Search for Common Ground Liberia/Talking Drum Studio (SEARCH) has ended a five-year project entitled “Strengthening the Capacity of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to Promote Sustainable Governance in Liberia.”
Funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the project was designed to encourage CSOs to promote a sustained democratic culture, the protection of human rights and the inclusion of citizens in decision-making. The original project was initially scheduled for November 1, 2012, to October 31, 2015, but ultimately occurred from November 1, 2012, to July 31, 2017.
With a funding of US$4,526,009, the project was conducted in four thematic areas: decentralization, security sector reform, natural resource management and electoral reform, with four mutually supportive objectives.
The reforms were to increase the programmatic capacity of partner-CSOs and community-based organizations (CBOs) to engage the state on targeted reform areas; to increase the institutional and financial capacity of CSOs and CBOs for sustained engagement with state institutions. They were also intended to strengthen networking and collaboration among CSOs and CBOs at national and county levels; and to increase information-sharing and dialogue between citizens and state institutions and CSOs/CBOs at national and county levels.
Search Liberia Country Director Aaron Weah admitted that there were multiple expected results from the project. “How did we go about with this capacity building program? We went about it, first, by doing a self-assessment of each of these organizations to identify, institutionally, the priority areas and how we can work together to strengthen these areas of capacity.
“So after doing a self-assessment and drawing-out the key areas of priorities, we were able to jointly work with these partners to set out what we referred to as benchmarks. So we set a benchmark for six months. After 11 months, we brought somebody from our West Africa region to conduct a mid-term evaluation to see the initial results,” Weah explained in an overview of the project.
Sweden’s Ambassador to Liberia Ingrid Wetterqvist said Sweden has a keen interest in the promotion of civil society, especially Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions – with targets to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
She said Liberia needs a strong civil society to strengthen the rule of law and work on its development challenges. “Why does Sweden support civil society? Civil societies built Sweden. You might not believe it today, but some 150 years ago, a quarter of our population actually immigrated to the United States. People came together in churches and various associations to work against alcohol [consumption] and sobriety.
“Alcohol was a huge developmental problem in Sweden at the time. These movements, also in the churches, turned into political movements. And there was a mobilization of trade unions and workers and there was a deal done between the few big companies and the mining workers, who were working in these companies.
“And the deal was to formulate the labor market and contribution to taxes. And the outcome was the building of a society for the well-being of the core of the masses. So schooling is very important; healthcare is very important,” she stressed.
The national chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, Frances R. Deigh Greaves, commended Sweden for having partnered with SEARCH.
The project took place in Montserrado, Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa and Grand Gedeh counties among 10 partners, including National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (Naymote) and Security Sector Reform Working Group (SSRWG) from 2012-2017, and Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) from 2012-2014.
The county partners were Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA) from 2012-2017; Bong’s Center for Justice and Peace Studies (CJPS) from 2012-2014; and Nimba-based Special Emergency Activity to Restore Hope (Search) from 2012-2014.
Others were Grand Bassa Youth Caucus (BYC); Community Development and Research Agency (CODRA) of Bong; Effective Activity to Restore Stability for the Masses (EARS) of Nimba; and Gender Peace Network (GPN) of Grand Gedeh, who benefited from 2016-2017 respectively.