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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’s 2011 general elections were the first the country independently organized since the end of the civil war in 2003. They were peaceful, transparent and free of major irregularities according to both domestic and international observer groups. Incumbent president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was reelected for a second six-year term with 90 percent of the vote. However, the decision of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) to boycott the runoff vote and subsequent violence that saw at least one CDC supporter killed tarnished these historic elections. While the country continues to progress, ongoing efforts toward reconciliation and unification are still needed to preserve Liberia’s peace. As Liberia seeks to consolidate its nascent democratic institutions, the adoption of a new electoral framework ahead of 2014 mid-term elections and 2017 general elections is an important step toward bolstering voter confidence and citizen participation in democratic governance. 

High turnover in the legislature and the frustrations articulated by the opposition CDC show a growing dissatisfaction with the ruling government. As smaller parties win seats in the fractured legislature, the need for coalition-building becomes more apparent. While security concerns have somewhat abated, other ongoing concerns have not, including unresolved reconciliation efforts, chronic unemployment, delivery of social services and poor infrastructure. Since the legislative process does not currently provide many avenues through which citizens’ voices can be heard, NDI is working to establish formal channels for collaboration and communication between citizens and lawmakers. 

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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 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. 

In February 2014, NDI and its partners organized a National Issues Forum to discuss priority public policy issues. The forum convened policy experts, legislators, government officials, media representatives and a diverse group of 133 CSOs from across Liberia. A National Lobby Day followed, where the CSOs met with legislators and staff in their offices, and presented their evidence-based policy platforms. These activities prepared CSOs for future substantive policy engagement with legislators and government officials. 

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 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.

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, use our contact form or contact:

Liberia
Aubrey McCutcheon, resident senior director
+231.880.813.713

Washington, D.C.
Gemima Barlow, senior program manager
202.728.6343

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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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In Liberia, U.S. Congressional Delegation Reaffirms Commitment to Legislative Research09/08/2010
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Maturing and Developing Democracies Share Experiences on Parliamentary Research Services07/12/2010
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Liberian Legislature Building Budget Analysis Capability04/01/2010
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Radio Station Connects Lawmakers with Their Constituents in Liberia11/02/2009
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Published Publication Title Author
02/01/2014 NDI-Liberia E-newsletters
Newsletter
National Democratic Institute
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
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
11/11/2011 November 2011 Liberian Presidential Runoff Statement
Statement
Elections Coordinating Committee
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
10/24/2007 Remarks of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the 2007 NDI Democracy Luncheon
Speech
National Democratic Institute
05/01/2007 Engaging Young People in Politics in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings
Manual|Handbook
David Larson
06/01/2006 Observing Presidential and Legislative Elections in Liberia: Final Report on the International Observation Delegations
Report
National Democratic Institute The Carter Center