Over 50 government officials gathered in Buchanan Liberia’s second largest city to assess the impact of local leadership training involving some 3000 county staff held over the past two years.
Having been trained by UN-HABITAT to deliver county leadership programmes over two years ago and with a possible national election in the offing, the time was ripe to assess progress made and re-focus the programme to meet a rapidly developing country which is moving rapidly up the United Nation’s development index of late.
Minister Harrison S. Karnwea Sr, in his opening address acknowledged that radical changes are needed in the way public services are delivered in Liberia. “Given the challenges ahead of us all in the coming years, we need to make sure that the few resources that we have and those of our development partners including the Swedish International Development Agency are wisely used”.
Mr. Alioune Badiane, UN-HABITAT’s Regional Director for Africa and Arab States challenged the participants to prioritise their interventions in areas that will bring the greatest impact. He said, “In three words the answer is land, planning and finance. The most basic responsibility of any local government is to enable and encourage its citizens invest in their homes and businesses, to open plan how our cities are to grow sustainably, and financing critical infrastructure for this and the next generation. “
“The challenge for us is whether we can effectively build capacity at the local level, while national policy reforms are still on-going,” posed Assistant Minister Lee Mason, Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, adding, “We need to be pragmatic, and build on what is working. We have no choice but to deliver on our commitments we have made through the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the County Development Agenda, and training and capacity building critical elements to achieving this.”
According to the beneficiaries, the leadership training is having a measurable impact in the counties. “Before the training we simply did not work as a team, there were so many conflicts we did not even talk to each other-let alone the community!” a participant said. Learning and using key competencies such as decisions making, using power, strategic planning and financing have really made a difference in how work is now done on a day-to-day basis.
“Women rarely spoke at our public events, but through things like the training role-plays, people could see first-hand that women are often the key to solving some of the greatest problems we have. Before they were invisible, now we turn to them as the solution,” said a county official from Maryland.
UN-HABITAT has been implementing a two-year capacity building programme in Liberia, as part of the UN County Support Team in collaboration with UNDP, and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The programme is financed though Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). UN-HABITAT is also supporting the Government of Liberia Land Commission in its effort reform this vital sector.
Harrison S. Karnwea, Sr. Minister, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Liberia standing next to Alioune Badiane, Regional Director for Africa and Arab States and ©Bridget Oballa/UN-HABOTAT