European Nation Cultivating National Development in Post War Nation
Monrovia — In December 1989, Liberia descended into anarchy as a result of violent armed conflict that did not only undermine social and economic development but fundamentally prevented development cooperation between Liberia and several of its international partners and other friendly nations.
With the cessation of hostilities in 2003, following the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord, several development actors, both regional and international, have continuously remained uniquely involved in different ways, to resuscitate the struggling West African Nation – the oldest African Republic.
Amongst several of Liberia’s friends is the European nation, Sweden, which had historical ties with Liberia prior to the civil war. Sweden’s relations with Liberia were established in the 1960s and 1970s through trade cooperation, noticeably the famous LAMCO Mining Company, now occupied by ArcelorMittal Liberia, the world’s biggest steel maker.
On June 28 this year, Sweden was elected to the Security Council and the election of the European nation is expected to boost Swedish foreign policy and diplomacy but could also spark more promising development for Liberia.
“Thank you for all countries that voted for us, that have voted for Sweden because they believe what we stand for: a strong United Nations, peace and development, human rights and international law and gender equality,” an exciting Margot Wallstrom, Sweden Foreign Minister reacting to her country’s election to the UN Security Council said.
The election to the Security Council seat of a Nordic country which opts for solidarity and cooperation epitomizes how nations that genuinely help poor countries in their development drives can eventually be rewarded.
As a country which has been rendering so much for Liberia through development aid and the Peace Building Commission, Sweden has also spent millions of dollars on Liberia’s decentralization projects, including the setting up of service centers across the country.
Sweden has been helping with Liberia’s postwar development program in several areas, including strengthening of the financial sector through its development arm–Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
“The Swedish government has been good partners to Liberia… .especially in your goal to reduce poverty,” Commissioner General Tamba stated recently when she led an LRA delegation to the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia.
On July 21 this year, the Embassy of Sweden and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) signed an agreement for the implementation of a four-year project: ‘Empowered and Fulfilled,’ with an objective to increase the knowledge and skills of young people between 10 and 19 years of age about their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
With the significant partnership and the country’s leadership in the UN and the New Deal, as well as contributing to Liberia’s membership to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Accession, showcases the massive opportunities for Liberia’s reconstruction process.
Observers say the existing bilateral relations between Liberia and Sweden could scale up as Sweden plays a significant role in the peace building and development of Liberia.
Following the 2009 successful implementation of United Nations ‘Peace building Emergency Window’ pilot project in the then troubled Nimba County by Inter peace which is now known as Liberian Peace building and research NGO- Platform for Dialogue and Peace (P4DP), Liberia was placed on the PBC agenda on 16 September 2010 based on a request from the Security Council.
The Peace building configuration, previously chaired by Jordanian Ambassador to the UN, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein and former Swedish Ambassador Staffan Tillander, worked with the Liberian Government and international and local partners to address the country’s Peace building priorities in the areas of rule of law, security sector reform and national reconciliation.
Amidst growing apprehension among Liberians, following UNMIL’s exit as well as the constraints with logistics for 2017 elections and unfinished reconciliation matters, many observers believe that Liberia runs a greater risk of relapse to conflict.
But with partner like Sweden – a country that has made significant strides in developing Liberia–there’s confidence about a stronger partnership which will yield more support for Liberia.
With its new seat and current role as the Liberia’s PB Configuration Chair, it is anticipated that Sweden will prioritize and promote coherent and inclusive national reconciliation initiatives because this is a core peace building priority in the Statement of Mutual Commitments, which is the compact between the PBC and the Government of Liberia.
Unlike the past when comparatively enormous efforts were placed on state building activities evident by SIDA and other developments partners pre-occupation with infrastructure and ‘hardware’ prioritization in the GoL declared ‘Growth Corridor’, this time around, Sweden is expected to give attention to the ‘software’, which involves among others mending relations between the State and society, between communities, individuals and overcoming social, political, and religious cleavages.
Sweden has expended resources in supporting international and national CSO capacities since 2012. Prior to the outbreak of Ebola, SIDA began implementing a project entitled ‘Strengthening the Capacity of Civil Society to Promote Sustainable Governance in Liberia.’
The overall objective of the project was to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations in Liberia in promoting sustained democratic culture, the protection of human rights, and the inclusion of citizens in decision-making.
Several international organization including Kvinna till Kvinna (KtK), Search for Common Ground (SFCG), National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and Mercy Corps (MC) have all received substantial fund in Liberia.
In 2015, P4DP implemented a project funded by SIDA Stockholm as part of a three country pilot study looking at resilience in Liberia, Guatemala and Timor Lest.
The Liberian study identified assets and capacities that Liberians developed in the household, the communities and even individually to overcome shocks, stress and stressor.
Referred to as Framework for Assessing Resilience -FAR, the research was a pioneering work in that it documents attributes that glue Liberians together than what divides them.
With concerns of mob justice looming, which could threaten government infrastructures and private properties by aggrieved youth, it suggests that state building and peace building are not mutually exclusive but need to go hand in hand.
Without addressing the behavior/social- ‘software’ component of the underlying factors for violence and crimes, investment in the ‘hardware’ remains vulnerable. Experts say the current PB Configuration Chair for Liberia, Ambassador Skoog, will prioritize reconciliation process and activities by supporting and recognizing indigenous activities and assets that unite rather than divide Liberians, collaborate with state and non- state actors in stamping out discrimination, nepotism, favoritism, corruption and marginalization.
In addition, experts recommend that attention should also be given to constitutional review, decentralization and electoral reform, which are essential parts of the broader peace building process in Liberia. These are transformative changes and critical for building trust and restoring hope for Liberians.
Sweden’s seat on the Security Council is an acknowledgement that a global policy for sustainable peace and development pays off especially for countries like Liberia on a long road to recovery.
For the United Nations, Sweden ascendency means one of its largest donors is taking its engagement and ideas, along with its demands for reform and change, into the organization’s innermost room. And the expectation is that Liberia may reap a significant fruit to foster its development.