Memo To Liberia: Do Not Throw Caution To The Wind

AS LIBERIA LIMPS toward the 2023 General and Presidential elections, an Election Follow up mission from the European Union has made a number of recommendations and assessments aimed at helping Liberia improve its elections framework from 2017.

KEY AMONGST THE MISSION’S concerns is the need for affirmative action for women participation in elections, including implementing capacity building for prospective female candidates and measures for better integration of women in political parties throughout the electoral cycle.

MS. MARIA ARENA, a Member of the European Parliament and head of the team which recently visited Liberia declared: “I remain hopeful that the Liberian authorities will engage with stakeholders on improving the electoral framework before the 2023 elections and, among other, introduce measures to increase participation of female candidates to elections and support the 30 per cent female mandatory quota for political party candidates, as proposed by the National Elections Commission.”

THE RECOMMENDATIONS from the EU team were based on an impartial assessment of all aspects of the electoral process and guided by regional and international standards for elections.

WHILE IN LIBERIA, the team met with the President and Vice President of Liberia, the National Elections Commission, the leadership of Senate and House of Representatives, several ministries, chief Justice, political parties, civil society organisations, media and the international community.

THESE MEETINGS WITH KEY stakeholders show of the EU’s willingness to assist Liberia it its democratic resurgence. As Ms. Arena pointed out. “The EU electoral recommendations are a sign of EU willingness to support democratic elections in Liberia via the improvement of the electoral framework. They should be seen as an indication for possible electoral reform prior to the next elections”.

EVEN IF PROGRESS in the implementation of EU EOM recommendations has been limited, Ms. Arena noted: “Certain electoral reforms are being discussed and should be further acted upon. These relate to campaign environment, political finance and electoral dispute resolution mechanism. “We urge all electoral stakeholders to engage in good faith in consultations to build a greater level of public confidence in time for the 2023 election. The European Union will continue to support Liberia in this process.”

IT IS IMPORTANT all stakeholders in Liberia to pay keen attention to the recommendations from the EU parliamentary delegations because it is the parliamentary debates that give approval for funding Liberia badly needs.

IN THE BUILD UP TO the 2017 General and Presidential elections, EU, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Liberia signed several agreements to support Liberia’s Electoral Cycle.

UNDER THAT TRIPARTITE arrangement, the EU contributed 10 million Euro (approximately USD$11.4 million) and UNDP with USD$1 million to help strengthen the capacity of the National Elections Commission (NEC), improve voter registration, enhance women participation in the electoral processes, reinforce mechanisms for political parties and enhance security during elections.

THOSE FUNDS ALSO supported actions to improve civic and voter education, strengthen the electoral legal framework and to engender successful conduct of elections.

THIS IS WHY these recommendations cannot be taken lightly.

IN FACT, during a recent political dialogue between the EU mission in Liberia and the Liberian government, much emphasis was placed on Liberia taking strong concrete actions to fight corruption, and not only strengthening but effectively implementing the anti-corruption legal framework in force.

DURING THAT DIALOGUE, the EU stressed that governance and the fight against corruption remain important challenges in Liberia and the EU would continue to support Liberia’s governance efforts.

The EU-Liberia partnership, the dialogue concluded, must be based on good governance, transparency and accountability and the EU can only work with partners that are well-managd, efficient and law-abiding. The EU stressed the importance of ensuring the traceability and accountability of the public funds related to the GoL’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Head of the GAC informed that COVID-19 audit reports would be published soon. The Minister of Health stressed that the funds received and managed by the Ministry would be fully accounted for.

THE EU, DURING THAT DIALOGUE also emphasized the importance of continuing the fight against the high levels of SGBV to which Liberian women and girls continue to be subjected, and asked about the implementation of the 2-year Roadmap to fight SGBV, to which the EU and Member States remain committed, including through the Spotlight program. The EU encouraged the GoL to strengthen the capacity and resources of the police and justice bodies to investigate and prosecute rape and other SGBV cases, increase access to justice and provide medical and psychosocial support to SGBV victims, and work on SGBV prevention including education.

THE EU STRESSED that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a grave Human Rights violation, which often leads to life-long medical and psychological effects, and called on the GoL to take action by approving an executive order to ban FGM and by working with the Legislature to deliver a permanent ban, as other countries in the region have done, including Sierra Leone.

WITH MONTHS LEADING TO THE elections in 2023, Liberia and its government have a lot to ponder. It is clear that the National Elections Commission is struggling to find money to conduct elections; it is also clear that the government is struggling to put the mechanisms in place to prepare for those elections.

A KEY INTERNATIONAL STAKEHOLDER has made it clear what must be done to encourage them to convince their taxpayers why Liberia deserves more support and assistance.

THESE ARE THE LITTLE things that governments take for granted, the little things that matter to those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder and the little things that count in election circles.

A HINT TO THE VERY WISE!!!

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