USAID Mission Director: Civil Society and Media are Key Stakeholders in Nation-Building

USAID Mission Director John Mark Winfield delivers a keynote address at the opening of a Business Plan Development Competition in Gbarnga, Bong County.

(Gbarnga, Liberia) — The Mission Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Liberia (USAID), John Mark Winfield, says civil society organizations (CSOs) and the media are important actors in the process of nation-building.

In a keynote address at a Social Enterprise Development Business Plan Competition in Gbarnga, Bong County, the USAID Director acknowledged the important role civil society plays in fostering civic engagement and advocating for the interests of citizens.

Under the Civil Society and Media Leadership (CSML) (what is this program, and how does it relate to his keynote speech—sponsored by USAID? Was the Social Enterprise part of this CSML program?)   program which seeks to mitigate the challenges of organizational capacity and financial sustainability faced by CSOs and media institutions, he said civil society is increasingly empowered to perform its role as a watchdog of government performance.

With reference to the news media, Director Winfield said journalists are a vital source in shaping public opinion and that they should use the opportunities provided under the CSML program to create a more responsible media, especially at the community level. “The role of a responsible media and developing that in a community radio station is extremely important, as you have the attention of the masses,” he said.

IREX-Liberia Country Director, Bill Burke, who also spoke at the two-day ___(what was it a seminar/workshop??:), __ in Gbarnga said that while there is a robust civil society environment in Liberia, CSOs are finding it difficult to pursue their vision due to a lack of resources. With funding from USAID, he said IREX is working with CSOs and the media to help them find alternative sources of funding.

Last May, as part of IREX’s and USAID’s (???) efforts to address the scarcity of resources and structural needs that hinder a sustainable civil society in Liberia, the CSML program set up a pilot Regional Support Center, which has worked with 20 CSOs and community radio stations in Bong and Nimba counties to train and help mentor them with a goal of making them financially and institutionally sustainable.

Through monthly visits, the civil society groups and community radio stations have been taught the concept of social enterprise development, market analysis, and business plan development. During a competition to select those to receive start-up grants, 17 CSOs and community radio stations that had completed their business plan presented it to a panel of judges.

At the close of the competition on Friday, January 31, ten of the 17 CSOs and community radio stations were awarded $US8000 each as start-up grants. Those awarded the grants include Radio Kergheama, Radio Karn , Radio Sehnwai, Center of Justice and Peace Studies as well as the Botanical Produce Association of Liberia(BOTPAL). Others include the Aiding Disadvantaged and Traumatized Women and Girls (ADWANGA), Effective Activities to Restore Stability for the Masses (EARS), Inter-Visionary Artists (IVA) and Super Bongese.