Feb 5th, 2013 6:47 PM UTC
By Edith Jibunoh
This week, ONE and Save the Children gathered close to 200 Liberians, including several Liberian ONE members, at a popular event in Monrovia, which included an exhibition and panel on transparency and accountability in the city’s iconic City Hall.
City Hall was packed all afternoon with the young and eager Liberians who gathered at our event, keen to join our efforts to focus attention on transparency and accountability and emphasize the recommendations, just released in a new report, for the UN High Level Panel (HLP) deliberations on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (or as we like to call it, MDG 2.0).
The event was attended by members of the HLP, including co-chair President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister of Finance and the Economy; Ms. Gunilla Carlsson, Swedish Development Minister; Ms. Betty Maina of Kenya; Mr. John Podesta, Chair of the Center for American Progress; Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on the Post-2015 Agenda; as well as members of the HLP secretariat and other Liberian dignitaries.
Involved in our exhibition were a variety of activists, including Ma Annie, who started the Liberian “Peace Huts” to mediate local conflict issues (land, marital and community unrest); Alfred Sirleaf, who started Daily Talk, a community blackboard which translates the news into vernacular and images in order to make news accessible to the illiterate; young Koola Fofana, who talked to mingling guests from her stand, and displayed her work on the President’s Vision 2030 committee, allowing her to channel youth voices into Liberia’s formal development planning. The exhibition also included the big draw for the many youth in attendance: Sweetz and David Mello – two Liberian music entertainers who worked on a song with young kids throughout the exhibition, encouraging them to express themselves and get involved in their country’s development through music.
The exhibition was quickly followed by five lively breakout sessions, where Liberian citizens organized themselves and came up with a range of recommendations for various facets of the transparency and accountability agenda, including the consultation process of how to get better data.
The HLP members were really impressed by the effort that the Liberians put into coming up with concise yet constructive inputs for them to take into consideration and individually commended their work after spending some time going through the exhibitions on display.
President Johnson-Sirleaf reminded the youth that Liberia’s future lay in their hands, while Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala remarked on the alignment of the issues raised by the Liberians and the HLP members. Ms. Gunilla Carlsson congratulated Liberia on the progress made under the leadership of President Johnson-Sirleaf and noted that their recommendations showed the dedication of the citizens to making their country a better place.
Ms. Betty Maina emphasized the importance of holding the private sector accountable alongside the public sector,stating that they also had a responsibility in ensuring that development goals were met, and she encouraged Liberians to demand accountability from the private sector as well.
Mr. John Podesta recognized ONE and Save the Children for the remarkable work we do and spoke of the trip that ONE organized that brought him to Liberia for the first time, where he was able to see firsthand the dedication of Liberian people to their development.
The entire event, which spanned about 6 hours, left all of us involved inspired and struck by the dedication these citizens put into communicating their views on development. We are all so proud to have been a part of the process that gave them a platform to get their views across to those that needed to hear it the most.
What would make the biggest difference in your world? Vote for the issues that matter to you most here, and we’ll share them with the HLP.
Feb 1st, 2013 6:58 PM UTC
By Nachilala Nkombo
This January, two years away from the expiry of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the post 2015 agenda has already created a buzz in Monrovia and Johannesburg. As Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf hosts the United Nations High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development framework this week, I was privileged to have joined an energetic group of ONE Africa staff, friends, partners and members at the launch of ONE’s new post-2015 SMS and social media campaign called “You Choose”. The main objective of this campaign is to engage Africans from all walks of life on what the new MDGs should focus on.
At the launch event Nigerian music star Dbanj told the audience that he joined ONE because he is passionate about engaging on how best to end poverty, he noted that the “YOU CHOOSE” Platforms provide opportunities for all to speak out so that barriers can be removed – or until they find their Jesus Christ! “We can make it, I am an example … Nigerian born, Nigerian made, Africa is more than what people think we are, we have more and have the opportunity to be more,” He said. He called onto the audience and his supporters to participate in this campaign that will influence their futures.
As Africa has close to 700 million mobile connections, the “You Choose” campaign will take advantage of this mobile revolution to enable millions of Africans to make themselves heard. Young people on the continent who are 24/7 on social media will be encouraged to add their voices in shaping the new MDGs through “You Choose”.
The campaign has already hit major airwaves in South Africa on SABC TV, SABC SAFM, SABC and Metro. All citizens need to do is submit their priority in a simple format via a free SMS or the web based platforms. Their priorities could be as simple as food, land, jobs, public transport, skills, hospitals, leadership, accountability, corruption or another critical issue. Today, a radio phone in caller named Bongi told other listeners on the SABC
Morning talk radio show in Johannesburg that leadership is critical in ensuring that ensure that the current and future MDGS are met. He cited how former President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia inherited a country with only a few schools and colleges and no university. But within the first years of independence, he was able to establish a countrywide network of primary and secondary and a university. Bongi chose, and sent a free text to 30667.
What do you choose? To choose, send a text for free to 30667 if you are in South Africa or submit your issue at www.one.org/youchoose if you live elsewhere.
Unlike when the 2000 MDGs were created, the post-2015 MDGs process is seeking advice this time from citizens on what future MDGs should address when the current ones expire in 2015. ONE is working in partnership with 20-plus organisations and influentials that include the UN, civil society organisations, churches groups, radio stations and various media houses in rolling out this drive. ONE is particularly working closely with the UN My World team so as to ensure that the feedback collected through “You Choose “will be included in the meeting of the High Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda to be held in March 2015 in Bali Indonesia.
ONE is thrilled that African icons such as Hugh Masekela, Dbanj, Lira, Benni McCarthy, Chris Katongo, HHP, have joined hands with “You Choose” to urge ordinary African citizens to join the call to action. Launches in Malawi and Zambia will follow on the 12th and 19th of February respectively.
In Zambia, the campaign will be backed by local celebrities that include former Big Brother Housemate, Mampi, singing sensation, Slap Dee and Zambia’s own TV producer Mary Magambo and one of the hip and hottest artists on the Zambian music scene Kachanana. In Malawi the campaign will be backed by Malawian stars Dan Lu, Bon Kalando. You Choose participants will have an option to join ONE so as to have opportunities to join current campaigns ONE is running on improving health and Agriculture investments in Africa. Remember to choose by texting for FREE 30667!
Feb 1st, 2013 5:00 PM UTC
By Nealon DeVore
Earlier this week, ONE met up with 30 of our Liberian members in Monrovia at a local watering hole called Tides, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. As I reported earlier, we have been in Monrovia the past week to engage the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 MDGs (HLP) during their meetings and consultations. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet with some of our members and hear their views on the issues affecting development in Liberia.
My colleague Edith Jibunoh, from ONE’s Washington, D.C., office, and I led the meet up. I started off by giving a brief history of ONE and our work around the world to promote Africa’s development. In particular, I focused on our campaigns to engage our African members on issues around the continent and how we work to influence the policies of select African governments and institutions.
Edith then spoke about this week in Liberia and its importance in the greater scheme of development. The HLP would be using this week to listen to the voices of people through civil society organizations (CSOs) and the private sector on what the next set of development goals should include. ONE also used this week to launch a new report — Open for Development — that would make the case for some key recommendations to improve the post-2015 agenda. We launched this report in partnership with Save the Children with HLP members, which Liberian President Sirleaf joined!
All this talk from Edith and me created some palpable enthusiasm from our members – so they began sharing their thoughts on how governments and partners (like the United States or European governments) could support development.
For me, it was an incredible learning experience. Our members shared their particular sectoral concerns — clean water, HIV/AIDS treatment, environmental sustainability and education were mentioned, with clean water reiterated many times. More importantly though, our members shared how development should be made more accountable. They want the goals applied to everyone, rich and poor. We must speak in peoples’ vernacular languages (while Liberia’s official language is English, I can attest that the vernacular creole or “simple English” can be difficult to understand!) because illiteracy is so high in a country like Liberia.
We have to use radio and other more traditional forms of media to reach people, which I’m proud to say we are already doing here at ONE in our “You Choose” campaign in South Africa, Malawi and Zambia. There were even comments on the need to focus on better results and outcomes, which hits at the heart of our latest thinking here at ONE. You’d think these members were on ONE’s policy team!
Our ONE members in Liberia are incredibly astute. That was driven home to me when a member stood up and pointed out that amongst the 30 of us, they were the educated and relatively affluent in Liberia. The real voices ONE and the world need to hear are those not present and who carry the burden of these problems—and he pointed across the water to a beach where children were playing football in front of what appeared to be an endless see of tin-roofed shacks. My fellow ONE member couldn’t have said it better.
Jan 29th, 2013 9:20 PM UTC
By Nealon DeVore
ONE has a team in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, where the UN’s High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is meeting this week.
This Panel, co-chaired by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, contains a number of experts from all over the world that are working on creating the next set of the globe’s Millennium Development Goals, which will guide our development over the coming generation. ONE has been working with a number of partners, especially since last September’s UN meetings, to ensure that these new goals include the voices and perspectives of the world’s poorest citizens.
And this week’s happenings in Liberia are a perfect opportunity to continue making that case. There’s a lot going on. First, we’re attending the official CSO pre-meetings to the High Level Panel yesterday and today, where CSOs from all over the world are meeting in roundtables centered around specific demographics (youth, women, the disabled, informal traders, etc.) to devise interventions to present to those panel. The CSOs will present those to the Panel tomorrow (Wednesday).
Photo caption: Promotional poster at the High Level Panel
My colleagues and I hosted a ONE Member Meet up in Monrovia this week. We were excited to meet our Liberian members and look forward to reporting out about that. In particular, we worked with them to finalize our plans for an exhibition and panel that ONE and Save The Children will host on Thursday evening. This event will explore the themes of transparency and accountability in how they can unleash the potential for the economic transformation of countries like Liberia. It’s going to be some exciting stuff!
This is all happening as ONE also prepares to launch a new campaign in South Africa tomorrow, which will recruit voices for what we like to call these MDGs 2.0. Stay tuned for more on that from my colleagues!
Oct 12th, 2011 10:49 AM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
Liberians defied the rains yesterday and turned out in their thousands to participate in the country’s second election since it emerged from a 14 year civil war in 2003.
This year’s elections are historic for Liberia, as they are the first Liberia controlled elections. They are being described world over as a test of Liberia’s fragile democracy. The 2005 election was managed by the United Nations.
About 1.8 million people were expected to vote in the election.
Incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is up for reelection for a second term in office in a hotly contested race against 14 others. Analysts say that her stiffest challenger will be former UN diplomat, Winston Tubman, whose running mate is George Weah, a former international football star who lost the 2003 election to President Sirleaf in a run off.
President Sirleaf, who only last week shared a Nobel Peace Prize with two other women, for her work in advancing the democratic space in Liberia is not having an easy ride. This itself is testimony to why she won the prize. Some say that the Nobel Laureate couldn’t have received her prize at a better time, and that the Nobel Peace Prize could have helped boost her campaign at the last minute. Liberia has also seen growing foreign investment and got rid of most of its debts, and some argue that President Sirleaf is a favourite among donor countries.
But many analysts predict that this election could be too close to call, and are gearing up for a possible re-run in November. Her supporters admit that some of the challenges she faces are that, “her greatest achievements are intangible — peace, security, investor confidence.”
On the other hand the opposition’s main critique of President Sirleaf is that while Liberia is debt free, millions still live in abject poverty.
A total of 150 observers from different countries are in Liberia to monitor the presidential elections, while it’s borders remain closed until Wednesday for security reasons. Coming so close after Zambia’s successful elections, if Liberia passes the test for a peaceful election, (and all signs are that it will), this will be a sure sign that Africa is experiencing a renaissance in democracy.
Aug 9th, 2011 11:42 AM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
Liberia was Africa’s first republic, colonized in 1822 and declared independent in 1847. It is also home to Africa’s first female president: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I met with her last week at the Executive Mansion in Monrovia during a ONE listening and learning trip. And while this was not our first encounter, I was particularly thrilled to be meeting her with ONE’s new Chief Executive Officer, Michael Elliot, who was visiting Liberia for the first time.
Meeting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
At ONE, we strongly believe that for poor rural populations throughout Africa, smart investments in agriculture are key to reducing poverty, building viable livelihoods and accessing affordable food. Meeting with President Sirleaf Johnson was a great opportunity to find out how committed Liberia’s President is to agriculture development.
No surprise, but definitely noteworthy: as an African woman, “Mama Ellen,” as many Liberians call her, does not just speak about agriculture — she is a farmer herself who grows rice, chilies and vegetables, and when she talks about the need for farmers in Liberia to move from traditional farming methods, which erode the environment, you get the sense that the Iron Lady, knows exactly what she is talking about. A recent report by Liberia’s Ministry of Agriculture echoed her concern. The report states that future efforts in Liberia need to focus on productivity enhancing measures with a pro-poor focus that increases incomes. According to the Minister for Agriculture Dr Florence Chenoweth whom I also had the privilege of meeting during this trip, Liberia’s challenge is two fold; one is that Liberian’s lack access to assets like land, knowledge and inputs and two, opportunities and an enabling environment.
Agriculture was not all that was on the President’s mind on this day. Another one of her top priorities is education particularly tertiary educational and vocational skills training. According to UNICEF, education in Liberia was severely affected by the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars, between 1989 and 2003. Therefore, while the country has seen a large increase in foreign direct investment in sectors such as mining, forestry, and now petroleum, the potential for Liberians to get good jobs is limited by a mismatch in the required skills. Corporations that have a presence in Liberia will need to step up and invest seriously in vocational training for their workers, in an effort to fill the skills gap.
The mother of four is up for re-election later this year, and one of the key challenges surrounding her election is allegations of corruption in some sectors of government a fact which she openly alluded to during our discussion as unjustly undermining the governments efforts to rebuild the nation. A report by the Voice of America (VOA) points out that the head of Liberia’s anti-corruption commission is asking for direct prosecutorial powers to go after government officials misusing public funds. Still, it is clear as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf points out in her campaigning for re-election, that her government’s fight against corruption has helped to restore investor confidence in a country still recovering from 14 years of conflict. On the other hand, says VOA, political challengers question the president’s commitment, saying her government has too much influence over what should be independent investigations. From speaking to other government officials and some of the youth we were left with the distinct impression that the judiciary in Liberia is extremely independent and not likely to be much influenced by either the executive or the legislature. Those around President Johnson Sirleaf will tell you categorically that her work is her campaign. And based on the incredible transformation from the Liberia I saw five years ago when I attended her inauguration – little more than a depressing ruin – to what I saw this week – a much more organized, energized, optimistic and promising country with some well chosen cabinet members I’d say Mama Ellen should keep doing what she does best. Leading Liberians to their promised land!.
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