The story of UNMIL [Book]: Supporting decentralization in Liberia
The National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance, launched in January 2012, envisaged the deconcentration, delegation and devolution of functions and resources to local governments over a 10-year period, with the first five years (2012- 2017) dedicated to the de-concentration of services to county structures. The High Level Round Table on De-concentration, held on 4 December 2014 and chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, highlighted the need to aggressively implement the strategy, and in February 2015 an inter-ministerial plan was launched.
With the support of UNMIL and other international partners, the Government opened county service centres in all 15 counties. Today these centres provide over 20 different services to the general public, including marriage and business certificates, driving licenses, deeds registrations, zoning and land permits, school operation licenses, ECOWAS work permits and sociopsychological services. At present, nine ministries have a functionally coordinated presence in most counties, and local officials have been trained to provide services to local people.
In eight counties, operations were launched with equipment purchased by UNMIL quick-impact projects (QIPs). The equipment included computers, generators, and specialized drivers’ license printers. UNMIL also funded the installation of solar panels in four counties, which will support sustainable energy needs in those locations.
UNMIL supported the Governance Commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in drafting the Local Governance Bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives in 2016 and has been pending before the Senate. Implementation of the Act will provide the legal framework for the much needed governance reform, which is central to building peace and promoting reconciliation in Liberia.
The inadequacies and shortcomings of the country’s governance framework historically served as a source of conflict and contributed to enduring divisions in society. The Act will de-centralize political, social and economic power, allowing local governments and local communities to take charge of their socio-economic and political life.