The tradition of taking strategic and key institutional matters to low-level staffers to solicit their views is an uncommon practice in Liberia.
Usually, heads of institutions and their principal deputies are the ones who discuss such matter. They, in turn, sometimes consult a highly educated expert for his or her opinion, while the low-level workers are left out to receive instructions and implement results from meetings.
But Abla Gadegbeku Williams, Executive Director of the Liberia Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) believes that for an institution to run smoothly—during both good and bad times—the involvement of all is required.
Giving an overview of a two-day retreat held at Barnes Beach in the ELWA area on January 17, 2014 Counselor Barnes said, “When we joined LRRRC in November, 2013, we knew so little about what had been involved over the years: who did what, when, where, why and how.
At a meeting with the staff, we asked what they would like to see happen with the LRRRC in 2014, and beyond.
“Many said that an overall assessment of achievements and challenges over the past year could help create a roadmap for the future.”
“We also noted that we have partners, one of the more important of which is the UNCHR, whose commitment to providing protection and assistance in safety and dignity to refugees is unparalleled.”
“From that discussion, Cllr. Williams explained, a decision to hold a two-day retreat that would bring outstation and office staffers together to discuss strategic plans and goals in line with UNHCR’s, for 2014.
Sharing her philosophical thought about the month of January, Cllr. Williams intoned that Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions with two faces: one looks up to the future, the other to past.
She elaborated that the month of January, named after this Roman god, is the beginning month of the year. Accordingly, it is the best time to begin planning for the future with the consent of all.
He urged everyone to be participatory, generate ideas, and set goals with respect to individual areas of work for the year.
She noted that they were beginning the year, amid budgetary constraints and support reduction from partners, every worker of LRRRC needs to contribute his or idea to the goal-setting process so that they can optimize the little resources on hand.
The fluent-speaking Executive Director continued that instead of being a normal thing that people leave the real discussion to prioritizing merry-making at the retreat, workers should use the occasion to revitalize themselves, and set achievable goals within the spirit of collaboration, unity and progress.
She urged LRRRC employees to set aside distractions and focus on meaningful thoughts and ideas that will enhance the work of the institution.
Believing that no organization or institution can achieve goals without togetherness, Cllr. Williams underscored togetherness and a sense of community, to resolve problems and conflicts.
She called on the staff to reflect on activities of the organization, set goals and objectives in the scope of operation of each, and share ideas for efficiency and effectiveness as key objectives of the organization.
She said by working with the little on hand to achieve the needed goals, they will be proving to donors and the Government of Liberia the relevance of LRRRC in addressing crises of refugees and returnees as crises also create security concerns.
Also speaking at the retreat, Deputy Minister for Public Safety at the Ministry of Justice and former Executive Director of LRRRC, Cllr, Wheatonia Y. Dixon-Barnes admitted that government is faced with a US$30 million budgetary deficit.
She said that as every staff was being invited to the retreat to discuss strategies together, it was important that they came up with ideas that will be convincing to partners, to get them involved in assisting LRRRC.
She also urged the staffers to make use of the limited resources to get things done in the absence abundance.
UNHCR Program Officer, Rueul Nettey in a statement during the opening session of the retreat lauded LRRRC for its role over the years in addressing the needs of refugees and returnees.
“Even though there is a budgetary constraint,” Mr. Nettey said, we at UNHCR will seek support for LRRRC to ensure that it carries out its mandate.
He said the retreat initiated by LRRRC to develop plans for running the institution is not a strange venture to UNHCR, as it (UNHCR) has already done its part for the year.
He expressed confidence that LRRRC can outdo itself to encourage the search for support to help it function in addressing the needs of refugees and returnees.
Another LRRRC’s partner, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) representative, Leila Salehiravesh also indicated that US$1.5 million is being provided by Japan to address the needs of returnees and refugees in Liberia.
She said UNIDO addresses refugees and returnees’ needs through LRRRC by providing skills training in baking, hair-dressing and entrepreneurship.
LRRRC was established by government to manage refugees and returnees coming to Liberia.
The organization currently has a refugee-crisis on hand with thousands of Ivorian refugees crowded in the southeastern part of Liberia, including Grand Gedeh and Maryland Counties, and a portion of Nimba in the northeast.
Liberian returnees from Ghana and other West African countries are also pouring in and LRRRC is responsible to provide them resettlement packages to enable them reintegrate after many years outside of Liberia.