March 23, 2023

MIA, UN-Habitat Conclude Regional Consultative Meeting

As part of the National Urban Policy Formulation Regional Consultative Meetings in Tubmanburg, Harper & Gbarnga

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has completed a nationwide regional consultative conference with stakeholders to create a national urban strategy for Liberia in partnership with the United Nations Human Settlement Program (UN-Habitat).

The MIA and UN-Habitat divided the country into three regions to guarantee that locals in particular regions or counties had their say in the paper. It can be recalled that the Government of Liberia (GoL), through the Ministry of Internal Affairs Department of Urban Affairs, began the process of establishing the Liberian National Urban Policy in 2013, with the goal of reducing poverty and fostering sustainable and resilient Liberian cities.

When finished, Liberia’s National Urban Policy will serve to integrate the efforts of many sectors, create incentives for more sustainable practices, and create a balanced system of cities and towns by enhancing urban-rural links and ensuring equitable resource allocation.

As a result, the policy will not only aid in the reduction of urban and territorial imbalances within and between regions, but will also foster institutional collaboration and policy coherence in the pursuit of Liberia’s National Vision 2030. As a result, the regional consultative workshops are part of a larger formulation strategy integrated into the formulation phase of the National Urban Policy development, aimed at introducing the policy process at the subnational level and providing a forum for local stakeholders to engage in and express their needs and challenges.

The global urban population is anticipated to roughly double by 2050, making urbanization one of the most disruptive developments of the first century. Cities are increasingly concentrating populations, economic activities, social and cultural interactions, as well as environmental and humanitarian impacts, posing massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources, to name a few.

The Liberian government is establishing a participative National Urban Policy (NUP) with financing from the Boo Young Foundation and UN-Habitat to promote its national ambition of moving Liberia to middle-income status by 2030. The continuing policy development is part of a larger effort to help poverty reduction by incorporating urbanization into national development plans and constructing resilient and sustainable Liberian cities.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf initiated the NUP process in 2015, and it has since evolved into a mechanism for implementing the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Target 11.

 From feasibility and diagnosis to formulation, the NUP development process has progressed. The policy’s creation, execution, monitoring, and evaluation have all been influenced by the regional and national diagnoses. Liberian cities are rapidly urbanizing due to population expansion. According to UN forecasts, Liberia’s urban population will have nearly tripled to 6,689,000 by 2050.

In cities, basic services are inadequate and scarce. Understanding the resulting difficulties and increased in-service needs, as detailed in the North Central and South East Regional Workshop Reports, as well as the linked benefits of adopting SDGs and the New Urban Agenda principles as a response to urban growth, are opportunities.

The formulation phase is the third and most important stage in the development of a National Urban Policy. The formulation’s major purpose was to engage policymakers and diverse stakeholders, acquire additional key evidence, develop policy options, and formulate the NUP utilizing policy statements. In preparation for the Implementation Phase, this process aimed to improve policy coherence and integration, as well as strengthen the policy-making capacities of government institutions and civil society organizations (CSOs). The formulation phase also helps to build the capacity of key urban stakeholders for improved urban management and will include pilot demonstration projects to demonstrate policy implementation.

A group of urban stakeholders, national and local government representatives from various ministries and agencies, including Mayors and Commissioners from across eleven of the 15 counties, namely: Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Margibi, and Grand Bassa Counties, gathered in Gbarnga, Bong County, on May 5, 2022, at the Administrative Complex for more consultations as part of a broader participatory engagement strategy for the National Urban Policy Development process (Formulation Phase III).

On May 25, 2022, a similar exercise was carried out in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. The assembly at Tubmanburg marked the end of the NUP’s formulation process. Mayors from Monrovia and Paynesville City Corporations, as well as mayors and their representatives from Montserrado, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, and Bomi Counties, as well as representatives from numerous Ministries, Agencies, and Civil Society Organizations, attended. Liberia’s NUP is a long-term program aimed at assisting in the implementation of a global urban agenda for sustainable urbanization, such as the New Urban Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement.

Lucia Herbert, Mayor of Gbarnga City, welcomed the participants to the regional consultation in Bong County and reminded them of the many engagements the process had made to include their ideas into the policy. She also suggested that the organizers include the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) as a participant in future workshops, citing the numerous issues their cities had dealing with the LLA.

72 participants from 11 counties attended the program in Gbarnga, Bong County, representing various city corporations, women’s groups, youth groups, and CSOs. In her welcome remarks at the regional meeting in Harper, Maryland County, Harper City Mayor Hellen Blessing Howe thanked the attendees for coming and acknowledged the importance of a national urban policy development process led by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Urban Affairs Department) and supported by the United Nations Human Settlement Program (UN-Habitat).

 The Mayor of Maryland City reorganized the National Government’s responsibilities to continually improve and promote coordination between them and the local governments in the various counties, districts, municipalities, and townships in order to supervise, guide, harmonize, and advocate for financial and logistical support across Liberia’s cities. Assistant Minister for Urban Affairs Aboubakar Bah thanked the participants for coming from all over the nation to participate in the regional consultative meeting on behalf of Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf. These regional engagements, according to him, aimed to encourage all participants to actively participate in the discussion. ‘’This is one of the many workshops and interactions we continue to have in order for us to work and ensure that there’s a National Urban Policy for Liberia.”

Reported by: Abraham Kolleh Morris, Sr.

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