The Liberia Moment: From Peacekeeping to Peacebuilding in this new Liberian landscapeMar 23, 2018
After years of conflict, a tenuous peacekeeping period, and then the onset of the Ebola crisis, Liberia is ready to into a new direction.
Pa Lamin Beyai, UNDP Liberia Country Director
Change is at hand in Liberia. A new Government, inaugurated in January 2018, takes shape under H.E. President George Manneh Weah who took over from former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who governed for 12 years. Also, this week we bid farewell to the United Nations Mission in Liberia, which brought stability and reassured a nation scarred by back-to-back wars.
It is at the crossroads Liberia has the chance to push ahead towards its development goals. With this new Government, there are renewed and revised national priorities, ones that put a pro-poor agenda firmly as the foundation. Addressing the high rates of poverty and the root causes will take a well-supported government and civil society, and to which end, UNDP, the UN family, and development partners have significant roles to play in this new Liberian landscape.
Over its 14-year lifespan, UNMIL became an invaluable partner in Liberia and was the public face of the UN. It provided humanitarian, security and development services in its tenure, while the UN’s agencies carried on with their mandates. UNMIL made a tremendous impact on the lives of Liberians, helping to stabilise following the conflict, and it was here during the Ebola crisis that struck in 2014. With its departure, it is vital that Liberians are assured that even though UNMIL is gone, the UN is not. It was and is firmly here.
To prepare for UNMIL’s departure, the United Nations Country Team, comprising 18 in-country agencies, funds and programmes, conducted an assessment to identify the gaps and needs of the UN system in a post-UNMIL world. UNDP was then identified as having one of the largest roles to play in both filling the needs and pushing the development goals forward.
The new Government and the post-UNMIL context is new territory for this stabilising nation and UNDP is here to assist Liberia in achieving its Sustainable Development Goals, addressing the pro-poor priorities, and ensuring peace is sustained.
UNDP’s main focus is on poverty reduction through sustainable economic transformation and good governance and integrity systems. Our work in Liberia has focused on these two pillars and will continue to do so post-UNMIL.
One of Liberia’s main objectives over the next few years is decentralisation. There has been a traditionally Monrovia-centric view to the way of working here. The roads, services and economy bursts from this coastal capital city. However, this meant that people living in farther away towns and villages were largely cut-off from the benefits of urbanisation, a phenomenon experienced by other countries too.
Take for instance access to basic government services. Legal documents like passports, birth and death certificates, or business registration had to be done through Monrovia, at great cost and time to the citizens of Liberia.
Together with UNMIL, Sweden, and the EU, and USAID, UNDP helped to construct County Service Centres in each of the 15 counties nationwide to make it easier for these services to be provided where people live. As part of decentralisation, bringing services to the farthest people who need it most means they can spend less money and time to get these necessary documents. Ensuring these county centres run smoothly is UNDP and these partners next goal.
The main drivers of conflict in Liberia are still present in Liberia. Jobs for young people remain a challenge. More than 60 percent of Liberians are under 25, and yet a large number of them are under- or un-employed. According President Weah, you are integral to his agenda and so their empowerment through livelihood interventions are on the front burner. Over the next few months, UNDP will work with other partners to support the Government in providing opportunities for young people to train, study and work in fields that will move Liberia’s development aims forward, like bolstering its agricultural and technology industries.
UNDP’s country programme is woven together with gender, social inclusion and human rights linking all we do. Not to mention the need to address the changing climate and how it impacts the most vulnerable in Liberia. It is with a joint effort of the international community that UNDP continues to support the Government and people of Liberia.
Work must be made to physically reach each citizen. Loudspeakers must amplify the faintest of voices and each and every one must benefit from the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP and the UN is here to stay alongside Liberia to ensure no one is left behind.
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