Civil Society Group Accelerates: Decentralization Legislation Advocacy

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INFOQUEST Liberia, a Civil Society Organization with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has held a high-level Legislative and Stakeholder Dialogue on the enactment of the Ministry of Local Government Bill and the validation of the Revenue Sharing Bill Regulations. The event brought together government representatives, development partners, policymakers, legislators, and other stakeholders to engage in a comprehensive dialogue on the importance of political and fiscal decentralization. The Executive Director of InfoQuest Liberia Matthias Yeanay underscored the need for and importance of the passage of the Local Government Ministry’s bill into law as well as the full adoption and subsequent implementation of the Revenue Sharing Act regulation. Yeanay stated that the Ministry of Local Government bill when enacted into law will give power back to the people and will also help create jobs and capacity development for rural residents. He assured that InfoQuest Liberia remains committed to advocating as well as engaging all stakeholders and partners especially the national Legislature to ensure that such a national advocacy campaign will yield results. Making remarks, UNDP through its Resident Representative a.i. Louis Kuukpen commended Liberia for making significant progress with decentralization efforts adding that the Revenue Sharing Act regulation is a catalyst for the successful implementation of the Revenue Sharing Act of 2021. Kuukpen noted that it is time for the Country to build on the gains made by accelerating the passage of the Ministry of Local Government bill as well as validating the Revenue Sharing Act regulation which presents a unique opportunity for decentralization and sustainability while strengthening inclusive governance and social cohesion at subnational levels. He said the gains will help strengthen citizens’ participation, service delivery, fiscal decentralization, and financial autonomy of local government which would lead to efficient and effective social service delivery to the citizens while facilitating legislation and policies to help sustain these efforts. “Decentralization has never been successful without the required Legislative support, political will, and financial resources to empower sub-national structures and enhance service provision and local government administration, which are very critical to the process,” Kuukpen said. He maintained that fostering and accelerating decentralization is one of the surest ways to expand local participation in the affairs of government, provide equal opportunities and distribution of resources for the citizens in development processes, and support strategic roadmap for peacebuilding, national healing, and reconciliation, leaving no one behind. The UNDP Resident Representative a.i. also applauded the support from other development partners- Sweden, the European Union, and Ireland to the process. In her remarks, the Swedish Embassy Program officer NikolinaStalhand stated that following the successful election process in Liberia, the world now wants to see a democracy that will deliver on decentralization initiatives important for economic development and to help build the social contract between the citizens and the state. Miss Stalhand mentioned further that for decentralization to succeed, there is a need for national ownership and collaboration between different stakeholders, adding that sustainability is a key factor to be taken into serious consideration by the government in the absence of donor support while revenue sharing is critical to ensuring that resources be kept at the local level to boost development. “We don’t want to see the service centers nonfunctional when there is no donor funding. That is why we welcome and support fiscal decentralization which if effectively implemented can help drive the sustainability component of the program. Reiterating the need for national ownership, the Chairman of the Governance Commission Dr. Alaric Tokpah emphasized the involvement of all stakeholders and the need for concrete actions that would spur effective and efficient services pivotal to the development needs of Liberians across the country. Buttressing Dr. Tokpah’s statement, the Assistant Minister of Internal Affairs D. Emmanuel Whenyou reminded Liberians that the passage of the decentralization bills will in no way take away jobs from the people. He disclosed that it will instead help create additional jobs as well as build their capacities to fully participate in the decision-making processes of development.  One of the Legislative champions for decentralization, Sinoe County District Two Representative, Samson Wiah in his statement pledged his commitment to support the speedy passage of the bill which he termed as people-centered, and applauded the advocacy efforts around the passage by InFOQUEST. At the same time, the Chair of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia Loretta Pop Kai rallied members of the National Legislature to support the speedy passage into law of the Ministry of Local Government bill which she emphasized is a direct way of giving power back to the people. Miss Kai stressed the need to promote and support local administration, emphasizing that Civil society will continue to remain engaged as they are key partners in the process. She noted that effective policies and laws that facilitate broader participation, enhance local accountability, and improve development planning are essential to national development.

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