A review by Abdoulaye W. Dukulé
Published by USAID-Liberia, 2018.
As the Administration of President George M. Weah prepares to roll-out its Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, it can rely on an abundant body of work and research and will not have to re-invent the wheel. Since the end of the war, there have been many studies and strategies on how to resolve some of the development challenges the country has faced throughout the ages. One such contribution is an anthology of research papers presented at a development conference organized by the US Agency for International Development (USAID, Liberia), the Embassy of Sweden and the University of Liberia on February 1-2, 2017 in Monrovia.
Liberia celebrates its 171st Independence Day this year. The nation has much to be proud of. It maintained its nationhood against all odds during the colonial era, strengthened its unity through a devastating war that shook its foundations and found its way out of the Ebola pandemic with resilience. In the history of humanity, Liberia is a unique case of which its people should be proud. Writes Mr. Anthony Chang, Director of USAID -Liberia, “Liberia is in many ways a special country. Despite its recent difficulties, Liberia can proudly look back on almost two hundred years of history and tradition.” (Preface, iv).
Emerging from a gruesome, grueling and defining political journey, Liberia is on an irreversible path to build a thriving democracy on the ashes of one of the most devastating conflicts of modern Africa. The progress in the political arena did not necessarily translate into tangible gains in the social and economic areas. Thus, the country faces many development challenges that need keen attention to sustain the gains.
From the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) to the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) II, there exist many strategies on how to resolve the country’s growing pains. Liberia played a key role in the crafting of the new global development agenda (Agenda 2030) when former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf co-chaired the United Nations High Level Panel on Post-2015 and the African Union High Level Committee on Post-2015 which produced the Common African Position. Liberia’s development strategies found their way into the various agendas.
The Liberia Development Conference took place on February 1 & 2, 2017 at the Monrovia City Hall and brought together development specialists, policy makers and development workers from the public and private sectors, academia, the media and civil society organizations. At the end of the conference, the organizers published the papers in an anthology. It would be a tremendous loss if this important collection of work was to be left on the shelves, covered with dust. The conference came up at a very opportune time, when the nation was embarking on an electoral process which would lead to the first peaceful transfer of power from one elected administration to another one.
The anthology is divided into several thematic sections, each focusing on a strategic area, analyzing the challenges and providing recommendation.
In his introduction to the Anthology, Mr. Chang, writes: “The 39 papers presented here provide a useful starting point for a government to pursue [the kind of policies that Liberia needs to successfully tackle its manifold development challenges as well as the structural causes of its devastating fourteen-year civil war whose effects still linger.]. (Preface, iii).
Mr. Chang further writes that “the topics covered by the papers are aligned with the key pillars that under-gird Liberia’s official post-war development agenda – security and rule of law; economic transformation; human development; governance and public institution; and cross during themes that include environmental protection and youth empowerment.” (Preface iii).
Various aspects of Liberia’s recovery and development agenda are presented and discussed from a diversity of perspectives. The subjects can easily be aligned with Liberia’s own Agenda for Transformation II as well as Agenda 2030 and Africa 2063 and constitutes a very useful tool in putting in place a pro-poor development agenda, seeking to eradicate poverty in all its forms.
The sections in the anthology cover the following areas:
Private Sector Competitiveness: This section looks at the reforming commercial law; diversity and the extractive development model;
Government Services: Mainstreaming the public sector, inclusiveness and decentralization are studied in detail;
Macroeconomy Policy: Here the authors tackle subjects ranging from monetary policies in post-conflict countries to macroeconomic development, and tax policy as well as managing low commodity in political transition;
Political arena: Issues studied here include women’s participation in politics, national reconciliation, the media and democracy, decentralization and the diaspora.
Youth: Workforce development, disabilities and services for girls, youth empowerment and entrepreneurship and the role of youth in political development and leadership issues are discussed from various angles;
Transaction Costs: the effects of transportation on health, roads and ports as well as mobile money and ICT in the development process;
Human Security: the papers are focused on resilience, security sector and community relations and a study of the dominant statutory system;
Education: the advancement of women, pathways to change in education and an analysis of the educational sector;
Health: health financing reform, family planning and the importance of mutual transparency and accountability;
Natural Resource management: Papers in this section focus reforms in the forestry sector, land and forestry concessions.
Authors in the Anthology hail from government, private sector, civil society organization and academia. They also transcend borders, with contributions from Columbia University, the African Development Bank, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the University of Liberia, the Ministry of Education and think tanks around the world and in age groups. Authors range from Professor Elwood Dunn of the Center for Policy Studies to Dr. Robtel Neajai Pailey and the late K. Abdulai Kamara and Cllr. Kwame Clement, amongst many deserving writers and researchers.
In the words of the publishers, “this Anthology is a must read for policy makers, development practitioners and researchers interested in deepening their understanding of Liberia’s complex development challenges, working towards tangible solutions and increasing evidence-based decision-making, collaboration and development effectiveness.” [Cover page].
The anthology is available in both print and electronic versions. The link above will take all those interested to the site.