Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) commit to Decentralization; promise to push the reform Agenda

A female participant makes remarks and the GC/CSO Engagement workshop
A female participant makes remarks and the GC/CSO Engagement workshop
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Tubmanburg, Bomi County: The implementation of decentralization reform in Liberia would receive an accelerated drive if stakeholder institutions recognize the need and begin to mobilize around the goal around which the program is organized. Steadily, public interest is being drawn to this initiative, as an increasing number of civil society actors are now recognizing the need to define for themselves a specific role to play in the unfolding national decentralization program.  

 At a three-day Governance Commission Workshop intended to provide Training and Technical Support to Strengthen the Capacity of Civil Society Organizations, including women and youths, more than twenty civil society organizations under the umbrella of the National Civil Society Council, recognized the need to become more assertive in pushing the decentralization  agenda forward.

In a number of spirited discussion sessions, the group identified advocacy through persistent engagement with policy makers and implementers as means of igniting more vigor into the implementation of decentralization in the country.

They reasoned that, in particular, decentralization reform being such an important national policy mater should not be left solely on the plate of government with little or no effort on the part of Civil Society Organizations to drive it forward. 

The training workshop, facilitated by Mrs. Carolyn Myers Zoduah, Senior Policy Director, AGENDA, drilled participants through the various stages of the policy-making process, emphasizing the importance of CSOs’ involvement at every stage of the process. 

Earlier, there were two presentations, one from the Policy Analyst at the GC, Mr. Atecbeasson Nyema, which focused on Political Decentralization. The other presentation was made by Communications Specialist at the National Decentralization Implementation Secretariat, Mr. Jacob Smith, and it dealt with The Importance of County Service Centers in Liberia and How Citizens and Civil Society can interact with the Centers.

In his presentation, Mr. Nyema emphasized that passage of the LGA by the Legislature is key to the implementation of other components of the National Decentralization Program. Among those components are the election of superintendents, mayors, commissioners, etc. Also of relevance to advancing this reform agenda are the harmonization of boundaries and the demarcation of sub units such as Cities, Wards, Borough, among others. Mr. Nyema informed participants that the draft Act has passed through Cabinet review with specific inputs advanced by the Ministry of Justice.

For his part, NDIS’s Communications Specialist, Jacob Smith, provided an overview of the County Service Centers with reference to the Presidential Launch of the Deconcentration Platform in Gbarnga, Bong County in February 2015. He mentioned that the idea of the CSCs was borne out of the launch of the Deconcentration Platform that mandates Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACs) to begin effective service deconcentration to the counties. 

The importance of the CSC, he told participants, was highlighted by the accessibility of service to rural population, as opposed to a condition wherein rural dwellers are estranged from the benefits of timely and the proximity of service delivery.  Mr. Smith said the Secretariat and partners in decentralization were moving progressively to ensure that seven additional CSCs are set up by December 2015.

 His presentation outlined the definition of the CSC, its conception, physical organization, service delivering MACs and categories of services being delivered, how the public interacts with the CSC and the overall importance of the CSC in the deconcentration plan.

In response to concerns raised about accessibility of the CSC to people with disability, Mr. informed participants that CSCs were being set up with due consideration for the people who are physically challenged, adding that service windows are located on the ground floor in the case of buildings with two or more floors.