Community Talk: A platform for building stronger communities, says IDA-LIBERIA International Director

On 10 September 2016

Liberia has come a long way out of the debris of violence and have shown tremendous achievements in its governance reform, peace and reconciliation, peace and security, and infrastructure development initiatives. In spite of these gains, much more needs to be done in providing basic social services to ordinary Liberians.

Over the last few months, our institution, Initiative for Democratic Alternatives IDA -Liberia Country Team headed by Raymond K, Da-boi has been organizing and facilitating pubic dialogues in rural communities in Liberia. These we refer to as Community Talks. These participatory dialogues have involved communities in Gbarnga, Suakoko, Bong County, and Buchanan Grand Bassa Counties respectively.  All of these activities are aimed at setting a new agenda for keeping a friendly conversation with community leaders, women, youth, disabled community and ordinary citizens about policies and development issues at the community level.  And to further encourage Liberians to participate in the upcoming general and presidential elections in 2017.  The dialogues achieved these by creating awareness and providing information to citizens about the electoral process and some critical policy issues within their communities.

These activities are key components of IDA-Liberia’s program under the theme ‘Citizens Engagement and Policy Reform’. A convening of citizens, policy makers, leaders and other stakeholders to address and formulate plan of actions that will address leadership and governance issues and critical challenges faced by our people.

A gathering that brings citizens together to identify, plan and hold conversations about policy issues, is a mechanism for building a new nation. Creating a platform that empowers young Liberians to become responsible leaders and entrepreneurs is a process that IDA-Liberia has established in Liberia. We are committed to this; our experiences with working with these communities have shown that there is an enormous enthusiasm on the part of citizens to improve their lives, and their communities.  IDA –Liberia is creating a platform for positive engagement, bringing leaders and electorates together, and elected officials to firstly engage, indentify, understand and plan to resolve their problems collectively. This will significantly help our development process through a bottom-up development approach.

Citizens who know their basic rights and responsibilities are more likely to support and elect better leaders than their compatriots who do not know these. IDA-Liberia wants to make sure all Liberians are informed about the electoral process. We will work closely with the National Elections Commission (NEC) and other agencies and stakeholders responsible for elections in providing information in rural communities that will provide better alternatives for citizens to make informed decisions during and after the electoral process.

IDA-Liberia has organized and facilitated Community Talks in counties which are massively improving their governance, policy and leadership processes in their counties. Issues and challenges identified during those conversations are followed up with the appropriate authorities to seek solutions to them.  CSOs, CBOs and various women and women’s groups are developing keen interest in collaborating with IDA-Liberia and facilitating dialogues in their communities. As they see the friendly conversation as a mean of reaching and every citizens and bringing their interest and concerns to the table to discuss.

It is important to focus on strengthening our systems in the most practical way. To achieve these lofty goals is by targeting one community after the other and influencing change through a piece meal approach. We can look to the grassroots to see how local people are already solving those critical problems that face them. This is an encouraging model to work making more accessible and accountable to their people.

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