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Country Development Cooperation Strategy

Liberia’s development challenges are deeply rooted. Even before its 14 year civil war, the country’s exclusionary social, political, and economic systems produced “growth without development” – the benefits of which were captured only by a small, privileged elite – and, later, no growth at all. Average income already had been steadily declining before the onset of civil war.

After prolonged stagnation and decline, Liberia descended into chaos. The horrific toll of the 1989‐2003 civil war on human life and welfare was compounded by the wholesale destruction of resources required for recovery and growth. Liberia’s physical infrastructure, productive capacity, and public service delivery systems were demolished. Between the mid‐1980s and the end of the civil war, GDP fell by 90 percent. Nine years after the war, Liberia placed 182 out of 187 countries on the United Nations’ 2011 Human Development Index, and its absolute score was still below the level it had achieved in 1980.

Since the end of the war, Liberia has begun a long climb back. Under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s leadership, it has made progress in restoring peace and security, establishing the legitimacy of democratic institutions, stabilizing macroeconomic conditions, and improving many indicators of basic human needs. USAID, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and other donors have played a critical supporting role – maintaining a strong security presence, re‐building infrastructure, providing basic public services, and filling key management, decisionmaking and other human resources gaps.

Building on these foundations, Liberia is poised to shift its primary focus from short‐term, postconflict stabilization and recovery to dynamic and sustained long‐term development. The successful political transition in 2011 opens an historic window of opportunity to accelerate development progress.

However, the obstacles to launching and sustaining a long‐term development process remain formidable. They can be classified into two broad categories:

  • Institutions: Many of the extractive, non‐inclusive social, political, and economic systems of the past remain fundamentally unchanged today. Old conflicts, such as those relating to the ownership and use of land, are unresolved. Politics continue to be based on “winner takes all” mentality and focus on personalities and patronage rather than substantive issues. Rentseeking behavior and corruption are pervasive at all levels of government and society. Critical checks, balances, and accountability systems either do not exist, or are seriously compromised. While President Sirleaf’s government is seeking to instill and model an inclusive and transformative national vision, old habits are hard to break.
  • Capacity: Many of Liberia’s educated elite either fled or were killed during the civil war. The educational system was demolished, and the country lost a generation in which to educate and train its citizens to make productive contributions to development progress. Government, the private sector, civil society and international partners still are desperately short of qualified local talent. The existing, small cadre of highly qualified and motivated leaders struggles to have policies and decisions carried out by a low‐paid workforce that often lacks basic literacy, numeracy and other critical work skills.

The Sirleaf Administration has adopted a range of policies that, if fully implemented, have the potential to fundamentally transform dysfunctional political and economic institutions. As the President herself has noted, however, promulgating good policies and plans is not the same as effectively implementing them. The success of the Government’s medium term development strategy, the “Agenda for Transformation through Action” (AfT), will depend on Liberia’s ability to overcome both the institutional and the capacity constraints described above. This will require both strong and persistent domestic political commitment – a key assumption of this strategy – and robust, sustained international assistance.

Currently, Liberia remains highly dependent on external support to accomplish both its shortterm and its long‐term development goals. A central challenge for this CDCS will be to help Liberia build its capacity to lead, manage, and finance its own development process, with the aim of gradually reducing dependence on external support over time.

USAID/Liberia Strategic Framework

In line with the national development vision and strategy laid out in Liberia’s AfT, this CDCS shifts USAID’s primary strategic focus from post‐conflict stabilization and recovery toward transformational and sustainable long‐term development. Its overall strategic goal by the end of the CDCS period is:

Strengthened Liberian Institutions Positioned to Drive Inclusive Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction.

To help Liberia build these foundations, human and institutional capacity development (HICD) will be a core, cross‐cutting strategic priority for the Mission’s entire portfolio. This requires long‐term focus. The Mission’s experience over the past nine years confirms that successful capacity development requires strategic patience and persistent commitment over extended timeframes.

This increased focus on long‐term capacity building does not mean that short‐term needs and challenges can be neglected. In order to build sustainable foundations for long‐term development, Liberia must ensure that the incremental gains it has made to date are consolidated, reinforced, and locked in.

Therefore, the strategically important question is not whether to prioritize long‐term investments in Liberia’s future development over short‐term responses to its immediate challenges, but how to achieve the right balance between the short‐ and long‐term perspectives. This calls for a coordinated, two‐track approach, in which the Mission will help Liberia simultaneously to:

    1. 1. Strengthen its capacity to sustain development progress over the longer term; and
    1. 2. Improve access to critical goods and services needed to meet basic human needs in the short‐term.

Most projects under this CDCS will work on both these tracks, seeking to take full advantage of opportunities for mutual reinforcement between short‐ and long‐term activities and outcomes. Some projects, particularly those related to public governance, will focus primarily or exclusively on the first track (i.e., HICD).

The core institutional foundations required for sustainable growth and poverty reduction include: inclusive political institutions that ensure the accountability, responsiveness and legitimacy of the state; inclusive economic institutions that encourage creative individual initiative, efficiently mobilize labor and other public and private resources, and allocate those resources to their most productive uses; and inclusive education and health services institutions that expand all Liberians’ abilities and opportunities to contribute to and benefit from development progress.

Therefore, the Results Framework for this CDCS is built around four Development Objectives (DOs):

  • DO-1: More effective, accountable, and inclusive governance
  • DO-2: Sustained, market‐driven economic growth to reduce poverty
  • DO-3: Improved health status of Liberians

The accomplishment of each of these objectives is necessary, but not individually sufficient, to achieve the strategic goal of this CDCS. A central development hypothesis of this CDCS is that, taken together, the successful accomplishment of these four, mutually‐reinforcing objectives will achieve those goals. A key assumption is that Liberia will be able to maintain and continue to improve civil peace and security throughout its territory, an objective that is not included in the results framework of this CDCS.

Presidential Policy Directives: This CDCS is deeply grounded in the U.S. Government’s global and regional development policies, principles and strategies, including the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD-6), the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), and the Presidential Policy Directive on the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa (PPD-16). In particular, it recognizes the United States’ strategic interest in helping Liberia build “sustainable systems for achieving high impact development that helps people meet their basic needs,” as articulated in PPD‐6.

Implementation and Procurement Reform: The USAID Forward agenda is an important tool for promoting sustainability. In the initial years of this CDCS, the Mission will focus on helping Liberian partners improve the reliability of financial management and other administrative functions that are needed to ensure the success of USAID’s Implementation and Procurement Reform (IPR) objectives. As these systems improve, USAID/Liberia will actively seek opportunities to build on its pioneering Fixed Amount Reimbursement Agreement (FARA) with the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare by using reliable host country systems to implement assistance activities in other components of the Mission’s portfolio. All such activities will be in full compliance with U.S. and Liberian fiduciary requirements and responsibilities.

Geographic Concentration: To maximize opportunities for mutual reinforcement across the Mission’s portfolio and ensure that USAID’s collective efforts are sufficient to achieve the results described in this CDCS, USAID assistance in Liberia will be geographically focused in six highlypopulated counties that surround the country’s key development corridors. These counties are: Bong, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Margibi, Montserrado, and Nimba. A key development hypothesis is that this geographic concentration of effort will accelerate development results in the targeted counties, and that other parts of the country will subsequently benefit from that progress. It is also expected to reduce USAID’s unit operational costs, allowing the Mission to leverage greater results within available resource envelopes.

Collaborating, Learning and Adapting: The transition from short‐term stabilization to long‐term development requires increased focus on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of assistance results. HICD and other long‐term activities typically involve more numerous and complex intermediate results between the initial assistance inputs and the final development impacts. Tracking these complex processes requires sustained attention and expanded M&E resources. In response to these challenges, the Mission has employed a “Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting” (CLA) Coordinator as well as a Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor, who will be jointly responsible for overseeing the robust CLA agenda described in Section VIII of this CDCS.

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