Source: allAfrica News
Once upon a time Liberia was off limit to Western leaders. The key reason was that they suspected links between its leaders and international terrorist groups. A related reason was that locked in prolonged warfare, Liberia has become a “pariah”, a “Taylor Inc.” But today the picture has changed. Though still relatively fragile, Liberia presents an enabling environment for international philanthropists and governance reformists to make their marks upon its economic recovery and reconstruction. The Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) is one such groups. Its patron, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was in Liberia early this year and he is back.
The UK’s former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is in the country from neighboring Sierra Lone for a two-day visit to hold talks with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, scores of government officials, and representatives of diplomatic missions and Liberia’s development partners.
This is Mr. Blair’s second visit to Liberia in ten months; he was in the country in February this year to hold talks with officials of the Liberian government, foreign missions, and other development partners in Liberia in order to initiative the works of AGI in Liberia.
Reports said the Prime Minister would renew his commitment to Liberia’s development progress during scheduled talks with President Sirleaf.
According to a protocol released yesterday by AGI’s Governance Advisor for Liberia, Peter Harrington, Mr. Blair will meet, tomorrow, with Acting Head of USAID, Carolyn Bryan, and US Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas Greenfield to discuss aid and development.
On the same day, the Prime Minister will meet with EU representatives headed by Liberia EU Ambassador Attilio Pacifici to discuss EU projects, and the Chinese Ambassador Zhou Yuxiao to discuss China’s role in development and aid.
Later on in the evening of the same day, Mr. Blair will meet with President Sirleaf for a one-on-one discussion where he would commend the President for Liberia’s progress in development and governance.
On Saturday, according to the protocol, the AGI patron will hold meetings with officials at the Ministry of State, including new and returning members of the Liberian Cabinet.
Prior to departure on Saturday, Mr. Blair will have a final meeting with President Sirleaf and hold a joint press call with the Liberian media at the Ministry of State at 1:30 pm.
“I am delighted to be back in Liberia. I was very impressed by what I saw in February and this has been an exciting year for Liberia with US $4.7 bn debt relief with HIPC, billions more in investment and development in areas like roads and ports really getting into gear. I am excited to be here 8 months later to see that progress first hand, to renew my commitment to Liberia’s development and the Liberian people, and to strengthen my friendship with President Johnson Sirleaf,” Mr. Blair said upon touching down at the Robert International Airport this morning.
The AGI patron has a long-standing commitment to Africa and good governance, having set up a Commission on Africa while Prime Minister.
AGI is a continuation of that commitment, which is why he regularly visits AGI’s projects and maintains contact with partner Heads of State.
The talks between Mr. Blair and the President are expected to focus on the country’s progress in development and governance and the progress made by the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) project in Liberia, of which Mr. Blair is patron.
AGI has been working in Liberia since March of this year, providing capacity-building support in the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs to help it deliver the government’s reform and development agenda.
The expert team of five AGI staff works alongside Liberian officials to provide training and develop the effective tools and processes necessary for the government to deliver its vision to “Lift Liberia”.
The team works in the Executive Office, the Programme Delivery Unit, the Public Affairs Department, and the Cabinet Secretariat.
They bring extensive experience from UK government, the private sector, consultancy, and the non-profit sector.
Mr. Blair’s visit comes as part of a wider trip to West Africa. He arrived in Monrovia today after visiting Freetown earlier this week to meet with President Ernest Bai Koroma and his government.
AGI is a UK charity that works in three different countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda. In each country, AGI teams provide support to the centre of government at the invitation of the head of state, aiming to build the government’s capacity to deliver the services, which their citizens have a right to expect, to tackle deep-rooted poverty, and to attract sustainable investment to build strong economies for the future.
The protocol said Mr. Blair would, December 16, 2010, make his first major speech on development and Africa since he founded AGI, at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC.
According to information available to this paper, AGI came to work in Liberia because President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in talks with former Prime Minister Blair, decided that AGI could make a positive contribution to the nation’s recovery efforts.
The President believed AGI would help build the capacity of her government to deliver change for the Liberian people, and support her vision of a stable, free, and self-sufficient country that has healed its past and was building a prosperous future.
Since beginning operations in Liberia in March this year, according to the information, AGI has been providing ‘capacity building’ support in the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs.
According to the information, that means an expert team of five AGI staff, at no cost to Liberia, works alongside Liberian officials to provide training and develop the internal tools and processes that help the government serve the people and deliver its development agenda.