Citizen Engagement in Political Processes
In February 2013, with funding from the Embassy of Sweden in Monrovia, NDI began implementing a multi-year program to strengthen citizen-centered political engagement. In order to ensure that citizen voices are a part of the political process, NDI’s program uses a two-pronged approach working on both the demand and supply sides of governance. On the demand side, the program seeks to increase civic knowledge of the legislature, the lawmaking process and advocacy techniques. On the supply side, NDI provides assistance to legislative committees organizing public hearings and investigating salient policy issues that require policy action or oversight.
The Institute is partnering with and has provided sub-grants to three civil society organizations (CSOs) to advance legislative campaigns on issues, which include women’s empowerment and gender equity; water, sanitation and hygiene; and natural resource management. Through a series of skills-building workshops, NDI is training civil society activists from all 15 counties on legislative advocacy and engagement. The workshops also provide an avenue for CSOs to exchange best practices, and interact with lawmakers.
NDI provides funding to the Liberia Media for Democratic Initiatives (LMDI), an organization devoted to achieving good governance and peace through media and outreach, to produce the “Legislative Spotlight,” an interactive radio program for legislators, CSOs and citizens. The program allows NDI’s partners to highlight their engagement with the legislature and create public awareness on policy issues. It also offers legislators an opportunity to communicate ideas directly to citizens and receive feedback. To further strengthen constructive legislative advocacy, NDI is partnering with two legislative monitoring organizations to evaluate the 2015-2016 legislative session.
Responding to the Ebola outbreak, in October 2014 NDI supported its sub-grant CSOs in establishing a taskforce to raise awareness, help coordinate efforts to prevent the spread of the disease and encourage quicker action at the community level. The task force reached 5,000 people and worked with 320 local leaders across six counties to develop community-specific action plans for citizens to present to their legislators, ensuring further community engagement in the government’s national strategy.
Strengthening Electoral Processes
In partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), under a five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded program, NDI is working with the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), a coalition of civic groups dedicated to enhancing the credibility of Liberian elections, to monitor the constitutional review process, referendum and 2017 general elections. NDI will also partner with CSOs to carry out civic and voter education activities, as well as produce and broadcast election-related radio programming.
During the 2011 electoral cycle, NDI provided technical and financial assistance for the ECC’s observation efforts and supported four civic groups conducting voter education campaigns and staging senatorial debates. NDI also assisted the ECC to promote dialogue between community leaders, security officials, political party members, civil society representatives and National Elections Commission (NEC) officials to mitigate conflict.
In 2012, NDI assisted the relevant House and Senate electoral committees to organize workshops to discuss the NEC’s proposed amendments to the electoral law and develop a legislative action plan for the introduction and debate of the revised law. Previously, NDI worked with Liberian democrats in the lead up to the 1997 elections and returned in 2003 to provide technical support to civic organizations monitoring the transition process and implementing voter education programs following the end of a protracted civil war. During the 2005 election cycle, NDI supported the work of a citizen election monitoring coalition, conducted an international observation mission in partnership with the Carter Center and co-organized candidate forums and debates with the International Republican Institute.
In 2009, the Liberian legislature adopted a five-year legislative modernization plan (LMP) to improve lawmakers’ ability to fulfill their representative, oversight and legislative functions. The LMP identifies concrete measures to address shortcomings in three key areas: lawmakers’ understanding of and ability to carry out their duties; staff ability to support the legislative process; and infrastructure needs. NDI worked with the Joint Legislative Modernization Committee (JLMC) until June 2013 on the implementation of the LMP.
NDI held study missions and legislative policy seminars for members of parliament, focusing on decentralization, gender responsive budgeting and natural resource regulation, among other topics. These missions strengthened legislators’ knowledge in specific policy areas, encouraged collaboration with the executive branch and civil society organizations, and aimed to improve lawmakers’ oversight abilities.
NDI provided training for the Legislative Information Service (LIS) staff, oversaw the refurbishment of the legislature’s library and archives, and acquired a collection of regional publications and legal texts for the library. The Institute also supported the creation of a website for the legislature and assisted the press bureaus of the House and Senate to update and manage the site. In addition, NDI helped to establish the legislature’s first ever Legislative Budget Office (LBO), which now conducts fiscal impact analysis.
NDI’s programs in Liberia have been funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Embassy of Sweden (EOS), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Humanity United.
For more information about these programs, contact:
Paul Binkley, Resident Director
+231 (0) 888.425.261
Gemima Barlow, Program Director