Thursday, 13 September 2012

Post-2015 Blog Week: 'People have to be the drivers of the process!' by Prince Kreplah, Liberia CSOs WASH Network

Prince Kreplah is the Chairman of the Liberia CSOs WASH Network and Executive Director of Citizens United to Promote Peace & Democracy in Liberia. Here he shares his view of what should come after the MDGs, with an honest account of their successes and failures. 

After the MDGs expire I think we should retain many of the current goals, but increase the percentage level which countries should reach. There are 4 key issues which need to be addressed. Firstly, in order to realize the poverty/hunger goal, minimum wage must be improved especially in Africa. Here in Liberia, poverty is driven by the fact that pay is inadequately low. The salary does not meet basic social needs or the needs of the family, causing corruption. Secondly, the new framework needs to include some consideration of how to improve political governance and to strengthen civil society. Thirdly, we need a new target which improves the welfare and wellbeing of people with disabilities. Finally, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) need to have a standalone goal. Too often, WASH is subordinated to health and other areas, when really water and sanitation actually cause other issues, so should be prioritized and made visible. In the MDGs, water and sanitation was under Goal 7 and was overshadowed by environmental issues.

The new global development framework should draw on the experiences of the MDGs. In Liberia, the MDGs have been successful to some extent. Two goals have been particularly successful: gender equality has definitely improved – there are now many more women are playing key role in political governance (in parliament and cabinet) and women have much better access to jobs in private and public sectors. This has been led by our President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her government with support from civil society and development partners. Also, access to water has improved, and access rates for drinking water have increased from around 20-25% to around 60-70%. Though sanitation is still underperforming, evidence is that in 2008 sanitation access was put at little over 14% (Poverty Reduction Strategy [PRS] I) and now according to PRS I the access level of sanitation is 17%. Additionally, hygiene is poorly performing: in 2008 access level was 5% and now PRS II put the hygiene level at the same 5%. 

On other goals such as infant mortality, poverty and hunger, there has been much less progress. Despite several interventions, poverty rates are still unacceptably high, at around 67%. This only represents a reduction of one quarter from the original figure, when the target was to cut the proportion of those living in poverty by half. Infant and maternal mortality is also a serious problem, and we have a serious lack of skilled health providers. 

Overall I believe that Liberia has not done significantly well at achieving the MDGs, something I blame on low political will, low resources and low technical capacity. The national budget did not factor in the MDGs and the public sector is not giving enough resources. Up to 80-90% of financing of programs that promote the realization of the MDGs came from international organizations and donors. It is only recently that the national budget and the Poverty Reduction Strategy have been aligned with MDGs. There is also a lack of strong governance and accountability which affects the MDGs from being reached: some of the money has gone into private pockets and not service delivery.

If the international community wants the new development framework to generate more impact than the current MDGs, people have to be the drivers of the process. Although we have heard about global consultations taking place, we’ve been unable to find out where and when these consultations will take place. There is supposed to be national level consultations, but these have been very rigid, and have not involved civil society or community organizations. Only those in the public sector, with close connections to the power that be, have had an input.

It is key to include strong monitoring and evaluation framework in the post-2015 agenda – especially at the national level. This was something missing from the MDGs – a yearly progress report is not frequent enough, we need quarterly or six month reports in order to establish how to move forward.

Many of the current challenges that the MDGs face are due to low participation when they were devised - rural people have never heard of the MDGs, and we don’t want this situation again. In order to make real progress, we need to involve community, local, national and civil society organizations from the beginning!

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