Civil society organizations have expressed concern over their exclusion from a roundtable discussion on the Oil and Gas sector recently hosted by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).
In a statement addressed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Wednesday, March 19, in Monrovia, Liberia Petroleum Watch (LIP-WATCH) and Liberia Oil and Gas Initiative (LOGI) noted that the recent event did not "appreciate the immense contribution of civil society organizations, who are stakeholders in the sector."
LIP-WATCH is a local non- for-profit organization focused on building awareness among the Liberian people concerning the petroleum sector. It aims to achieve this by reaching out and engendering dialogue on how to maximize the prospects of the sector through suggesting, agreeing, and taking initiatives aimed at managing expectations through the provision of adequate information on the processes and operations of the sector.
The CSO’s frowned on what it called "the deliberate refusal of the organizers to communicate with, and invite the relevant civil society actors in the spirit of transparency and inclusiveness."
However, the group said, "given our commitment to ensuring successful reform, we attended the round table in spite of an official invitation."
The group informed the Chief Executive that it disagreed with Madam Leymah Gbowee and others who have written several “political papers” in the name of advocacy, condemning the invitation of Mr. Estrada Jefferson Bernard, III on grounds that he is 17, and their opinion that he was "The President’s grandnephew and that he lacks the expertise to give such a presentation during the National Oil & Gas Roundtable."
LIP-Watch said: "For us, the mere fact that a young man of Liberian heritage spoke at the National Oil & Gas roundtable to share his knowledge on the Alaskan model of citizens’ participation with the intention of replicating the same in our laws is a step in the right direction; as it speaks strongly to the spirit of inclusiveness of young people in these national conversations.
We find it very offensive that Madam Gbowee, a Nobel laureate, engaged in the business of chastising a young man for sharing with stakeholders his youthful experience of Alaska’s common solutions as a way of helping to shape our laws for the better.
Has it become a crime being a young man given room to dialogue with national actors? What LIP-WATCH anticipates is the broadening of the intention for youth participation and involvement in these national conversations. We believe this can be achieved by creating more avenues where young people can be opportune like young Estrada Bernard, III to participate in extracurricular programs in resource management, leadership, and advocacy among other topics. If this was done more of the nation’s young people would be able to come to these discussions with appreciable knowledge to share with other stakeholders moving forward.
Would Madam Gbowee say the same thing had the young presenter been a ‘Kollie’ who resides and attends a high school in Minnesota? Is Estrada Bernard III’s only wrong being a Bernard and grand nephew of the President?"
The group through its executive director, Adolphus B. Kawah, questioned the intent of critics questioning the President for the selection of Mr. Bernard considering the President's office was not responsible for choosing the speakers at the event.