A prodemocracy group, NAYMOTE-Partners for Democracy Development (PADD), has commended the government of Sweden for its continual support to the democratic development, governance reform and peace-building of Liberia.
The group made specific reference to the sustained support of the Swedish government to its Liberian counterpart’s decentralization agenda that aims to share the state’s governance power, which has been centralized since independence, to the rest of the country.
NAYMOTE-PADD, in a statement, said the country’s decentralization initiatives, which the Swedish government has supported “and continues to substantially support,” is key to national development and healing, especially after the prolonged civil war in the country.
The statement, signed by the institution’s Media and Communications Director, Tracy Fatu Freeman, said the Swedish support is in the right direction and will help strengthen the country democratically. She therefore called on Liberians to support the government’s decentralization agenda.
The commendation comes in the wake of a US$5 million grant from the Swedish government to Liberia to enhance and strengthen the latter’s decentralization process.
The fund, received at a signing ceremony on Wednesday at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, is to support Liberia’s Decentralization Support Program (LDSP) for 2016 and 2017. The MIA along with the Governance Commission (GC) manages the nation’s decentralization program.
Included in Liberia’s decentralization program is a plan to bring public services closer to the people, most importantly those in the far-flung counties who have long been deprived of basic social services.
NAYMOTE-PADD sees the US$5milion grant as a giant step in alleviating funding challenges faced by the central institutions to decentralize services and ensure participatory governance throughout the country, especially in the hinterlands.
The organization also called on the Liberian government to leverage donor resources, with this donation being no exception, and fast-track the implementation of the National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance by passing the draft Local Governance Act into law. It also wants the government to accelerate constitutional reforms with consideration of a proposal calling for the election of local leaders.
“Both the draft Local Government Bill and the constitutional reform proposals are critical to implementing decentralization in the country,” the release said.
As a result of this, the organization, whose motto is: Empower, Engage and Educate, is calling on the National Legislature to consider, with expediency and timeliness, the two aforementioned reform instruments in their 2016 sitting.
NAYMOTE Executive Director, Eddie Jarwolo, applauds the Governance Commission for its role in ensuring meaningful political and legal reforms aimed at promoting local governance and democratic development.
“The development of decentralization policy and a draft Local Government Act are clear evidence of the commitment of the GC to sustaining democracy,” he said.
Jarwolo is also calling on political leaders to make supporting policy statements on decentralization and constitutional reform. “I also want to call on representatives of political leaders in the government to increase collaboration and coordination on policies and legislation aimed at ensuring a system of participatory governance.”
According to the NAYMOTE, decentralization holds the potential of increasing economic growth and social development, expanding social justice and access to economic opportunities across the country; and if properly implemented, would move Liberia in the most positive direction.
Meanwhile, at the signing ceremony, Swedish Ambassador, Lena Nordström, highlighted the importance of bringing the public services closer to the people.
“The passing of the Local Government Bill is another important milestone to develop democratic and inclusive governance in Liberia,” she said.
NAYMOTE-PADD is a national civil society organization and think-tank promoting local governance and decentralization. Since 2001, the organization has been promoting citizens’ understanding of democratic processes and the long-term benefits of their participation in these processes.