18 Organizations Benefit From USAID US$1.5 Million

MONROVIA-The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided US$1.5 million to18 Civil Society organizations to improve the capacity of citizens to push for policy changes in the areas of education, health, and local governance.

With the money, the organizations will be able to establish legal clinics, provide support for CSOs working to advocate for education policy reforms and implementation, empower parent-teacher associations to collaborate productively with school administration, monitor the drug revolving fund, and monitor school registration fees, among others.

Each organization will receive up to $75,000 in total. CSOs have the opportunity to network with their counterparts and constituencies at the national and sub-national levels thanks to the awards.

The recipients of the grants will assist residents of the counties of Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Bong, Nimba, and Lofa in amplifying their voices on important topics.  As part of its bottom-up, participatory development strategy, CSA focused on health and education because citizens rated such topics as top priorities in a political economic analysis survey.

At a ceremony held at the Sinkor Palace in Congo Town, the grants were revealed. More than 80 people attended the event including senior government officials, representatives from civil society organizations, grant recipients, staff from USAID, the US Embassy and many USAID implementing partners.

The launch according to Maybury, was a celebration of the strong collaborations USAID-CSA have built with the 18 groups striving to better the lives of Liberians. He reaffirmed American President Joseph Biden’s dedication to supporting civil society in its efforts to hold the government responsible, defend individuals’ rights, meet unmet needs, and promote policy reform.

He praised the efforts of civil society groups, particularly women, in persuading warlords and opposing factions to put an end to the Liberian civil conflict and stop the spread of COVID-19 and Ebola. The Local Government Act of 2018 and the Revenue Sharing Law, two significant pieces of legislation aiming at decentralizing government power, were both passed with the help of civil society organizations, according to him.

Maybury added, “Because it consists of the collective work of regular people to address citizens’ needs, President Biden has referred to civil society as the “lifeblood of democracy.”

He noted that Liberia’s wide range of civil society organizations has played a crucial role in helping the country weather numerous crises throughout the years.

In his remarks, he praised the efforts of CSA’s partners FIND (Foundation for International Dignity) and DELTA-HRF (Development Education Leadership Training in Action-Human Rights Foundation) for being instrumental in the formation of the Bong County Council, the first elected county council created under the Local Governance Act.

In order to advance decentralization and give individuals a say in choosing their own county-level development priorities, these two organizations are at the forefront of the field, according to Maybury.

The launch of the CSA’s civil society advocacy collaboration in the areas of health and education is a positive development.

According to Maybury, the CSOs involved in health and education can oversee the distribution of medications around the country. He intimated that although the U.S. Government supplies enough malaria treatments to cure everyone in the nation, these pills are frequently unavailable at medical institutions due to theft or inappropriate distribution.

“Civil society and the media can contribute to making sure that individuals who need medicine get it,” he said. “This work has the potential to be genuinely transformative as do other works. I hope to witness them spark significant change,” he pointed out.

A five-year program financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the CSA is currently in its second year.

In order to ensure that the groups are learning from each other building on their accomplishments and learning from their issues, Stephen Terravecchia, Chief of Party at CSA, said the health and education grantees are in the process of developing coalitions. He said the alliances will collaborate with business owners on local and federal advocacy concerns.

In order to effectively involve the government in the execution of the Local Governance Act, CSA believes that the county councils will serve as a crucial entry point for the grantees and civil society. “This will be accomplished by ensuring that local stakeholders work toward resolving manageable priority development concerns,” he added.

The United States Government and USAID were recognized by Abubakar Bah, Assistant Minister for Urban Planning at the Ministry of Internal Affairs for their assistance with Liberia’s decentralization process by strengthening the capacity of CSOs to contribute to nation-building.

CSOs according to him are the foundation of society noting that CSOs provide a conduit for gathering input from citizens on the development, enactment, and application of policy.

He advised the grant recipients to spend the funds entrusted to them responsibly and openly adding, “We hope that these CSOs would reach outlying areas that the government cannot.”

Harold Aidoo, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Liberia who spoke on behalf of the grantees, emphasized the value of civil society in engaging with the government, bringing attention to important issues including combating corruption, and advocating for policy reform.

He expressed gratitude to USAID and CSA for assisting the 18 organizations in continuing to advocate for common people.

“Civil Society contributes viewpoints that are frequently disregarded, such as gender, disability, diversity, and climate change,” he said. “CSOs are able to integrate transparency and accountability measures, such as monitoring government programs and advocating for better governance.”

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