Thursday, December 2, 2010
Conference on Mitigating the Use of Violence in Liberia’s 2011 Electoral Contests
On December 2, 2010, the Center for International Policy and Innovation (CIPI) at Carnegie Mellon University partnered with the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the National Electoral Commission of Liberia (NEC) to host a three-day international conference on Mitigating the Use of Violence in Liberia’s 2011 Electoral Contests. Held at the Palm Spring Resort and the Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia, the conference was supported with generous funding from Humanity United, a philanthropic organization headquartered in Redwood, California. The aim of the conference was to empower key stakeholders in building upon the success of Liberia’s recent years to ensure an election in which citizens can cast their vote without fear of violence.
The proceedings were comprised of two distinct programs: a two-day high level discussion designed to provide a platform for officials, civil society organizations, and international partners to align their election expertise in the area of preventing violence and share best practices. A third day offered a civil society peer-to-peer learning engagement to share tools and expertise for election violence monitoring with newly accredited organizations. Approximately 80 participants took part in each segment of the conference activities.
Conference participants including Thokozani Khupe, Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe (second from left, in dark blue), pose for a class photo with H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (fourth from the right, in light blue) following the opening ceremonies.
Attendees included a wide coalition of governmental leaders, county representatives, scholars, politicians, diplomats, non-profit representatives and civic leaders from across the country and throughout the region. The distinguished participants shared best practices from their wide array of experiences and discussed steps that can be undertaken to ensure stability and safety as the nation prepares for the voting in the October 2011 Presidential and Legislative elections.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, addresses the distinguished participants during the opening ceremonies.
The conference was officially opened with an address by the Honorable Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia and Honorary Conference Chair.
Attendees and media representatives also received words of welcome from conference organizers, Dr. Jendayi Frazer, CIPI Director and former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Mr. James M. Fromayan, NEC Chairman; Dr. E. Gyimah-Boadi, CDD-Ghana Executive Director; and Dr. Randy Newcomb, President and CEO of Humanity United. The organizers were joined by Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Autonomous Commissions and Agencies, and Rep. Gabriel B. Smith, Chairman of the House Standing Committee on Elections and Inaugurations, who oversee the conduct of elections through their respective committee chairmanships. The United States Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, presided over the conference opening and served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the opening plenary.
Throughout targeted sessions, the participants discussed a range of issues and factors contributing to electoral violence, challenges confronted when organizing and conducting free and fair elections, and practical steps that can be taken to prevent the recurrence of electoral violence. The conference sessions were divided into such topics as:
- Building on the Success of the 2005 Electoral Process
- The Incidence and Character of Liberia’s Election-Related Violence
- Mapping Conflict-Prone Regions
- Tools and Techniques for Preventing Violence
Minister of Gender and Development, Vabah Gayflor (left foreground), facilitates a breakout discussion
on preventing electoral violence during the first day of the conference.
Key presenters and panelists at these sessions included senior leaders of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the West Africa Network for Peace Building, Open Society Institute for West Africa, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), and National Democratic Institute (NDI). The Minister of National Defense and the Solicitor General of Liberia served as presenters during the conference sessions, the Ministers of Gender & Development and Youth & Sports facilitated breakout sessions, and the Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism took part in the conference proceedings.
Amb. Yusuf Nzibo, Commissioner of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya (IIEC),
delivers the Conference Luncheon Keynote Address.
Ambassador Yusuf Nzibo, a Commissioner from the Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya (IIEC), delivered a special keynote address during the conference luncheon on December 2, where he spoke about Kenya’s experience following the December 2007 elections. The IIEC received an honorary UN Award in October 2010 for its “exceptional achievements in delivering electoral reforms.”
Rapporteurs for the two day discussions compiled summaries from the sessions and extrapolated key points into a conference resolution that was developed and endorsed by the participants assembled. By endorsing the resolution, participants committed to supporting greater cooperation between government and civil society to collectively work toward a free and fair election for the citizens of Liberia.
On December 4, the CSO Peer Learning Forum was held to focus more directly on the role of civil society organizations in achieving a peaceful and fair electoral process free of violence. The proceedings were led by conference co-organizers from the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana). Over the course of several sessions, participants from more than 50 civil society organizations shared tools and expertise for election violence monitoring through peer to peer engagement, presentations, and breakout sessions. Workshop discussions were divided into topics including:
- Role of CSOs in Promoting Free, Fair, Credible and Violence-Free Elections: The CDD-Ghana/CODEO Experience
- Deterring and Preventing the Use of Violence during Elections
- Media Reportage: Bane or Blessing in the Conduct of Peaceful Elections
- Building Partnerships for Peaceful Elections
Participants in the Civil Society Peer Learning Forum discuss best practices during a group breakout session.
The forum was convened by Kojo Asante, Head of Programs for CDD-Ghana, who served as the master of ceremonies for the day’s events. Leaders of the organizing institutions, Dr. E. Gyimah-Boadi, CDD-Ghana Executive Director, Cllr. Elizabeth Nelson, NEC Co-Chairman; Dr. Jendayi Frazer, CIPI Director; and Mr. Ed Marcum, Director of Investments for Humanity United, offered words of welcome and provided participants with a summary of key findings from the first two days of discussion. Presentations and insights were shared by panelists and session facilitators from IREX Liberia, NDI, Ushahidi Liberia, Search for Common Ground, WANEP, Liberia National Law Enforcement Association, and the Press Union of Liberia. A Summary Report was prepared that captured the key lessons learned, best practices, and commitments made by the forum participants.
The Conference to Mitigate the Use of Violence in Liberia’s 2011 Electoral Contests was a successful undertaking that created platforms for discussion and action around this important topic. Dr. Frazer, the director of CIPI, succinctly described the driving impulse behind the hard work that went into the conference, declaring that, “We approach our work from the fundamental principle that nobody should have to risk dying to cast their vote,” Frazer said. “Our partnership will help us fulfill that goal.”
Related News Stories about the Conference:
- Executive Mansion of Liberia: “2011 Elections Defining Moment for Liberia – President Sirleaf”
- Inquirer Online: International Confab to Mitigate Violence in Elections Begins Tomorrow
- Liberian Observer: NEC Moves Against Political Violence in 2011 Elections
- allAfrica.com: Liberia: 2011 Elections Crucial for Country
- CIPI Press Release: CIPI Receives Grant To Mitigate Violence In Liberia's Upcoming Elections
- CDD-Ghana (Conference Partner) Press Release: International Conference on "Mitigating the Use of Violence in Liberia's 2011 Electoral Contests"
- Humanity United Press Release, Conflict prevention conference in Liberia