By: Oretha Bundoo
Liberia-June 27, 2023: A US$1.5 million dollar grant aimed at strengthening citizens’ advocacy for police reforms in education, health, and local governance sectors has been launched in Monrovia.
The USAID Liberia Civil Society Activity (CSA) on Tuesday, June 27, 2023, distributed nearly $1.5 million in grants to 18 organizations. It will enable each organization to empower Parent Teachers Associations to effectively work with school administration; monitor and research school registration fees; develop guidelines to promote transparency and accountability with the county councils; establish legal clinics and assistance for CSOs engaged in advocacy for education policy reforms and implementation; and monitor the drug revolving fund.
Each organization will receive up to $75,000. The grants provide opportunities for CSOs to build linkages with their peers and constituencies at national and subnational levels. Through these linkages, CSOs can communicate reform achievements back to their constituencies and engage them in policy dialogue.
The grantees will help citizens in Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties elevate citizens’ voices on the issues that matter to them. CSA targeted health and education because citizens identified those issues as priorities in a Political Economic Analysis survey, a bottom-up development approach that relies on the opinions of citizens.
The grants were announced during a ceremony at Sinkor Palace in Congo Town, Monrovia. The event attracted more than 80 people including senior government officials, civil society organizations, the grantees, officials from USAID and the United States Embassy and several USAID implementing partners including Internews and Democracy International.
United States Embassy Deputy Chief of Missions Joel Maybury in his keynote remarks emphasized that the grant launch was a celebration of the robust partnerships that USAID CSA has developed with the 18 organizations working to improve the lives of Liberians.
He reiterated U.S. President Joseph Biden’s commitment to helping civil society continue its work of holding government accountable, defending citizens’ rights, addressing unmet needs, and advocating for policy reform.
He applauded the work of civil society organizations, especially women, in pressuring warlords and warring factions to end the Liberian civil war, reducing the spread of Ebola and COVID-19.
Civil society organizations, he said, also played a key role in the passage of Local Governance Act of 2018 and the Revenue Sharing Law, two landmark pieces of legislation aimed at decentralizing governance power.
The United States, he said, is proud to contribute to Liberia’s impressive record of achievement through the CSA project.
“President Biden has called civil society the lifeblood of democracy because it comprises the collective action of ordinary people to meet citizens’ needs. Over the years, Liberia’s diverse array of civil society organizations has been instrumental in helping Liberia survive many crisis”, Maybury noted.
He highlighted the work of CSA’s partners FIND (Foundation for International Dignity) and DELTA-HRF (Development Education Leadership Training in Action-Human Rights Foundation) for playing a key role in the establishment of the Bong County Council, the first elected county council established as part of the Local Governance Act.
Maybury also highlighted the work of Integrity Watch Liberia (IWL) for working with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to develop standards and operating guidelines of the county councils. Government, he said, performs better when it collaborates with civil society.
CSA is in the second year of a five-year program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) implemented by DAI Global, LLC (DAI). CSA’s goal is to advocate for policy reforms, policy implementation, and service delivery improvements through multi-stakeholder coalitions that build feedback loops among the government of Liberia, CSOs, and citizens.
CSA’s Chief of Party Stephen Terravecchia said the health and education grantees are in the process of forming coalitions to ensure that the organizations are learning from each other and building on their successes and learning from their challenges.
The coalitions, he said, will work with the private sector around advocacy issues at the local and national levels.
CSA hopes the county councils will be a key entry point for the grantees and civil society to effectively engage government in the implementation of the Local Governance Act by ensuring that community stakeholders work toward solving tractable priority development issues, he said.
For his part, Assistant Minister for Urban Planning at the Ministry of Internal Affairs Abubakar Bah, thanked USAID and the United States government for supporting Liberia’s decentralization process by strengthening the capacity of CSOs to contribute to nation building.
“CSOs are the heart and minds of citizens. “CSOs serve as a conduit for getting feedback from citizens on policy formation, legislation and implementation.”
He urged the grantees to be accountable and transparent in how they use the funds entrusted to them. “It is our hope that these CSOs will reach remote areas where government cannot reach,’’ he said.
Speaking on behalf of the grantees, Integrity Watch Liberia Executive director Harold Aidoo, underscored the importance of Civil Society in engaging government, raising awareness on critical issues, fighting corruption, and advocating for policy reform.
He thanked USAID and CSA for helping the 18 organizations to continue speaking up for ordinary citizens. “Civil Society brings perspectives that are often overlooked such as gender, disability, diversity and climate change. CSOs are able to infuse transparency and accountability measures such as monitoring government policies and advocating for improved governance, he ended.
The beneficiary organizations include Public Health Initiative (PHIL), Youth Network for Positive Change (YOUNETPRO),
Efficient Research and Development Institute (ERDI),
Community Health Education and Social Services (CHESS-Liberia),
Humanity Above One-Self Foundation (HAOSF),
Volunteers United for Development (VUD), and
Institute for Policy Evaluation and Research (IPER). Others are
Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD),
Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP),
Development Education Leadership Training in Action-Human Rights Foundation (DELTA-HRF),
Foundation for International Dignity (FIND),
Integrity Watch Liberia (IWL),
Youth Movement for Collective Action (U-Movement),
Institute for Democratic Action & Development (IDAD), Youth Coalition for Education in Liberia (YOCEL), Survivors Aid International Liberia Inc. (SAIL), Development Education Network (DEN-L), and Consortium of Business Development Service Providers of Liberia (CBDSPL).