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OECD Report Shows Liberia is Becoming ‘Fragile’ State

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Monrovia – Systemic corruption, capital flight, impunity, disenfranchised youth, trauma, and the need for justice and reconciliation are some of the major issues affecting Liberia since the exit of the United Nations Mission (UNMIL) from the country, according to a preliminary report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Liberia.

OECD is a 36-member country organization committed to democracy and market economy, by comparing policy experiences, solving common problems, identifying good practices, and coordinating domestic and international policies for its member countries to solve social, economic and environmental challenges.

The OECD secretariat’s visit to Liberia from September 6–13, according to the report, was intended to observe “key impressions” to determine if the country is “Fit for Fragility Project”. 

The organization gathers cutting-edge evidence and analysis to inform and guide donor policies in fragile situations. It aggregates data and analysis on fragility and adopts an evidence-based view of what makes different contexts fragile, and helps ensure that issues driving fragility remain high on the international development agenda and drives more effective programming on the ground.

According the report obtained by FrontPage Africa, lack of trust against the government, persisting impunity for war crimes and “Corruption remains ingrained as an element of social relations and the normal way of life”.

The team held discussions with several stakeholders in the country, who consider the period of UNMIL as a “missed opportunity” for Liberia. 

“Others feel that the current context – which represents an initial phase of a new chapter in Liberia’s history – also risks becoming a lost opportunity to defuse social issues before they turn into sources of conflict,” the report said, adding that “in fragile contexts, conflict prevention often comes too late, leaving “conflict containment” as the only available approach”.  

‘Unmet Expectations’ 

The report added that unmet expectations of Liberians are starting to translate into “micro crises” as it referenced the June 7 protest, which was staged against economic hardship amongst other issues.

It also emphasized that “building trust takes time” for the government but added that this would be essential to an effective partnership. 

The report: “At this early stage of consolidating mutual trust between the government and its international partners, there is some tension between the principles of mutual accountability and ownership – and finding balance between holding the national government accountable for its actions and respecting its sovereignty can be challenging.”  

OECD is also calling for “well-implemented systems of checks and balances” can strengthen transparency, accountability, and efficiency within government structures. 

“These elements are also important to consider when it comes to strengthening the voice of the public through civil society organizations, which can not only be weak, but which are also often susceptible to influence from political actors and increasing incidents of threat.”

Gov’t’s Leader Capacity ‘Remains Limited’

The report also disclosed that international partners have suggested that the government moves into a partnership “on more equal terms” to pull its own weight while adding that the government’s “ability and willingness to exercise its role has been increasingly called into question.” 

It says government’s inability is due to lack of political will and technical capacity, coordination among national structures, which has a ripple effect on donor coordination; and discrepancy between laws and execution amongst others.

The report: “It is important to note that in Liberia, the recent replacement of political appointees in the context of the new government has created a perception of reduced institutional memory and policy expertise, while there is also a perception that parts of the government are reluctant to accept advisory support.” 

The report mentions that “ministers do not delegate their power,” something that creates bottleneck for decision-making and delays in the policy process and “disempowering effect on lower-ranking civil service professionals”. 

The frequency of meeting cancellations and the limited use of established meeting management techniques across platforms are all challenges to the government’s coordination system, the report said, adding that “these challenges translate into high transaction costs for donor coordination”. 

Tight Fiscal Space

At the same time, the report outlines that “tight fiscal space is putting pressure on the government’s ability to implement” development projects, thereby constraining the government to turn increasingly toward the donor community for budget support. 

Before such commitments can be made, most donors must have confidence in the government’s internal controls, the report added.

Weighing in on the government’s salary harmonizing scheme, the report says, international actors are debating as to whether or not the policy would restore the country’s economic trajectory.  

The report cautions that the “international community must find balance between preventing crises and rewarding success”. 

It mentions Liberia’s success as recovering from the Ebola outbreak and peaceful transition of political power but the report adds that some respondents are asserting that “Liberia is being punished for its progress in the form of reduced attention”.

“It is essential that the international community do its best to ensure a more rational and impartial approach when it comes its programming to fragile contexts”.

At the same time, the report warns that the country’s “evolution provides conflicting signals, which are difficult to capture in a single narrative”. 

“Liberia is no longer a first-tier country on the international political agenda, the in-country presence is struggling to present a compelling narrative that will help maintain required attention,” stated the report. 

“Indeed, the current situation presents a set of mixed signals – some indicate progress and opportunities, some – a worsening situation, while others indicate structural issues that are difficult to resolve.”

“While Liberia presents important untapped potential for development (notably agriculture, natural, and human resources), its complexities and challenges must also be understood and addressed.” 

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