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NDI

The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Liberia

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Liberia has celebrated more than ten years of peace since the end of the civil war in 2003, transitioning from a country seeking stability to one focused on transformation. As President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female head of state, approaches the end of her tenure; there has been significant progress in constructing frameworks needed to attain long-term development. Nonetheless, the frustrations articulated by political parties and citizens point to a growing dissatisfaction with the slow pace of reforms, economic instability and the lack of governmental transparency. This discontent was exemplified in the December 2014 senatorial election, where only two of the 12 senators who ran for reelection were selected for another term. Ongoing concerns include unresolved reconciliation efforts, a devastated healthcare sector, chronic unemployment, deficient delivery of social services and poor infrastructure. These challenges were further exacerbated by the Ebola outbreak, which reached its peak in August 2014 and consumed the country for much of the year. 

In an effort to boost both modernization and transparency, the legislature has introduced initiatives such as an electronic voting system to enable Liberians to trace the decisions made by their lawmakers. This is indicative of the legislature’s willingness to seek further engagement with citizens, however the legislative process does not currently provide many avenues for citizens' voices to be heard. NDI is working to establish channels for collaboration between citizens and lawmakers, and to promote civil society's meaningful participation in election processes. As Liberia seeks to consolidate nascent democratic institutions, the constitutional review process, planned constitutional referendum and 2017 general elections are important steps toward bolstering citizen participation and voter confidence in democratic governance and overcoming the effects of Ebola.  

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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.

Legislative Strengthening

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.

Funding

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.

Contact Information

For more information about these programs, contact:

Monrovia, Liberia
Paul Binkley, Resident Director
+231 (0) 888.425.261

Washington, D.C.
Gemima Barlow, Program Director
202.728.6343

Liberia Ebola story photo 450px
Residents in Liberia Organize to Fight Ebola through Education04/13/2015
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NDI’s Pat Merloe Testifies Before Congress on U.S. Election Support in Africa03/18/2015
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Task Force to Spearhead Community Response to Ebola in Liberia10/23/2014
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Student's Moving Testimony on Sanitation Sparks Renewed Efforts06/17/2014
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Study Mission on Water and Sanitation Spurs Liberian Senator into Action03/25/2014
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Promoting the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in West Africa06/28/2013
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Technology, Transparency and Government: NDI Staff on Using Technology for Democracy04/15/2013
Darren Wilkins Trains Rural Journalists on How to Use Freedom Fone
In Liberia, ‘Freedom Fone’ Connects Lawmakers with Constituents02/05/2013
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Youth Development Seminar Focuses on Job Creation for Liberia’s Youth11/08/2012
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Liberian Lawmakers Oversee Budget With Eye Toward Women and Girls08/23/2012
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Liberian Election Observers Plan for Future with Help of Regional Coalition06/07/2012
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In Liberia, Training Staff for Stronger Lawmakers06/01/2012
NDI E-news: Women's Leadership, Zambia, Focus Group Research | October 201110/21/2011
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Liberian Elections Generally Peaceful, Orderly10/12/2011
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Liberia Launches Elections Coordinating Committee08/04/2011
Senator Blamoh Nelson looks on while the vice president cuts a ribbon officially opening the library.
New Library Helps Liberian MPs Write Legislation07/07/2011
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'Small Small' Improvements to Liberian Bill Tracking Improve Transparency05/03/2011
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NDI Staff Member Seeks to Bring Women into Elections, Politics in Liberia04/04/2011
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NDI's 2011 Liberian Elections Program03/29/2011
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West Africa Election Observers Join Together to Promote Credible Elections02/28/2011
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Published Publication Title Author
03/06/2014 Equal Access: How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
01/01/2014 Civic Updates
Civic Update
National Democratic Institute
12/01/2013 Liberians Speak Out: Results from 14 Focus Groups
Focus Group Report
National Democratic Institute
10/23/2013 Increasing Women’s Political Participation Through Effective Training Programs: A Guide to Best Practices and Lessons Learned
Training Manual
National Democratic Institute
06/28/2013 Press Release: Meeting of the West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON) on the Status of Implementation of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in West Africa
Press Release
West Africa Election Observers Network
06/12/2013 West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON) Field Guide Series
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute
05/29/2013 Gender Equity in Politics (Policy Seminar, Liberia)
Report
National Democratic Institute
10/17/2012 Youth Development and Job Creation: Toward the Fulfillment or a Robust Youth Development Process in Liberia
Report
National Democratic Institute
09/19/2012 Election Law Reform: The Need for a Sustainable Democracy (Policy Seminar, Liberia)
Report
National Democratic Institute
06/27/2012 Gender Responsive Budgeting: A Social Challenge (Policy Seminar, Liberia)
Report
National Democratic Institute
05/16/2012 Decentralization: 'Which Way to Go?' (Policy Seminar, Liberia)
Report
National Democratic Institute
04/03/2012 Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations and Code of Conduct for Nonpartisan Citizen Election Observers and Monitors
Declaration
11/11/2011 November 2011 Liberian Presidential Runoff Statement
Statement
Elections Coordinating Committee
10/31/2011 Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties: A Good Practices Guide to Promote Women's Political Participation (Now available in Burmese)
Manual|Handbook
Julie Ballington
10/13/2011 ECC Press Release Condemning Recent Statements by Certain Politicians
Press Release
Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC)
10/12/2011 ECC Statement on the Liberian Elections
Statement
Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC)
03/16/2011 Liberia: Elections Coordinating Committee Statement on the Voter Registration Process
Statement
National Democratic Institute
03/16/2011 Elections Coordinating Committee Statement on the Voter Registration Process
Statement
National Democratic Institute
01/20/2011 Recent Developments in Liberia
Speech
Barrie Freeman
10/27/2010 The Youth Bulge in Africa - Opportunities for Constructive Engagement in the Political Process
Speech
Shari Bryan