Liberian youth continue to stand up for human rights, promoting peace, and contributing to sustainable development despite the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and their exclusion from influencing decisions about their own lives within their communities and the society at large.
As part of these efforts, Youth-led organizations participated in the first National Inception Workshop on maintaining national peace and security in Liberia, held in 2019.
This workshop identified some root causes of Liberia's 14-year civil war as triggers of violence, most of which remain unaddressed. They include land disputes, access to justice, the effective administration of justice, ensuring equality before the law, the exclusion of young people in governance, economic processes, and peacebuilding efforts.
The active participation of young people in this workshop, allowed them to identify and share their policy recommendations with decision-makers and development partners.
"We recommended that peacebuilding campaigns begin ahead of elections because change is not an event; it takes time to develop,” said Mr. Peter N. Dolo, Founder and CEO, Community Solutions Aid, which is based in Bong County, Liberia.
The participation of the youth at the first National Inception Workshop set the stage for their inclusion in the implementation of peacebuilding initiatives under the UNDP supported project “Promoting Sustainable Peace through National Youth Policy in the Framework of the 2030 Agenda”.
Since 2019, the project has provided opportunities, tools, capacity building and grants, for young people to engage actively in development and peacebuilding processes that influence national policies.
Youth groups have engaged in campaigns on inclusion in peace building and sustainable development initiatives aimed at bridging the divide within and between communities, as well as the need to amplify the voices of their peers for a peaceful, just and inclusive Liberia.
In 2021, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and UNDP, with support from the Government of Italy, launched an 8-month project that ran from June 2021 to January 2022 aimed at helping to promote peace in Liberia.
The overall objective was to increase the capacities of government, youth-led civil society organizations, and the broader community-based organizations in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of effective national youth policies and action plans for conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and sustaining peace in the context of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, Agenda 2030, and the Youth Peace and Security Agenda.
“Youth constitutes a huge portion of our population, and as such, we can’t ignore them. There’s no way we can make progress as a nation if we ignore the input of young people,” says James Monibah, Head of UNDP Liberia’s Inclusive Governance Programme.
More than 30 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) applied for grants to be part of the project implemented by Accountability Lab Liberia, in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS) and the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY). At the end of a competitive selection process, twenty CSOs emerged as finalists.
They received training in entrepreneurship, financial management, peacebuilding, project proposal writing, fundraising, sustainability, communication, and building partnerships during a boot camp.
The finalists then pitched their project proposals before a competent panel and 10 organizations, two from each of five counties - Grand Bassa, Grand Geddeh, Bong, Bomi, and Montserrado, won grants of USD 1,000 to implement peacebuilding activities in their various counties and communities.
Their campaigns centered on building trust between citizens and the justice system, strengthening youth participation in peacebuilding processes, and providing awareness on the dangers of mob violence, among other issues.
For example, the Young Women Initiative for Transformation (YOWIT) peace initiative in Grand Bassa County strengthened youth and community participation in the peacebuilding process through training, peace dialogues, and awareness on the prevention of violence in communities. Participants included representatives of political party youth structures, young people with disabilities, and youths living in ghettos.
In December 2021, the youth grantees at a National Stakeholders Forum supported by UNDP in partnership with Accountability Lab, presented a report on their key peacebuilding activities implemented in the five counties.
More than 30 stakeholders, including three representatives from the National Legislature, three Clan or Town chiefs, a county Development Superintendent, two community Chairpersons, members of the media, and representatives of the Federation of Liberian Youth, attended the event.
During the dialogue, young people engaged development and national partners on key issues that relate to their inclusion, outlined challenges and made recommendations for onward presentation to the central government.
Accountability Lab Liberia used information generated and compiled from stakeholder engagements and other activities to produce two key documents. A desk research document and a peacebuilding training curriculum that will serve as tools for engagement, program development, and advocacy campaigns that inform global conversations as a part of a multi-country project.