The Government of Sweden through its Embassy in Monrovia has signed a SEK 40 Million (approximately USD 4.8 Million) financing agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the Liberia Electoral Support Project (LESP) for the period from 1 August 2021 to 31 December 2024.
Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvist said during the signing ceremony that “The Swedish support is firmly based on the new Swedish Strategy for Development Cooperation in Liberia 2021-2025, and, in particular, strengthened democratic governance and rights, including Women’s Political Participation and Leadership, while peace is further consolidated through the higher levels of capacities, integrity, transparency, and accountability amongst the electoral stakeholders.”
She added, “In addition, a part of the upcoming support from Sweden will also encompass supporting Civil Society, with particular emphasis on election observation. Thus providing a balanced and comprehensive package of support to electoral assistance.”
Sweden’s commitment to supporting both the Liberia National Elections Commission (NEC) and UNDP efforts to strengthen electoral and democratic processes in Liberia dates back to 2010-2014 when funding was provided for elections basket fund.
The support to LESP will target in particular inclusion, with a specific focus on women’s political participation, civic and voter education, capacity development of electoral and democratic institutions, as well as prevention of electoral violence.
Acting UNDP Resident Representative Violet Baffour observed “Sweden has been an essential partner in UNDP Liberia’s work to develop the capacity of accountable, just, and peaceful institutions that support democratic and electoral processes. Together we are committed to continuing to provide sound and sustainable support to Liberia as it strives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and it’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development.”
The main objective of LESP is to strengthen electoral and democratic institutions and processes in Liberia, focusing on strengthening inclusion and transparency of the electoral process, enhancing institutional capacity and accountability of electoral stakeholders, and strengthening the peaceful conduct of elections, with particular attention to early warning mechanisms, the conduct of security forces, and violence against women in elections.
Sweden recognizes the overall need to focus on a process-based approach in terms of electoral assistance as opposed to the event-driven approach – for the benefit of the entire country. Effective electoral planning and budgeting are critical here and are also dependent on strong political will and institutional reforms.
The human rights-based approach is also guiding the Swedish support which embraces principles of inclusiveness and participation, with a focus on increasing women’s participation in politics and focusing on the poorest and most marginalized, in the process building on lessons of earlier electoral processes. Robust Civic and Voter Education plays a key role here, in building a stronger democratic culture.
Comprehensive planning and support to the NEC and the Government of Liberia on Effective Electoral Planning and Budgeting and Procurement processes will decrease electoral costs ahead of elections. When there is a high level of transparency and integrity in the electoral process, it, in turn, contributes to minimizing any tension and unnecessary risks of violence.