Liberia: 1.7 million sign up to vote with UNDP support

31 Mar 2011

Monrovia - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is among national and international agencies that laid the groundwork for the 1.7 million Liberians, almost half of them women, who last month completed registration to vote in upcoming elections.

UNDP worked with the peacekeeping UN mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and partners to support Liberian authorities, particularly the National Elections Commission, in setting up the infrastructure for this year’s constitutional referendum and presidential and legislative elections.

Funds managed by UNDP and so far contributed by Denmark, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Spain and Sweden have been used for all aspects of the first nationally-organized polls since the end of the country’s civil conflict in 2003.

“I feel very responsible, honoured and excited to be part of a democratic process that helps decide who will lead and develop my country,” said first-time voter Klubo Kollie, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, and who registered at Calvary Baptist High School in Montserrado County, northwestern Liberia.

Some 1,780 registration centres have been set up nationwide under a US$27 million election support project that is also strengthening institutions such as the Elections Commission, bringing electoral law into line with international standards and ensuring awareness of gender equity and conflict prevention.

During the voter registration process, UNDP supported training of some 50 Electoral Commission staff, and helped purchase and distribute more than 2,000 registration kits including materials such as indelible ink, camera equipment and solar panels to reduce energy costs.

The Elections Commission worked with more than 33 civil society organizations to disseminate voter and civic education messages across the country in English and local languages through radio, newspaper articles, television programmes, billboards and flyers.

Encouraging women’s participation

UNDP has also been working with the Ministry of Gender, political parties and other partners to boost women’s participation in politics.

Through an inter-party forum that promotes cooperation between and within political parties, UNDP helped organise a conference on women’s participation in political decision-making which brought together 17 of the 19 registered political parties.

The forum concluded by endorsing a 30 percent minimum quota for women within the parties, inclusion of gender-specific objectives in parties’ governing constitutions, policies and campaign manifestos, and an increase in lobbying within the legislature for ratification of international and regional treaties, protocols and conventions related to gender.

Additionally, 95 women’s civil society and community-based groups participated in training that provided them advocacy tools that specifically target women at the grassroots level, encouraging them to engage in the registration and voting process.