Lobbying and Advocating for a Strengthened Liberian Civil Society
NARDA has a long tradition of advocating for the cause of its member organizations. Deriving the Latin meaning of the word to advocate literally translates to “coming to one said”. In the NARDA Network the members combine their strengths to aid each other in their causes. The main function of the Sector Information Groups (SIGs) is the combination of strengths of the members to broaden the impact of combined advocacy activities. Whilst the SIGs are operating in a sector-specific way, there is an additional component of advocacy and lobbying inherent in the way the NARDA Network operates.
Next to the advocacy, lobbying and campaigning activities in sectors such as health, education, gender or youth, it remains a further key challenge to strengthen the Liberian Civil Society on a global level organized in the NARDA Network.
Today Liberia is emerging from destruction and deprivation that resulted from years of civil conflict. The conditions on the ground are shifting from immediate concerns such as the provision of emergency relief, to long-term peace, development and democratic governance. Therefore, there is a need by Liberian civil society to adjust to this changing reality. However, the sheer scale of the needs and the huge amount of resources required to meet those needs shows that something more is necessary to address the ability of the Liberian Civil Society to address chronic poverty, vulnerability and uneasy peace in Liberia.
The main actors and sources in this advocacy approach are the members of the network. The process is coordinated by the national secretariat, where advocacy and lobbying activities are perceived as one of the core functions of the NARDA Network. The main objective of these activities is the empowerment of the Civil Society in regards to Civil Society policies and regulations by the Liberian government. Next to that, NARDA strives to underline the importance of the Civil Society in the overall Liberian political and social context. Finally a part of the advocacy activities aim at strengthening the external support of members of the network, for example through networking activities with international organizations and potential donors.
In an Advocacy Strategy NARDA has outlined key activities for the empowerment of the network members. The strategy develops four key areas of intervention: 1. Approaching key stakeholders in Liberia, 2. Forming a voice for the NARDA Network, 3. Campaigning for development and 4. Diversify sources of funding.
Approaching key stakeholders in Liberia
NARDA participates in key discussions at the Liberian government and communicates concerns and challenges in the Liberian Civil Society to officials. NARDA also takes part in key discussions with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), liaising with the Civil Affairs section of UNMIL, with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) or with the Liberian Peace building Fund (LPF).
In side events on conferences NARDA introduces the work of the member organizations and gives officials and interested individuals the opportunity to learn more about the aims and activities of the NARDA Network and the secretariat. For this purpose NARDA continuously develops background materials, such as newsletters, documentation of best practices, brochures and flyers for a high quality representation of the members.
NARDA’s approach is not limited to stakeholder in governmental positions or the UN in Liberia, but also addresses the Liberian media. NARDA staff takes actively part in the media discourse through participation in radio programs, press conferences, development of press briefings and through the facilitation of workshops that aim at the strengthening of cooperation between the media and the Liberian Civil Society.
Forming a voice for the NARDA Network
In a Civil Society landscape as diverse as the Liberian, it is of high importance for Civil Society Organizations to speak with one voice in certain matters to improve the attention that their statements get. In the past, the Civil Society in Liberia furthermore had the tendency to react rather slowly to emerging challenges for the sector. NARDA actively creates platforms that encourage timely consensus building and joint communication in matters of importance for Civil Society organizations.
In lobbying and advocacy workshops and trainings for Civil Society organizations, NARDA aims at strengthening the capacity of the network members. The combined impact of joint lobbying and advocacy as well depend on the individual abilities of the members to contribute to joint activities. These capacity building activities hence are an important component to refine own advocacy and lobbying means in the organizations.
Campaigning for development
For the success of lobbying and advocacy it is important to gather enough public support for one’s activities in addition to raising awareness for challenges in national policy making. In a wider sense, the Civil Society Organizations in the NARDA Network not only represent the interest of the beneficiaries in their various programs, but also the society in their role as a watchdog of governmental policies.
Campaigning is an essential instrument for NARDA when it comes to raising awareness and reaching the general public and decision-makers. In national campaigns the NARDA members continue to support their activities by adding a broad outreach and increasing acceptance and support for their work.
Diversify sources of funding
While NARDA supports the development of organizational sustainability for its member organizations, it lies in the nature of the economical situation in Liberia that many organizations in the Liberian Civil Society are mainly dependent on external funds. Moreover, as Liberia has come from a phase of relief aid to development cooperation only recently, two sectors that are related to each other but each with a different set of actors, many organizations face the challenge to adapt to this situation and new demands from (potential) donors.
NARDA offers support in the area of donor communication for its member organizations, for example in terms of assistance in the development of program or project proposals. The resources of the NARDA Network support enhanced donor research and improved donor communication with the Secretariat as an entity with widespread experience and grown connections to diverse international entities.