— For citizens, concessionaires to interact directly with gov’t
Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), on Wednesday, October 8, 2019, launched a new project to strengthen national government’s efforts to create a platform that would allow citizens to interact with government on issues of national concern.
The project, which was officially launched in Monrovia, is being held under the theme, “Making Natural Resources Work for Concession Communities in Liberia.” The launch brought together civil society actors, representatives from government ministries and agencies, as well as some of the partners.
Bob N. Johnson, IREDD Project Manager, informed his audience that the project is a government initiative, as such, IREDD is going to work with the government to strengthen its efforts towards creating a platform where government will interact directly with citizens, and also address some of the national issues of concerns.
Johnson named Grand Cape Mount and Nimba as targeted counties for the project, and subsequently extends to other parts of the country.
He said IREDD will work with the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), National Bureau of Concessions (NBC), Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (LEITI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that concessions work for the Liberian people instead of failing to address their concerns relative to development.
In the project, Mr. Johnson said IREDD will provide an electronic platform where citizens of the affected concession communities will interact directly with national government to put forth issues that affect their daily lives. These issues, he said, will be listed on the platform, and the community leaders will respond to them one after the other.
IREDD will also deploy monitors at MME, EPA, NBC and LEITI, so that if someone in Cape Mount, for example, has a problem with a concession agreement, or a component that should be benefiting the community, they would have the opportunity to list that information straight to these agencies through the platform for the government to quickly address using the platform.
“We are going to train community leaders to the usage of this platform; on how they can lift their concerns, such as water population and repair of roads; keeping concession to their agreement,” Mr. Johnson said.
He continued, “We do not want to see our people blocking roads, because of certain component of a concession agreement was not fulfilled. We don’t also want problems that would hamper the country’s development.”
He believes that no country can develop in the midst of confusion, because where there is persistent protest, development will be stalled, “and so if you have a concern, there is a need to channel it to the rightful government agency for redress.
IREDD is also proposing the introduction of a Citizens Feedback Mechanism (CFM) to enable community monitors in concessional communities to ensure compliance of class A and B mining contracts, using an integrated mobile and web-based interactive platform with functional reporting interface capabilities that enables citizens to amplify their voices for their needs.
This, according to IREDD, will ensure that by channeling the citizens’ concerns and observations about services standards directly to service providers and authorities for redress, using simple, fast and low cost digital technologies, such as WhatsApp, text messaging (SMS), emails, voice, video, to ease down the any potential threat.
Fahnseth B. Mulbah, MME Director of Bureau for Economic Forecast and Concession Appraisal, described the project as essential to the growth and development of concession communities.
Mulbah: “Our people in the rural part of the country are not sophisticated to handle complex negotiations gadgets, so we need to go back to help them understand the processes.
LEITI officer in charge, Jefferson N. Yates, lauded IREDD for the initiative and pledged his entity’s support to the project.