A one day national round table discussion on issues affecting the implementation of County Social Development Funds (CSDF) was over the weekend organized by the Society for Environmental Conservation (SEC) in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
Participants from Grand Gedeh, Sinoe, River Gee, and Montserrado counties, focused on government’s role, its responsibilities, challenges and recommendations in the implementation of CSDF, and ensuring gender mainstreaming to access and participate in all facets of its implementation.
Other topics discussed were the roles of the community and media, and their responsibilities, challenges and recommendations.
Mathias Yeanay, a facilitator from the NGO Coalition of Liberia, said as civil society organizations (CSOs), participants were trying to build advocacy agencies, including community-based organizations (CBOs), to enable the majority of community dwellers to adequately benefit from their development funds.
“We are interested in engaging policymakers in order to create the kind of awareness they need to have about selecting people who will go to county sittings to discuss how development funds should be used. There are counties that have been seriously affected by the way their county development funds are being used by county officials in collaboration with the legislative caucus,” Yeanay said.
On the role of the government, its responsibilities, challenges and recommendations in CSDF implementation, Wesley D. M. Nyenatoh, consultant in the office of the Grand Gedeh County Superintendent, admitted that it was the responsibility of the government to ensure that local development funds are annually budgeted to enable community dwellers to have their own opportunity to access what they want as a development item.
He pointed out that by law each county, regardless of location, receives US$200,000. “US$3 million is meanwhile given by a concessionaire operating in a particular county to the residents…The CDF and the SDF were both intended to elevate the living standards of the people through the construction of better structures to impact their lives,” he added.
He pointed out that the selection of delegates to county sittings is wrongly done in most cases. “Most of the delegates are selected without them having the knowledge on what they need to say or do about the CSDF. Some do not understand or speak English, which is the commonly used language for basic communication; and after the counting sitting, they are unable to share what they have learned,” he said.
As of 2015, he said the CSDF has not been disbursed to local authorities, a situation that has grounded many projects.
Radiatu Kahnplaye, gender advocate at Green Advocate (NGO), said unless more women are brought on board to participate in major community discussions, it will always be difficult for them to contribute to change.
On the media’s role, responsibility, challenges and the way forward, a Daily Observer reporter, said: “One of the factors responsible for the underdevelopment of many segments of society is lack of proper communication or in most cases, wrong messages or ideas proffered by certain stakeholders.”
“The primary job of media practitioners is to gather information and share same with the public, who in turn analyze and make informed decisions on how their lives should proceed. Media should put out information that will enhance their understanding of how they should take care of their environment. Due to ‘over-centralization’ of political, economic and fiscal governance, particularly in Monrovia, many other parts of the country are experiencing gross under-development.”
Decontee E. Tenty, youth president of Grand Gedeh County, recommended unbiased and rotational selection of people attending county sittings and regular update by local officials on local developments as some best practices that can help transform systems and the living standards of people.
The dialogue, which is hosted annually by SEC, is held in collaboration with OXFAM-Liberia and the NGO Coalition of Liberia.