Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Liberia: "We should not think that development will come only though diamonds and minerals"

Source: United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT)

At a workshop on Local Economic Development in Gbarnga this week, Liberia's Internal Affairs Minister Harrison Karnwea Sr. challenged local government participants to develop strategies that target the common man and woman.

"We should not think that development will come only though diamonds and minerals. Before the war, I started life driving a pick-up and selling salt. By progressing in a 'small-small' way, I soon owned a store" he said.

Over 50 participants from three counties have gathered to learn how they can make better use of local resources to stimulate growth in their respective towns and cities. "This workshop is a great opportunity to exchange ideas and understand the practical steps we can take to engage with the private sector" said Esther Warbey, the Mayor of Gbarnga. By the end of the workshop, six of Liberia's 15 counties will be have developed a series of short-term action plans. These will be judged through a competitive process and the strongest teams will benefit from further support and training involving Liberia's nascent private sector.

Endowed with tremendous natural resources and scenic beauty, Liberia is fast making progress in addressing the underlying factors which contributed to the conflict. One of these has been a legacy of relatively ineffective county governments.

In partnership with the Government of Liberia and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), UN-HABITAT has been working to build the skills and know-how of local government staff. Recognizing the need for effective local government as a means ensuring peace and sustainable development, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has embarked on an extensive redesign of how it serves the needs of its citizens who live in isolated localities with little access to basic infrastructure such as roads and water.

UN-HABITAT has been working to deliver low-cost and high-impact training for the past two years through the United Nations Country Support Team, thanks to the support of the Swedish International Development agency.