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Sierra Leone, assessing the root causes of fragility

14 January 2020 at 00:39 | 1357 views

On Thursday, November 14th, 2019, the Government of Sierra Leone through its Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (MoPED) with support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized a one-day workshop in Freetown to validate the findings of a nation-wide fragility assessment. The results of the fragility assessment will be critical to inform a road map in support of Sierra Leone’s efforts to move out of a state of fragility.

The workshop followed long-term planning and a series of activities including a fragility assessment conducted in 2012 which Sierra Leone was among the first g7+ countries to participate in. The fragility assessment geared towards establishing Sierra Leone’s state and level of fragility, and to develop tangible actions through its Medium-term National Development plan the then “Agenda for Prosperity” with the main aim of helping the country to lay foundations for transitioning out of fragility.

The New Deal Fragility Assessment uses a fragility spectrum against which various aspects of development (in line with the five PSGs) are plotted on a scale from 1 (more fragile) to 5 (less fragile).

In 2016, an update of the 2012 fragility assessment exercise was undertaken, to inform the successor Medium-Term National Development plan. Findings from the 2016 assessment indicated that the country was at the transition stage of the New Deal’s Fragility Spectrum. The report further showed that, among the indicators of the 5 PSGs, addressing injustices and increasing people’s access to justice was the most fragile and difficult goal to achieve in Sierra Leone.

In 2019, the Sierra Leonean government took it upon itself to fund and run district-level consultations to update the Fragility Assessment. UNDP supported the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development in the finalization and validation of the 2019 Fragility Assessment. The findings of the 2019 Fragility Assessment will be crucial in forming the baseline and indicators for the “Walking out of Fragility” roadmap to define the country’s path to move out of fragility by 2023.

Following the Government-led consultations at community level, the November 2019 workshop was held in which a group of almost 100 participants with representatives from national and local government, civil society organizations (CSOs), traditional leaders, women and youth groups met to validate the findings of the nation-wide Fragility Assessment. The Fragility Assessment in 2019 is Sierra Leone’s third, after the first assessment in 2012 and its update in 2016.

During the workshop, participants discussed the findings of the 2019 Fragility Assessment in five working groups with each group representing one of the 5 PSGs. The groups held bold interactions to inform the assessment.

For instance, the PSG 1 group members on inclusive politics questioned the assessment’s statement that ‘politics in the country are highly inclusive’. “A lot more has to be done, more efforts are needed to encourage vulnerable groups to stand up to govern”, said one participant from the group. “Capacity building for women, youth and other marginalized groups such as people with disabilities should be provided.” Said another. “We have to change the cultural and social constraints in order to get more women and youth into politics”, added a youth advocate.

The discussions brought to forefront the gaps and challenges of realizing inclusivity in local politics. For example, “in the Northern districts of Sierra Leone, women are still not allowed to become paramount chiefs, and even if it is allowed in other districts there are very few women in these leadership positions. ‘This is the modern age. It is time now to give us the space!”, one female member demanded from the traditional leaders in the room.

Additionally, there were a lot of frustrations around the ‘winner takes it all’ system in politics, which foster domination of governance by a single party in local councils. However, the participants recognized the efforts and progress made by the government towards ensuring a more inclusive national political system.

In the PSG 2 group on security, participants discussed whether the security situation in the country had improved over the last years. They agreed that there is more trust in the security sector but pointed that more improvement is still needed. The perception of the participants is that conflict between cattle herders and crop farmers is reducing, except in Karene and Bonthe districts. Youth unemployment, gangs and the use of harmful drugs remain a security challenge, the group cautioned adding that, Gender-based violence is on the increase and needs security attention.

PSG 3 working group on Justice highlighted the following obstacles in and issues to consider within the sector to further clear Sierra Leone’s pathway out of fragility. They said that: Access to justice and confidence in the justice system has improved since the 2016 assessment. This can be attributed to the fact, that the numbers of residence magistrates have increased significantly. Despite these improvements, the justice sector still faces some challenges which are related to conflict of interest by those administering justice. Justice is usually delayed. The participants also highlighted logistical challenges such as inadequate personnel, lack of inadequate vehicles to move inmates, political interference (‘orders from above’), societal and tribal influence.

PSG 4 (Economic Foundations – employment and improved livelihoods) working group identified high levels of unemployment and lack of economic opportunities in Sierra Leone as crucial issues for meaningful and sustainable peace and development. Agriculture forms the main source of livelihood in most of Sierra Leone therefore, “farmers should have access to financial grants”, a participant representing the farming community demanded. Others complained about the low farming merchandise, which results in low farming activities and poor production. The group also recognized that there is widespread timber logging which has negative impacts on the environment. They were also concerned that the closing of two mining companies, resulted in high unemployment rates the associated districts. However, the participants acknowledge the improvements regarding the Free Quality Education (FQE) programme: “With FQE, we have adequate teaching and learning materials in schools, which will improve the economic situation of our children”, the participants hope.

The last group paid attention to PSG 5, Revenues and Services. While the participants acknowledged existing services, they put emphasis on decentralization: “Services are mostly centralized in cities and are very inadequate in rural areas.” Others highlighted emerging conflict between local councils and national administration on revenue collection. “There is low awareness on collection and usage of revenues and that is in addition to conflicting policies”, one participant pointed out. Consequently, the harmonization of policies on revenue collection was a demand highlighted by the participants. Despite improvements regarding the delivery of services, the participants still see room for improvement in education, safe drinking water, electricity, infrastructure, as well as garbage collection.

The Ministry of Planning and Economic Development is now working on the consolidated Fragility Assessment Report 2019. Thanks to the vivid discussions and outspoken participants, plenty additional points were raised and will enrich the Fragility Assessment Report. The findings of the 2019 fragility assessment will be critical in forming the baseline and indicators for the Roadmap “Walking out of Fragility”, to ensure that the root causes of fragility will be addressed. UNDP will continue its support to the Government of Sierra Leone to tackle the underlying challenges of fragility and will be a partner on Sierra Leone’s way to resilience.

UNDP-Sierra Leone

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