the docks of coastal communities in Ghana.

Ebola: $1 billion so far for a recovery plan for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone

Donna Barne's picture
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With the Ebola outbreak waning but not yet over, the three most affected countries must now find ways to rebuild their economies and strengthen their health systems to try to prevent another health crisis in the future.

To that end, the presidents of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone came to the World Bank on April 17 to ask for help funding an $8 billion, 10-year recovery plan for the three countries, with $4 billion needed over the next four years to accelerate recovery. More than $1 billion was pledged by the end of a high-level meeting at the start of the World Bank Group -IMF Spring Meetings – including $650 million from the World Bank Group.

What Ebola taught the world one year later

Jim Yong Kim's picture
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Beatrice Yardolo survived Ebola but lost three children to the disease. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Beatrice Yardolo survived Ebola but lost three children to the disease.
© Dominic Chavez/World Bank

On March 5, Liberian physicians discharged Beatrice Yardolo, an English teacher, from the hospital, hoping that she would be their last Ebola patient. Unfortunately, last Friday another person in Liberia tested positive for the disease that has killed more than 10,000 people in West Africa.

The bad news was a reminder that the world must remain vigilant and insist that we get to zero Ebola cases everywhere. We also must support Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in their efforts to build back better health care systems to prevent the next epidemic.

Beatrice survived Ebola, but she and the other survivors have paid dearly because of the outbreak. She lost three of her 10 children to Ebola, her home was encircled in quarantine, and she’s been unable to work. She and her country face a daunting road back to recovery and they remain at risk of Ebola as long as there is a single case in the region.

11 Against Ebola: Join the Team!

Korina Lopez's picture
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11 Against Ebola: 11 Players, 11 Messages, One Goal
Barcelona’s Neymar Jr. is among the ​11 players who have joined
​the campaign against Ebola.


​Imagine a football team at the World Cup, just standing around the field watching as the other team breezes right past them and scores a goal. Without taking action to not only help the sick, but protect the healthy, then we, as global citizens, are letting Ebola win this game of life and death.

According to the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 9, a total of 14,098 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease have been reported in six countries. There have been 5,160 deaths. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have seen the highest number of cases.

Ebola-Stricken Countries Appeal for Help as Nations Gather for Annual Meetings

Donna Barne's picture


Leaders of the three hardest-hit countries in West Africa issued a plea for help battling Ebola at a high-level meeting on the crisis Thursday on the eve of the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings.

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