MONROVIA – As a way of detecting early warning and finding solutions to critical issues that may have the potential to flare of conflicts in the society, a two-day training workshop, the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue is a leading international private diplomacy organization working to prevent and resolve armed conflicts through dialogue and mediation. Since 1999, HD has achieved dozens of peace agreements around the world. HD works on more than 75% of the world`s violent conflicts. We run multi-track mediation processes across Africa, Middle East, Eurasia, Asia, and Latin America. In Liberia, HD is currently supporting reconciliation process in Liberia by bringing together national, regional and local reconciliation and social cohesion initiatives in six counties. HD has also developed a reconciliation options paper for Liberia to foster sustainable peace and social cohesion. With funding from the United Nations Peace-building Fund (PBF), HD has organized a two-day training workshop to increase the capacity of key CSOs, including women’s and women-led organizations, in the facilitation of community dialogues and local conflict resolution as well as in early warning and response in Liberia at the Boulevard Palace Hotel, Monrovia.
In his brief welcome remarks, Mr. John Dennis, the Coordinator at the Peace Building Foundation Secretariat said his institution was pleased to identify wth the project and called upon the beneficiary of the grant from HD Liberia to make full use of the opportunities afforded them. He pledged further assistance from PBF to support the cause of maintaining and sustaining peace in the country.
In his brief introductory remarks before the program went to full business, Ambassador Femi Ajisomo, former ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, who was the lead facilitator of the program from Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, Nigeria told the participants that he was excited part of the program which was aimed at providing training and the necessary tools for groups involved in working with communities in peacebuilding and conflict resolutions.
He historicized that Center for Humanitarian Dialogue Nigeria has been involved with issues in the Liberia’s polity through what he called the “back channels” especially during the stalemate with the second round of the presidential election in 2011 between former PresidentEllen Johnson Sirleaf and the Ambassador Winston Tubman of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).
He said the civil society organizations who will be working with HD Liberia have a herculean task ahead amid the ensuing general election and to be robust in identifying signs of early warning and hotspots and work towards mitigating crises that may arise in some instances.
He told the audience that the 2023 will be more critical to the future of Liberia because unlike in 2017 general election which he described as “open election” because the incumbent, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was not on the ballot, the 2023 version will very crucial because President George Manneh Weah will be contested and like in many african countries one cannot rule out the incumbency factor.
He said the essence of the training is to provide the tools and build the capacity of the CSOs so as to adequately be prepared to engage the communities on how to detect early warning and find ways to resolve trending issues before they are blown into full crises.
The former diplomat who is well familiar with the Liberian political and social terrain said in order to enrich the training for the benefit of the participants, HD Nigeria as a leading facilitator has decided to bring in expert from Nigeria to provide the learning experience of what it has done in Nigeria in the area of early warning detection and conflicts were avoid and the communities reconciled. Involvement in resolution of communal and societal issues that have the propensity of transforming into large scale crises.
The Minister of Internal Affairs, Varney Sirleaf who breezed in while the program was on in his short statement before leaving said the training workshop is taking place at the time when the country has entered in a crucial stage of the election period especially so that the country will be using the biometric voter technology for the first time.
“This is where your role will be key. We are conducting elections this year and for the first time we will be using a new method, called the Biometric system. It is new and our people are not aware of how it works. You have to play the role that will make information accessible to our people, let them be aware of the process because it can ease some of the problems that will be associated with the biometric system. This can avoid us encountering problems that we do not envisage to have”, he said.
In the first paper presented in the day, titled “Early Warning and Early Response”, Mr. Emmanuel Bawoh, Project Manager of Humanitarian Dialogue Liberia said most of what the issues his institution will be occupied with are some of the salient ones the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) did not cover most of whom centered around reconciliation, early warning and how to mitigate signs of conflicts from their starting stage.
He set the premise of his discussion by outline the definition of early warning and conflicts as well as pointing out some theoretically causes of conflict which include human needs, relational, political and transformative and how conflicts arising from these could be resolved.
He said from research done by experts there are many factors that could contribute to crises in the country and pointed out from the research, Land/property disputes constitute 57.8%, followed by corruption at 40% and border/boundary disputes account for 22%. He also said Ethnic tensions, social relations and religious disputes account for 18.2%, 13.6% and 10.8% respectively and present moderate risks to peace and stability of the country/district or village.
The second paper of the day titled” Understanding Community and Rights based Approaches”, Mr. Pandarous Allison, a Commissioner from the Independent National Commissioner for Human Rights(INCHR) said the Act creating the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) defines human rights as follow: ‘The rights, liberties, and freedoms conferred on or guaranteed to persons by the Constitution and the laws of the Republic of Liberia and any agreement, treaty, or convention to which the Republic of Liberia is a party.
He emphasized the essence of upholding the human rights of a people as a way of preventing conflicts and outlined some important attributes associated with human rights such as that a nation or government is commonly judged on the status or image of its human rights protection record, it is a key factor for Investors’ decisions to invest in a Country, Sanctions against a Country are highly informed by its human rights status/record, Aide to a Country is also informed by the Human rights status of the Country, Admission into regional and international bodies is informed by the human rights status of the Country etc.
On the second day of the program, Saturday, February 4, 2023, “Case Studies on Community Dialogues with relevance to regional context was delivered by Mr. Nengak Daniel Gondyi, an expert brought in from Humanitarian Dialogue Nigeria and discussed on how the institution got involved and played key roles in the resolution of two conflicts, namely the Jos Crisis in Plateau State and the Aguta Natural Resource in Benue State. Two of the crises led to violence that led to the death of some citizens and destruction of properties.
Some of the beneficiaries of the training workshop include Platform for Development and Peace(P4DP), NAYMOTE Partners, Inter-Religious Council of Liberia(IRCL) and Organization for Women Empowerment(OWE) and LIFE. They all received grants to further their works in various areas of peacebuilding, early warning and resolving crises in their areas.