As part of project initiated by Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, CEMESP with support from Open Society Institute of West Africa, OSIWA, a total of hundred delegates have participated in the first ever Open Space dialogue to state their positions on key issues they want in the decentralization law. It was based on the theme: Generating Citizens Inputs on the Decentralization Law in Liberia.
Delegates were hosted at the University of Liberia Auditorium on Friday18th under the auspices of a German consultant Julianne Westphal who had earlier trained CEMESP staff in facilitating the Open Space dialogue in the other two clusters of the country.
The Monrovia delegates representing cluster one were invited from Cape Mount, Bomi, Gbarpolu, Margibi and Monsterrado counties. They were an admixture of youth and elderly, men and women. Their views have been obtained to be merged with other citizens input from the rest of the country in the second and third Open Space to be convened in Gbarnga and Zewdru.
In his welcome address Executive Director of CEMESP Malcolm W. Joseph impressed on the audience that this process is an enrichment of other consultations that had been done in the country on the crafting of the decentralization policy.
He said CEMESP’s comparative advantage in this process is evident in the Open Space tool employed-that affords people wide range of latitude to set agenda and generate the issues in break-out groups which have been captured in what is dubbed Book of Proceedings. He disclosed the spirit behind the project was against the background of engagements with stakeholder across Liberia who said their views were not reflected in the draft decentralization policy.
CEMESP therefore comes to this project to fill gap in citizens’ participation in the crafting of a decentralization and local government framework that would lead to effective service delivery and accountability at the level of the counties.
OSIWA Program Manager Jackie Eastman said they supported this project because its objectives cut across their three thematic of good governance, human rights and economic justice. She used the occasion to appeal to the government to consider the inputs generated and act on same for sustained impact.
Program Manager of Decentralization in the Governance Commission Ibrahim Nyei made a presentation in participatory fashion whereby the microphone was passed around the circle constructed. It emerged that the people do not know about the decentralization policy and what it contained.
Nyei therefore set the tone of the proceeding around the transformative intentions of the decentralization law and the status of its implementation as one of the key proposition in the constitutional review process. He implored the people to do justice to the intent of the Open Space dialogue as it will aid the referendum that leads to enactment of a popular decentralization law.
Delegates were full of laudatory remarks at the close of event and affirmed the uniqueness of the participatory process of the Open Space dialogue model.
Consultant Julianne Westphal said she was impressed by the quality of interest and passion displayed by the participants which is an indication of their desire to contribute to state building.
Key issues captured in their book of proceedings include: election of local authorities as opposed to presidential appointment, revenue collection of natural resources to be localized with huge percentage allotted to the counties, youth, children and women in decentralization, infrastructural development with emphasis on improved health and education, localization of sector ministries, department and agencies, civic monitoring of projects and programs, among other things.
CEMESP had last month debriefed a cross section of the delegates about the project design that has advocacy media engagement, lobby and monitoring of set benchmarks to arise from this project.