Liberia

Liberia: UNHCR welcomes official launching of district development committees

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Monrovia/ Gbarnga, 16 July 2005 (UNHCR) -- UNHCR's Community Empowerment Projects (CEPs) got their official seal today, when Charles Gyude Bryant, Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), launched the District Development Committees (DDCs) at Gbarnga city in Bong County.
During the ceremony at the Administrative Building in Gbarnga, to which Representatives of UNDP, UNMIL, USAID and UNHCR had been invited, Gyude Bryant addressed the numerous audience of Paramount Chiefs, Clan Chiefs and the local community to remind them of their responsibility to commit themselves to these projects supported by the International Community and to actively participate: "These projects are meant for you. And you will have to accomplish them."

In his speech, Dan Morais, Minister of Internal Affairs, called DDCs "grass-root governance at community level" and praised the initiative as a "critical link between the community and the county." Wilbert Thompson, Director of USAID, spoke even of an "historical event".

"This is recognition that communities are capable of managing their own affairs, they are best to judge their needs and take initiatives in a collective fashion to meet their aspiration", Golam Abbas, Acting Representative of UNHCR, said. While the burden of reconstruction will obviously have to be shared by all the Humanitarian and Development actors supporting the NTGL, Abbas said, DDCs will empower the communities to make informed decision on their needs and take active part in the recovery process of Liberia.

"UNHCR will support this to cover as many returning communities as possible with the hope that DDCs will even make it easier for the displaced population be they refugees, returnees or IDPs to reintegrate in their home communities and transform Liberia into a prosperous nation", the Acting UNHCR Representative concluded.

With today's official launching authorities of 17 DDCs operating mainly in Bong and Nimba Counties, have been empowered, more are still to follow.

The UN Agency for Refugees has implemented over 1, 100 CEPs since the Voluntary Repatriation Operation began in October 2004. By consulting District Development Committees the priorities for each Community are identified effectively.

For further information please contact

UNHCR Media relation Public Information Service
Haider Building, Mamba Point, UN Drive Monrovia
Annette Rehrl, Public Information Officer, mobile 077 -- 044 856, Rehrl@unhcr.ch
Sarah Brownell, Public Information Assistant, mobile 06 -- 528 083, Brownell@unhcr.ch