- Civil society demand improved governance!
Blog post written by Prince Kreplah, National Executive Director - Citizens United to Promote Peace & Democracy in Liberia and Chairman, Liberia CSOs WASH Network.
Citizens take action to call for change in Liberia through their Water Action Month protest
In the wake of an increasing fragmentation of governance in the Liberian water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH sector), we as civil society decided to join the global month long advocacy campaign – Water Action Month – to call for change, and demand an improvement in the situation. So we took out demands to the doorsteps of the Ministry of Health!
Led by the Citizens United to Promote Peace & Democracy in Liberia, along with our partners, the Liberia CSOs WASH Network, we joined for a peaceful protest at the Ministry of Health offices. Held on Monday March 28 2016, over seventy five campaigners wearing t–shirts, with posters marked with pro-water and sanitation messages, stood hours at the entrance of the Ministry of Health building, demanding an end to what we are calling poor governance situation in the WASH sector.
The campaigners who were mainly women, youth, community leaders, members of the CSOs WASH Network and the media, protested with placards which outlined our key messages. Among others, these posters read “Establish the commission for service quality regulation”, “we want merger of WASH public entities for efficient and effective oversight and service regulation”, “allocate more funding for the division of environmental and occupational health for effectiveness”, and “good health can only be achieved when there is a clean, sanitary environment with safe drinking water”.
“This year Water Action Month is happening in which we are targeting a range of different Ministries and Agencies including the Governance Commission, here at the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Public Works. The month long campaign will climax with a series of lobbying meetings with legislators and cabinet officials of government, to make sure our messages and demands are heard”, said Moses Varfley, CUPPADL Policy and Research Officer in his introductory remarks.
Auther Weedor, one of the campaigners reading the petition statement that was submitted at the protest, called on the Minister of Health and the leadership to keep their promises to take action to end the water and sanitation crisis. “We also call on you and your Ministry leadership to accelerate action towards providing sanitation and water for all, while improving governance”, read the petition statement which was presented to the Ministry of Health officials.
The civil society campaigners in their petition demanded tangible and accelerated implementation of the Government’s commitment made at the Sanitation and Water for All high level Meeting. “Prioritise safe drinking water and sanitation; this should happen through a mandate to your ministry budget department to increase the WASH budget allocation, as well as to make the separation of budget lines for water and sanitation provision by each public institution an enforced policy”, the petition demand continued.
The campaigners want the Ministry of Health to influence the Governance Commission to submit its advise to the President on the establishment of the WASH Commission – which will be critical to facilitate better efforts for the acceleration of the improvement of governance in the sector. The statement called on the Ministry of Health, under their role as Board Members, to ensure the established National Water Resources and Sanitation Board is operationalised and active in improving the sector.
The protesters call on the Ministry of Health to began taking steps towards upgrading the Occupational and Environmental Health Division of the Ministry of Health to become a directory of hygiene promotion, which is outlined according to the statement as committed in the Liberia WASH Compact by the Government of Liberia. The civil society statement also challenged the Health Ministry to prevail on the Ministry of Public Works to made public and commence the dissemination of the last Join Sector Review Report.
The presentation of our petition and demands were followed by responds from Mr. Edward B. Tolbert, Deputy Minister for Administration, of the Ministry. During his response, Minister Tolbert welcomed the petitioners and acknowledged his Ministry did receive a letter from the CSOs WASH Network requesting the Ministry’s attention to today’s event. He said on behalf of the Minister and the Ministry of Health, he would receive the petition and take it as an advisement of civil society’s demands. Minister Tolbert then promised to take up the issues raised in the petition to the Minister of Public Works who, according to him, is to head the water and sanitation sector in Liberia.
“I will take the statement to my Minister, but for discussions around budget allocation and formulation, the Minister of Finance will look at that”, the Deputy Minister of Health said.
“The Ministry of Health have realized that water is a very essential commodity - in that, without water, we cannot live”, he stated. We are very glad for the opportunity to join Water Action Month – to make our demands heard, and to tell governments to keep their promises to ensure water and sanitation, and a better future, for all in Liberia!
Media coverage of the event was posted online on Shout Africa on 28 March 2016.