By Garmonyou Wilson
Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives (AGENDA) recently ended a three-day workshop to disseminate, discuss and share research findings on the Civil Society Index (CSI) with civil society actors throughout the country. The CSI is an action research project that aims to asses the state of civil society in countries around the world and generate information that is of practical use to civil society practitioners of civil societies that can be changed, and generate information and knowledge relevant to action orientated goals.
The CSI is designed to measure five core dimensions which are captured with a range of quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative indicators are used to construct the society diamond. The dimensions are civic engagement, level of organization, practice of values, perceived impact and external environment. The goal of the CSI project was the existence of active and effective national and international platforms for knowledge-based actions for the strengthening of civil society. The theme for the workshop was “Strengthening Civil Society’s Sustainability for its Contribution to Positive Change”.
Serving as keynote speaker at the opening of the three-day workshop, Governance Commissioner (GC), Elizabeth Mulbah said, “As you deliberate here in the next three days to discuss your findings, identify strengths and weakness of civil society as well as plan appropriate strengthening initiatives towards the building of a common understanding current state of civil society in Liberia. I have chosen to review with you the topic, “Sustainability for Positive Change”. Let me hasten to say that this is an area of great interest to us at the GC and your findings I hope will provide us clear direction.”
Commissioner Mulbah continued, “As you go around our country, you come across several projects that have been left incomplete. This is not only true for today but goes back several years in our national history especially projects that start with donor funds. As soon as the donor funds are used up, the project comes to a standstill or to a complete halt. The purpose for this workshop and the selected theme is meant to avoid such bitter and embarrassing experiences especially within the NGO/CSO community and is therefore laudable.”
She said further, “Let us bear in mind that aid can harm peace building and state-building as well as the strengthening of civil society’s sustainability for its contribution to positive change when it fails to tackle corruption or perception that aids delivery processes are corrupt; uneven distribution of aid creates resentment. There is lack of accountability to target groups and there is inappropriate assistance. There are confusion of military, political and development interventions when the assistance fails to create better life.”
During the close of the three-day workshop, participants from various civil society organizations broke-up into groups and were given one of the five core dimensions of the CSI and drew-up an action plan with a chosen action, strategy, specific tasks and potential partners in the implementation of the plan. J. Orando Koryon II who is the 1st Vice President for the Liberia National Student Union told reporters, “To finish the projects it takes hard work, wise guidance, self discipline, and patience. Anyone with vision can start a big project but vision without wisdom often results in unfinished projects and goals.” AGENDA with support from TrustAfrica and technical assistance from CIVICUS undertook the initiative to assess the state of civil society under the CSI Project.