Liberia: MIA, UN-Habitat Conclude Regional Consultative Meeting On Nat'l Urban Policy Formation

Monrovia — In a bid to formulate a decent and workable urban policy for Liberia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) in collaboration with the United Nations Human Settlement Program (UN-Habitat). have completed a nationwide regional consultative meeting with stakeholders to craft a national urban policy for the country.

As part of an effort to make the urban policy more participatory and people-centered, the MIA and UN-Habitat divided the country into three regions to ensure that locals in those regions or counties have their inputs in the document.

It can be recalled that in 2013, the Government of Liberia (GoL), through the Department of Urban Affairs at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, initiated the process of developing the Liberian National Urban Policy, which seeks to reduce poverty and foster sustainable and resilient Liberian cities.

The National Urban Policy for Liberia when completed will help coordinate the work of different sectors, establish incentives for more sustainable practices, and create a balanced system of cities and towns through strengthening urban-rural linkages and equitable resource allocation.

Accordingly, the policy will not only help reduce urban and territorial disparities within and among regions but also promote institutional collaboration and policy coherence toward the achievement of the Liberia National Vision 2030.

Hence, the regional consultative workshops are part of the overall formulation strategy integrated within the formulation phase of the National Urban Policy development aimed at introducing the policy process at the sub-national level and giving local stakeholders a forum they can engage in and voice their needs and challenges.

By 2050, the world's urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanization one of the first-only century's most transformative trends. Populations, economic activities, social and cultural interactions, as well as environmental and humanitarian impacts, are increasingly concentrated in cities, and this poses massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources, among others. With funding from the Booyoung Foundation and UN-Habitat, the Government of Liberia is developing a participatory National Urban Policy (NUP) to support its national vision that seeks to move Liberia to middle-income status by 2030.

The ongoing policy development is part of a broader endeavor to support poverty reduction through integrating urbanization into national development policies and developing sustainable and resilient Liberian cities.

It can be recalled that Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf launched the NUP in 2015, since then, the NUP process has become a tool for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Target 11. The NUP development process has moved from feasibility and diagnostic to formulation. The regional and national diagnosis has inform the formulation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the policy.

Liberian cities are urbanizing at a fast rate through population growth. United Nations projections show that by 2050, Liberia's urban population will have almost tripled to 6,689,000. Basic services in cities are substandard and rarely available. Opportunities lies in understanding the resulting issues and the increase in-service demands, as described in the North Central and South East Regional Workshop Reports, and the related benefits of implementing principles of the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda as a response to urban growth.

Therefore, the formulation phase is the third and the most significant phase of the National Urban Policy development process. The main goal of the formulation was to engage policymakers and various stakeholders, collect additional key evidence, identify policy options, and formulate the NUP using policy statements. This process sought to enhance policy coherence and integration, and strengthen the policy-making capacities of government institutions and civil society organizations (CSOs) in preparation for the Implementation Phase; the formulation phase also helps to build the capacity of key urban stakeholders for improved urban management and will further have a pilot demonstration projects to showcase the implementation of the policy.

As part of a broader participatory engagement strategy for the National Urban Policy Development process (Formulation Phase III); a group of urban stakeholders, national and local government representatives from various ministries, and agencies, including Mayors, and Commissioners from across eleven of the 15 counties, namely: Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Margibi and Grand Bassa Counties, assembled in Gbarnga, Bong County, on May 5, 2022, at the Administrative Complex for more consultations, while Grand Gedeh, Rivercess, Maryland, Sinoe, Grand Kru, and River Gee congregated at the Harper City Hall on the 12th of May, 2022 for a one-day consultative workshop as part of the overall NUP process, gear towards formulating an integrated approach to the policy planning and implementation at the grassroots level.

Similar activity, were on May 25, 2022, conducted in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. The gathering in Tubmanburg was the final stage of the formulation process of the NUP. It brought together Mayors from the Monrovia and Paynesville City Corporations, as well as other mayors and their representatives from Montserrado, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, and Bomi Counties; and other representatives from various Ministries, Agencies, and Civil Society Organizations.

Liberia's NUP is designed as a long-term initiative to support the implementation of a global urban agenda for sustainable urbanization, including the New Urban Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement.

At the start of the regional consultation in Bong County, the Mayor of Gbarnga City, Lucia Herbert, welcomed the participants and reminded them of the many engagements the process had undertaken to get their views incorporated into the policy. She further also recommended that the organizers include the participation of the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) in future workshops due to the many challenges their cities faced in working with the LLA. The workshop in Gbarnga, Bong County was attended by 72 participants from the 11 counties representing various city corporations, women groups, youth groups, and CSOs.

Also, during the regional meeting in Harper, Maryland County, the City Mayor of Harper City, Hellen Blessing Howe, in her welcome remark, thanked the participants for being a part of the meeting; acknowledging the importance of a national urban policy development process which is being driven by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Urban Affairs Department) and supported by the United Nations Human Settlement Program (UN-Habitat).

The Maryland City Mayor further reorganized the responsibility of National Government, to constantly improve and promote coordination between them and the local governments in the various counties, districts, municipalities, and townships so as to supervise, guide, harmonized, and advocate for financial and logistical support across the cities in Liberia.

Making remarks on behalf of Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf, Assistant Minister for Urban Affairs, Aboubakar Bah, thanked the participants for converging from various cities across the country to form part of the regional consultative meeting.

According to him, these engagements at the regional level, sought to encourage all the participants to fully engage in the discussion. "This is one of the many workshops and interactions we continue have in order for us to work and ensure that there's a National Urban Policy for Liberia."

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