In the light of recent research in Liberia and elsewhere on the role of economic factors in supporting and fuelling conflict, it appears increasingly important for the humanitarian community to attempt to understand the dynamics of the political economy of war. In Liberia the NGO community has been assessing and developing its current policies, and exploring alternatives to traditional relief provision. It is crucial for such policy development to consider the implications of the way in which illegal economic activities provide the motivation and the means for the continuation of the conflict.

This paper aims to provide an analysis of the mechanisms of the war economy in Liberia, examining the linkages between factional activity and the political process at government level, as well as the ways in which micro-level survival strategies feed into the illegal economy. Through such analysis it is possible to highlight the various policy strategies that may help to limit or counter the effects of the political economy that has developed. These may challenge the orthodox role of humanitarian relief, but radical solutions are necessary because of the nature of the prolonged crisis in Liberia.

The study is divided into two parts with an introductory background section.  The first offers a descriptive analysis of the workings of the war economy, its effects and implications, while the second focuses on the experience of NGOs in Liberia and the possibilities that exist for them to respond to the realities of the conflict using advocacy and other non-traditional policies.  Recommendations for further action include the need for more detailed research on particular aspects of the war economy, as well as the need for the humanitarian community to lobby donors and other actors to increase their understanding of its mechanisms.


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