USAID Mission Director to Liberia, Anthony S. Chan, says ending poverty in Liberia will require financial resources that can only be generated from broad-based and sustained economic growth.
Director Chan made the remarks yesterday in Monrovia during the launch of the Development Matters TV and Radio, which brought together media executives, development partners, among others.
He said Liberians are best positioned to design and implement the growth-inducing policies needed to end the biting poverty that afflicts many Liberians. "You are best familiar with the root causes and context of your development challenges. You, more than anyone else, can, therefore, bring to bear the requisite knowledge, background, and skills necessary to take on the task of poverty reduction in your country," Director Chan said.
"We are convinced that together, the Development Matters Conference, the Anthology, and now the Development Matters Radio and Television Series will contribute to this effort by providing the space for Liberians to engage each other and their leaders in honest, open and productive dialogues about their country's future," he said.
One year ago, he said, ordinary Liberians, civil society leaders, and policymakers gathered in Monrovia for the first Liberia Development Conference, which culminated in two days of deliberations about Liberia's development challenges and opportunities.
A little over two months ago, he said, "We launched a tangible result of those deliberations- The Liberia Development Conference Anthology, a compilation of 39 analytical papers written primarily by Liberians and first presented and discussed at the Conference."
According to him, each paper takes a particular problem--such as promoting private sector competitiveness, barriers to universal health coverage, and youth empowerment - objectively analyzes its causes and effects, and then sets forth concrete proposals and steps for solving it.
"We gather to build on the successes of the Development Conference and the Anthology with the launch of the Development Matters Radio/Television Series. Just like the papers in the Anthology, each show in the Development Matters Series takes a particular issue--financing education or healthcare, decentralization, food self-sufficiency - and then features Liberians themselves debating the merits and demerits of various policy choices and approaches for solving the issue presented," he said.
USAID officials and other guests at the launch of the Dev Matters program
He expressed the hope that the debate and citizen engagement engendered by the series will inform policy-decision making so that ultimately Liberia can find Liberian-centered and Liberian-owned solutions to the development hurdles the country faces. "It is extremely important that these solutions be Liberian-led and -owned if Liberia is to become self-reliant and achieve its goal of ending extreme poverty and building a middle-income country. Foreign development assistance may ameliorate the worst aspects of poverty," he said.
Jan MacArthur, Country Director for Internews Liberia, said the launch of Development Matters TV and Radio, shows the level of commitment by USAID (United States Aid for International Development) and said she has seen the value the Development Matters program will have for the country and was glad to support the initiative. The Development Matters is a series of pre-recorded audio/visual programs that will be broadcast on local radio and television, as well as online via the Daily Observer website and Local Voices.
Meanwhile, during the media law panel discussion, Attorney Alphonso Zeon called for a constant working relationship with the National Legislature in order to gain their support and noted that media development and free speech are linked to development and must be given serious attention.
According to him, Liberia received the Millennium Challenge Corporation's loan due to the passage of the Freedom of Information Law, stating that Liberia can make progress with individuals' will to express themselves. Other media law panelists called for a review of penalties regarding defamation.
"The damages for defamation can be expensive so media practitioners need to be very careful on how they report," Cllr. Luther Yofee, who works for Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, said. "People need to verify information, especially information that is often on social media. Truthfulness in reporting is the end solution to defamation."
Cllr. Rose Marie James, a member of the Editorial Board of Liberia Law Experts, raised concerns on why public officials are usually in the lead in terms of filing a defamation lawsuit. "We need to understand how the freedom of the press has grown and worked with the public."