The Vision 2030 National Conference aims at assuring that Liberians are united in a sense of common identity, purpose and ideals, says President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and that efforts to rise from the ashes must empower individuals and communities to take control of their own destiny.
Speaking at the opening of a three-day National Conference in the central city of Gbarnga, in Bong County, President Sirleaf said our country is not only challenged by our painful conflict which has left us with the challenge of physical reconstruction, but a frayed social fabric which has weakened our sense of community, and left us more vulnerable to negative trends in our regional and global environment. She said Liberians must restore the nation and reclaim its future, and it must be done in a manner that reflects the genius, resilience and true character of the Liberian people in their collectivity.
"A National Vision is no more, no less, than a new way to think and communicate and act about development, people - about you, me and about being our brother's keeper," the Liberian leader stressed, noting that this National Vision entails the movement toward collective preferences and aspirations.
"This new Vision is about a harmonious nation united in diversity, democratic and culturally vibrant, innovative, creative, self-reliant, prosperous within an ecologically sustainable environment," she said, adding that it's about a new Liberia structurally decentralized, reconciled, and being able to be at peace with each other "with liberty and justice for all."
She urged Conference delegates to use the opportunity to reflect on both Liberia's complicated and unique history, as well as its promising future. "We must redefine the Liberian identify in ways that take us away from conflicting and conflicted historical narratives toward identity as citizenship characterized by shared values, shared commitments, shared purpose," she urged delegates. She added, "Together, we must lay claim to a desired future, and transition from citizenship as a legacy based on a variety of perceptions of the past to citizenship as a project or a compact that will guide our journey to 2030 and beyond."
Speaking with much zeal and exuberance, the Liberian leader stated that the Conference must be an occasion to celebrate citizenship, to do something differently and to begin the task of throwing aside those things that have kept us divided and unreconciled. "We must now move to a better place, a place of national solidarity and national progress."
As this Vision becomes a national mantra and the country's national mission statement, it is no small undertaking, President Sirleaf warned. Rather, it is a call to national transformation, reinventing our national institutions and realigning our national norms - to move Liberia toward a modern African State that participates fully in the African renaissance. "We have much work to do to lift our people, our country. We must all get involved," she declared.
Touching on why the National Conference is being held in Gbarnga instead of the nation's capital, President Sirleaf was emphatic in stating that Monrovia is not Liberia. "No matter how important our capital city is, the future of our country lies in the development of our entire country - in places outside our capital - establishing links, back and forth, among all regions of our country." Convening in Gbarnga sends a strong message that National Vision 2030 involves every Liberian who sat down and talked about it and is in Gbarnga to shape a single vision, a common agenda for all Liberians.
On why so many people were invited to the Conference, President Sirleaf said it was not about promoting a party's platform or the like. Rather, to pledge and rekindle our commitment to work together, to bring together our respective hearts and minds, our sense of patriotism and our various views so that they complement each other in a dynamic, constructive and productive manner to recognize that our development will not be significant nor sustainable unless it is broad-based and inclusive.
"From this all-inclusive assembly of Liberians, we will build those bridges between the Legislature, Executive, and the Judiciary," the President said, adding, "We will all work together with our civil society organizations, our local groups of citizens, the private sector, and our external partners who value our national ownership, to forge a compact among ourselves as we move together into the future."
As the program got under way, there was a parade through the streets of Gbarnga. The Representative of District #2, Honorable Prince Moya, on behalf of the Bong County Legislative Caucus and the local leadership, welcomed the delegates and other dignitaries to Gbarnga City. There was also a Roll Call/March-in with the flags of the 15 Counties.
The Chairman of the National Vision 2030 Organizing Committee, Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh, who is ill and could not attend, sent a message wishing the Conference well. The message was read by one of two Co-Chairs, Ms. Kula Fofana.