Monrovia – The Liberia Peacebuilding Office through the Ministry of Internal Affairs with support from its partners Embassy of Sweden, Irish Aid, European Union, UN Peacebuilding Fund, UNDP Liberia, UN Women, and others has launched the Early Warning Early Response (EWER) system designed to collect, manage, and report incidents related to electoral violence across Liberia.
The system will help track early signs of possible violence and conflict, assess risks, and respond in a coordinated way to prevent and or de-escalate them and channel the electoral dispute resolution into constructive procedures.
Speaking at the official launch 10 March 2023, the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) called on stakeholders including political parties, civil society, international partners, and the citizenry to play their respective roles in a way that will lend credibility to the elections process and ensure a positive and peaceful outcome acceptable to all.
Davidetta Brown Lansannah said the NEC remains committed to organizing peaceful, transparent, and credible elections necessary to maintain stability and facilitate the development agenda of Liberia.
The NEC Chairperson said the Commission has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Peacebuilding Office to share information through decentralized structures and an early warning situation room to avert potential conflict issues before, during and after elections and to coordinate efforts aimed at maintaining peace.
“The NEC is fully aware that a fundamental strategy of engendering a peaceful electoral process is to be transparent and accountable in a proactive manner. We are committed to doing this and encourage local and international observers to follow the process,” Lansannah noted.
Making remarks, UNDP Liberia Resident Representative Stephen Rodrigues stressed that it was paramount to strengthen and expand the EWER system as a multi-stakeholder initiative to prevent and mitigate different threats including gender-based violence and other human rights violations that may occur across Liberia.
“I am aware that other Institutions are aiming to establish situation rooms and early warning systems. I encourage you to join hands with us and make this EW and ER mechanism stronger which is in the interest of the nation and every single Liberian,” said Rodrigues.
He called for a united front to combat hate speech, dis/misinformation and any potential acts of violence. “This is a moment when all of us are united – the Office of the Presidency, the security apparatus, the NEC, the International Community, Civil Society Organizations, and others. I want to make an appeal, particularly to those in political parties and the media – help us to cool the temperature. I listen to some of the talk shows and while we respect freedom of speech, we admire proper journalism with ethics and integrity that abide by a code of conduct.
I appeal to our journalists to encourage tolerance, dialogue, and the use of proper channels for handling disputes. Peaceful elections are determined by people and their actions. And we all have a role to play,” the UNDP Liberia Boss emphasized.
He also expressed confidence that Liberia will not bend, will not break, and will not fall because of a few. “The vast majority of the people of this blessed country want peace and stability, and we will help them to ensure that Liberia takes a peaceful path to its elections. The fearmongers will not succeed. Those waiting in the dark and scheming will not succeed,” Rodrigues concluded.
The Ambassador of Sweden Urban Sjostrom is hopeful that the Early Warning and Early Response mechanism can make a difference in sustaining peace, democracy, and development in Liberia. Ambassador Sjostrom stressed the need to strengthen systems that prevent and address hate speech and violence against women.
For her part, the Ambassador of ECOWAS in Liberia Josephine Nkrumah reiterated the call for all hands-on deck in the conduct of peaceful elections and sustenance of the peace which she says is also linked to peace in the sub-region, while the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Liberia Counsellor Dempster Brown reminded the NEC of its responsibility to enforce the elections laws.
Launching the EWER system, the Minister of Internal Affairs Varney Sirleaf recognized the support of development partners in ensuring that the system responds in real time to threats and is decentralized at the county, district, and community levels.
“The government declared Early Warning and Response as a sound policy and a right political move for maintaining peace and security in Liberia. In so doing, we have worked over the years with partners including UNDP, Embassy of Sweden, ZOA and others to develop the early warning and response infrastructure and incrementally strengthen capacity,” Minister Sirleaf noted.
He further explained that the system will potentially provide accurate and actionable information in a transparent and sustainable manner to decision makers that help to prevent violence and maintain peace, security, and social cohesion across the country.
“This system will monitor, track and report on 56 indicators that cover five thematic areas including security, health, environment, gender, governance, Human Rights and elections,” he emphasized.
He appealed to Liberians to play meaningful and supportive roles in collectively working together to sustain the peace, stressing that it is not the sole responsibility of the NEC.
The Internal Affairs Minister also urged media and politicians to be mindful of what they put out there in the public that could potentially undermine peace and stability. “Be mindful of how we respond to disinformation, misinformation and hate speech that potentially undermine and prejudice peace and social trust between government and its citizens. When we get this right, we’ll get our country on the move,” Minister Sirleaf pleaded.
The upgraded EWER platform was developed with support from the EU-UNDP Joint Taskforce from Brussels. Nation-wide trainings organized by UNDP Liberia Electoral Support Project, (LESP) are already taking place across the country for monitors on the use of the system.