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 by 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 provided sub-grants to three civil society organizations (CSOs) to advance legislative campaigns on specific issues: women’s empowerment and gender equity; water, sanitation and hygiene; and natural resources management. Through a series of skills-building workshops NDI is training civil society activists form all 15 Liberian counties on legislative advocacy and engagement. The workshops also provide an avenue for CSOs to exchange best advocacy practices, and to interact and deliberate with lawmakers on effective advocacy strategies.
NDI is providing funding to the Liberia Media for Democratic Initiatives (LMDI) to produce “Legislative Spotlight,” an interactive radio program for legislators, CSOs and citizens. The program allows NDI’s advocacy 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.
The Institute conducted focus group research in six Liberian counties, in which the subgrant CSOs collected and analyzed citizen feedback to inform their advocacy campaigns. To further strengthen constructive legislative advocacy, NDI is partnering with two legislative monitoring organizations to monitor and evaluate the 2014-2015 legislative sessions.
Due to the Ebola outbreak, in October 2014 NDI and its sub-grant CSOs established a task force to help coordinate efforts to prevent the spread of the disease and encourage quicker action at the community level. As part of the program, citizens’ experiences with the public health system are recorded to provide authorities with the information they need to improve the Ebola response and Liberia’s public health sector at large. The task force will develop community-specific action plans for citizens to present to their legislators, to ensure that the plans are linked to the government’s national strategy.
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 has worked with the Joint Legislative Modernization Committee (JLMC) until 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 strengthened legislators’ knowledge in specific policy areas, encouraged collaboration with the executive branch and civil society organizations, and aimed to improve lawmakers’ oversight abilities.
To assist legislative research needs, NDI provided training for the Legislative Information Service (LIS), 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. Additionally, NDI helped to establish the legislature’s first ever Legislative Budget Office (LBO), which now conducts fiscal impact analysis.
Strengthening Electoral Processes
NDI provided technical and financial assistance to the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), a coalition of civic groups dedicated to enhancing the credibility of the 2011 electoral process. The Institute also supported four civic groups conducting voter education campaigns and staging senatorial debates. NDI also promoted dialogue between community leaders, security officials, political party members, civil society representatives and National Elections Commission 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 electoral law and develop a legislative action plan for the introduction and debate of the revised law. Following the conclusion of this program, the first steps toward implementation of the action plan were taken with introductions of bills in the Senate and in the House in March 2013.
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 domestic 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.
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, use our contact form or contact:
Gemima Barlow, program director