On 30 August 2019, the African Development Bank country office in Monrovia, Liberia held a civil society open day, which provided information on the progress of the Bank's work, updates on current portfolio achievements and a presentation of the upcoming pipeline with regard to the next Liberia country strategy paper 2019 - 2023.
The event brought together 56 Liberian civil society leaders, senior government officials from the ministries of finance and development planning, public works and agriculture.
In his opening speech, the deputy minister of finance and development planning, Augustus J. Flomo, encouraged civil society organizations (CSOs) to seize the opportunity for collaboration with the Bank and reinforce their capacities for better engagement and constructive oversight by learning more about the Bank's activities and policies. He added that the government has completed a CSO/NGO policy draft law which is now waiting for legislative approval. Once enacted, the policy will improve the legal environment for CSOs and NGOs. "CSOs should be the watch dog for government actions", he said, "it is now time for civil society to take the driving seat and help the government to develop Liberia".
The Bank's country office provided a comprehensive presentation of the country's $390 million portfolio of mainly regional integration projects and interventions in several areas, including agriculture, energy, and transport. "With such an investment, there is a need to ensure accountability through CSO oversight and ownership of development intervention," said Mr. Banda Kelvin, speaking on behalf of the country manager. "Working with civil society requires engaging and reinforcing mutual capacities to get results. We strongly encourage the government to get the CSO/NGO policy into law, which will provide the legal basis and enabling environment that will guarantee solid collaboration with civil society," he added.
Participating civil society members welcomed the initiative that gave them information and allowed for feedback and suggestions on Bank operations in the country. They expressed their satisfaction about the way in which Liberia was becoming more developed. "I drove my motorbike from Fish Town to Harper, and it was like coming into Manhattan. Upon completion of the Fish Town - Kelipo and Sanniquellie - Loquatuo road sections, we can have breakfast in Liberia, easily drive and do business, then eat our attiéké for lunch in Côte d'Ivoire and come back home in the evening", testified Kingsley Nixon, a CSO member from Harper, Maryland County, which has benefitted from a Bank-financed road that had opened up an area usually cut off from the rest of the country during the rainy season.
While getting to know more about the Bank's works in Liberia, civil society representatives urged the Bank to take the opportunities and resources to strengthen their capacities to help the Bank to deliver economic development. They also recommended that the Bank should communicate more and raise awareness through CSOs for community mobilization and enhanced visibility. They thanked the Bank for associating civil society with the development of the guidelines for the engagement of CSOs in the country strategy paper.
Francois Traore, the Bank's CSO Officer, representing Zéneb Touré, the division manager, assured participants of the Bank's commitment to work with civil society to realise the High 5s and produce development impacts. He said that civil society engagement requires tripartite policy dialogue between government, the Bank and CSOs. Accordingly, the Bank is developing the required tools, mechanisms and capacity building for technical engagement. "Let us first develop strong collaboration and tripartite dialogue, then see what civil society can bring to the table, and we'll surely succeed", Traore concluded.
The Bank also conducted meetings with the government CSO/NGO coordination unit and the donor community, including the EU, USAID and the Swedish Development Agency, for information sharing on civil society dynamics and landscape, as well as to explore collaboration, and raise the Bank's public profile on citizen engagement and participation in Liberia.