Brookeville, MD - August 5, 2010: On April 3, 2010, a group of Liberians of diverse backgrounds and professional expertise, residing in the Diaspora, assembled on the University of Maryland campus, to discuss the current state of affairs of their country and explored ways of contributing their knowledge and experience to strengthening Liberia's fledgling democracy.
Out of this meeting, Liberians resolved to organize themselves into a professional body called The Coalition of Professional Liberians For Grassroots Democracy (COL). COL also resolved to focus its efforts on research, policy-development, and political advocacy, oriented towards influencing Liberia's 2011 elections. COL has also espoused as its larger vision, offering alternative approaches to the failed socio-economic and political policies pursued by Liberian governments since the founding of the Republic, that have not produced qualitative change and improvements in the living conditions of the majority of Liberians. COL is further committed to putting forward new ideas that can grow and strengthen Liberia's emerging democracy and fragile institutions.
In its Policy Statement issued on July 26, 2010, marking the nation's 163rd Independence Anniversary, the Coalition outlined several post-conflict state building policy priorities and programs that it plans to organize its activities around to influence the process of national recovery and renewal.
Please Read Full-Text of Statement Below:General Policy Statement
In the declaration of Liberia’s independence to the world 163 years ago, the founding fathers articulated numerous public grievances against one master which they detested in the American South. They argued, “government is not the master, rather government is our servant; its only power is that which we the people allow it to have.” This profound vision of the role of government our founding fathers envisioned has never failed us, but for some time now, we have not upheld their vision and have failed them. We asked things of our government which the government was not equipped to give. We conceded authority to the national government and, in particular, the imperial presidency. We allowed politicians and government officials to rob the country of benefits that rightfully belonged to the people and watched a large number of the populace crushed below the poverty line in a land endowed with abundant natural resources.
In almost a quarter of a century, between 1980 and 2003, Liberia was plunged into flames, first by ten years of military rule, and then followed by fourteen years of civil war. Millions of dollars of properties were destroyed, a quarter million of the population decimated, and the progress of the country was rolled back by 50 years. Hundreds of thousands of our citizens were forced into exile all over the world. The national economy became a looting ground, as the major warlords partnered with unscrupulous foreign commercial interests in robbing the country of its natural capital - minerals, timber, and other agricultural products in the countryside. During this period, extreme ethnic and personal hatred became the social order of the day. Liberia became a failed state. The world soon scorned Liberia’s vision of human dignity and respect for freedom. Still there have been those who continued to invest huge material and human resources to keep our flag flying and preserving our fledging sovereignty.
By 2004, the nation was at risk. Voices were raised that Liberia be made a protectorate. But, there is no story worth celebrating than the progress we have made toward a movement from war to peaceful coexistence in this post-conflict era. We must summon all our energies to protect and build upon this progress. From this day forward, let us resolve that there will be no turning back in our march to a Liberia rich in love for our fellow citizen, and dignity and abundant opportunity for all our citizens.
While we acknowledge this gain, we are mindful that our country is largely under the oversight of international aid agencies-thus making it indistinguishable from a de facto protectorate. Yet, history has shown that progress and peace do not come easy, nor will our freedom and development be preserved by goodwill alone from our friends in the international community.
Liberia is undergoing changing times, but to have real, transformative change, Liberians must be ready to lead this change. We, Liberians of today, are not giving to looking to others to do for us what we are capable of doing for ourselves. In our youthful age, we have always hoped for a better tomorrow- and that tomorrow is now. This is a time for a new beginning! It is the time to turn the page from an entrenched status-quo resistant to change and begin to lay the foundations for the next generation of Liberians- our children, grandchildren, and those yet unborn.
Out of our crisis have sprung new opportunities for growth; an unprecedented number of educated and accomplished Liberians reside in the Diasporas than any other time in the country’s history. In their collective strength lies a more productive, fulfilled, and united people, with the potential to become the new beacon light of hope in Liberia to lead the change we want to see and also open the minds, hearts and souls of our people to the treasures of working together, and the values of faith, courage, love, and peace with ourselves.
It is against this spirit that we in the diasporas, constituted under the umbrella of the Coalition of Liberian Professionals for Grassroots Democracy, have resolved to organize our expertise around the following post conflict state building policy priorities:
1. Establish strategic relations with neighbors, leading countries, and international organizations
2. Pursue a national safety and security Policy and ensure respect for human rights
3. Develop, expand, and deliver a literacy-based pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 initiative
4. Strengthen family-school relationships and continue to expand civic, business, and community partnerships that support improved student achievement
5. Pursue a governance reform and inclusion policy to achieve system performance, ensure transparency and accountability
6. Foster and sustain systems that support, improve and peak public employees effectiveness, and performance, as well as assure public confidence in their government
7. Pursue effective economic stabilization and infrastructure development policy
8. Implement an emergency humanitarian needs and social welfare program for returnees and IDP
9. Strengthening justice and reconciliation programs
10. Decentralize development and local governance as a centerpiece in the strategy for addressing concentrated poverty.
11. Support, promote, and encourage programs to revive Liberia’s heritage and its cultural traditions and customs.
12. Implement effective campaign management, including outreach and fundraising
The proposed programs are aligned with the following "Trend Benders":
· Workforce excellence
· Early success
· Family and Community Partnerships
· Public and private partnership
· Organizational excellence
· Shared accountability
· Confidence in the justice system
· Job creation
· Local ownership and self-empowerment
These critical service sectors have been identified to help us reclaim our responsibility to accelerate the pace of national recovery and renewal. We believe that the colossal challenge of transforming our country from the perceived state of failure to a bright and new beginning requires the unwavering commitment and contribution of all Liberians despite where circumstances may have led them in the course of our national malaise. The time is now to renew our faith in each other, to strive together with all compatriots at home and abroad toward the ultimate goal of national recovery and the restoration of our country to an orderly, safe, and progressive society.
We believe now than ever before that there are no limits to growth and human progress when Liberians at home and abroad forge a common solidarity and work for the common good. Evidently, we held a peaceful election in 2005, installed a new government in 2006, and have begun recreating a nation once again vibrant, robust, and alive. The road ahead is crammed with challenges, which exceed the capacity of any one group that will grudgingly go at it alone or pretend to have all the solutions to accomplish the task. This is why we have to change our approach to the politics of winner takes it all and become pragmatic.
And we cannot achieve this divided and feeling suspicious of the parties less favored at the polls following elections; neither should we resist the inclusion of others in the search for solutions, because they escaped from the atrocities of the civil strife. If we meet this challenge together, these will be the years when Liberians have restored their confidence in each other and promoted a tradition of working for the progress of the least and most vulnerable in our society.
In the diasporas, we believed that our nation is poised for greatness and we will not tire nor rest until every Liberian enjoys the fullness of freedom, dignity, and opportunity to work and earn a legitimate income. Our loyalty to this belief and to each other is unquestioned.
We have a vested interest in the direction of a country we all claim as home, and we have no plan to shy away from pledging our allegiance to the republic for which it stands. We are resolved to doing what we know is right, and to do it along with all whose roots in this country are not by choice. If we can lower the threat levels of our intolerance for one another, history will say of us: These were the golden years--when the Liberian character was reborn, when Liberia gained new life, and Liberians demonstrated a spirit of national identity; when our communities were restarted; when our institutions became service institutions and not power bases; when our ability to work and earn a living wage was finally freed from government's grip; when we made sincere efforts at meaningfully struggling to help preserve peace in our troubled country; when Liberians courageously supported the struggle for individual liberty, self-government, self-empowerment, and turned the tide of history away from the imperial presidency, and darkness into the warm sunlight of social, economic, and political inclusion.
At the heart of our resolve is the idea to cultivate a spirit of national identity and patriotism, which begins with unleashing the drive and entrepreneurial genius of village inhabitants and people in depressed communities through a program of inclusion and popular participation in development. The ability to work and earn an income is at the core of human progress. Consequently, we have begun identifying partners in Liberia and look forward to joining them and expanding the frontiers of our desire to influence the outcome of the 2011 national elections and the quality of programs and services that will be developed for depressed communities all across the country. We are committed to the idea of less interference of government and politicians in villagers’ lives and the lives of private citizens who want to be the engine of growth and development. This is not to excuse government of its sacred responsibility to provide the most enabling conditions and service institutions under which local and private initiatives can thrive. We desire to be the voices of outrage for justice and against injustice. We want to think anew and move with a new boldness, so every Liberian who seeks work can create work, so the least among us can have an equal chance to achieve the greatest things--to own a home, raise a family, educate their children, and leave their community better than they met it.
The time has come for a new Liberia--a great national drive to tear down economic barriers and liberate the spirit of enterprise in the most distressed parts of our country. Liberia, together we can do this, and do it we must!
A dynamic economy, with more citizens self-employed and less reliant on government and foreign assistance for what they can do for themselves, will be our strongest tool to end dependency and move the vast majority of our people over the poverty line. The key to achieving such an economy and ensuring a progressive social transformation of our national life, is expanding educational opportunities for the children and youths of Liberia who, like their parents and grandparents before them, have long been denied resource access and thus suffered a recurring poverty trap. By reforming our public educational system starting with pre-school, elementary, then middle school, and high school, the foundations for social integration, national unity and civic awareness, can be promoted and encouraged. A campaign must be launched to eliminate mass illiteracy which has undermined the foundations of our society. We have reached a critical juncture in our history: to either perpetuate a culture of dependency in which others determine our fate, or take our destiny into our own hands. We ourselves must develop Liberia, and we must do it now! It must be done by all of us going forward with a program aimed at improving the condition and system under which all Liberians lived.
In so doing, we seek to make it unconstitutional for former government employees to be handed golden parachutes when they have amassed assets greater than their combined take home pay would allow during the course of their public service. Similarly, we seek to ensure that our government practice sound macroeconomic governance and management accountability. We affirm a commitment to working toward building national and local governments' capacities and rolling back responsibilities better handled at the local levels to the locals. While there is a place for the national government in matters of social compassion, our fundamental goals are to reduce dependency and upgrade the dignity of those who are poor and disadvantaged. This is a situation in which the village and depressed communities offer the best chance for compassion as a way of life and their local governments are empowered to care for their deprived, care for the young, orphans, the handicapped, and the unfortunate looked after and made self-sufficient, again.
We are united in our resolve as a band of patriots of a non-partisan coalition who will work with all Liberians to achieve a Liberian opportunity society in which all —from Cape Mount to Cape Palmas; Nimba to Grand Bassa; rich and poor, young and old--will go forward together and ensure that we no longer fail our system of government.
Together, let us build ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!
S. Sando Wayne, II