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Fireworks at Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Fireworks in Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Liberian registry development gains impetus with Finnish engagement

In mid-November 2012, in partnership with the Population Registry Center of Finland (VRK), the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) hosted a high-level delegation from the Board of Registrars for the Liberian National Identification Registry (NIR). The Minister of Internal Affairs, Honorable Blamo Nelson, led the delegation which included Honorable Commissioner Abla G Williams; Head of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalisation representing the Minister of Justice, Councillor Christiana Tah; and Mr Ounzubah Kemeh-Gama, technical consultant to the NIR.

The Liberian delegation had an opportunity to discuss civil registration processes based on examples from Finland and Kosovo, and how careful planning and implementation of such processes can serve to strengthen the citizen-state relationship, foster participatory development, and in turn, mitigate conflict. The high-level visit is a follow up to a CMI seminar held in Accra, Ghana on Civil Registries, Citizenship, Identity, and Conflict in West Africa.

The visit was organised as part of CMI’s Governance Out of the Box (GooB) pilot in Liberia, which seeks to rebuild critical state functions utilising unique technical solutions. The GooB project began with CMI aiding in establishing a population registry which could help in developing efficient service delivery for citizens. Based on the suggestion of the Government of Liberia a decentralised birth registration process for children under the age of five is being piloted, utilising technical solutions to cover all 15 counties in Liberia. Today, duty bearers have been trained to utilise technical tools for birth registration by the Ministry of Health’s technical team, with support from CMI, in all counties except for Montserrado County, where the capital city sits. The project serves as a model for a larger population registry for Liberia.

The importance of identityLiberian national identification registry representatives visited Finland in November 2012

Having an identity gives one the sense of belonging. It ensures that individuals are not stateless. It entitles one to certain rights and the protection of those rights. Belonging to a particular State therefore obligates that State to protect ones rights and to provide for certain basic services. In many instances where conflicts exist, people have felt marginalised (whether perceived or real), or felt they lacked in this sense of belonging. Their rights were not protected and they had limited, if at all, access to basic services and development initiatives. Hence, national identification becomes important in this regard, as it allows the state to take the responsibility for protecting the rights of those who are resident within its borders, ensuring access to certain basic services, and inclusion in the process and other benefits of development.

The GooB project also focuses on issues of identity, citizenship, and conflict. More importantly, it looks at how the State can use civil registration processes as a way to develop trust and build the confidence between the citizens and the State, as the State seeks to protect the rights of citizens and residents, as well as deliver services.

With so many conflicts in the region which are ethnically based, CMI sees this project as an important initiative which can contribute to long term peace and stability in the region.