What is the ARD?
The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), is a network of community-based organizations as well as pro-poor enterprises and informal organizations from across Liberia working in solidarity actions to address the numerous problems confronting and affecting rural poor, urban slums and squatter communities, pro- poor informal sector institutions and newly emerging and independent labor unions in Liberia.
The ARD emerged amidst challenges posed by the increased transgression of community rights as well as the resource curse in Liberia. The natural resources and economic sectors over the years have been characterized by absence of participation of civil society organization and local communities, particularly in rural areas as well as the lack of transparency, accountability in the equitable sharing of benefits generated by these resources. Also, natural resources exploitation over the years has never benefited local communities and is one of the principal causes of the underdevelopment of our communities and a source of conflict between the local people, the concessionaires and government on one hand.
December 1, 2010 through an MoU signed February 18, 2009 by 15 national, county and community-based organizations. The ARD was launched in Grand Gedeh County on November 29, 2009
Driving the Needed Change; Realizing Rights & Empowering the Poor
The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a network of national, county and community-based organizations as well as pro-poor enterprises and informal organizations from across Liberia, working in solidarity to address the numerous problems confronting and affecting the rural poor who depend on land and natural resources, urban slums and squatter communities, pro-poor informal sector institutions and newly emerging independent trade unions in Liberia.
The ARD emerged amidst challenges posed by increased transgression of community rights as well as the resource curse in Liberia, compounded by the absence of participation of civil society organizations and local communities in the natural resources and economic sectors over the years (particularly in rural areas) as well as the lack of transparency, accountability in the equitable sharing of benefits generated by these resources. The exploitations of natural resources in Liberia not only forced the local communities to face underdevelopment, but also became a source of conflict between the local people, concessionaires and government.
The above issues were discussed during a broad-based consultative meeting of leaders of community-based organizations in August 2008 in Monrovia involving over forty (40) community-based organizations leaders from Bomi, Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Maryland, Nimba, Sinoe, River Cess and River Gee Counties as well as leaders of other organizations such as the National Charcoal Union of Liberia, the Liberia Chainsaw and Timber Dealers Union, the Fishermen Union of Liberia, the Liberia Motor-cyclist Union and the Gold and Diamond Workers Union of Liberia as well as the urban slums and squatter communities, pro-poor informal sector institutions and newly emerging independent trade unions, which necessitated the formation of the ARD to serve as a vehicle to enhance the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in the new Liberia.
- Consolidating a constitutional political order in which democracy, respect for human and trade union rights, the rule of law, the separation of powers and effective, responsive public service are realized to ensure sustainable development and a peaceful and stable society
- Reducing violations of economic, social and cultural rights among rural and urban slum communities, pro-poor enterprising informal sector organizations in the 15 counties in Liberia through legal aid support, education, awareness and targeted capacity building
- Campaigning for greater public participation in decisions making that affect the management and control of Liberia’s natural resources and its economy as mandated by Article 7 of the Liberian Constitution.
The ARD is legally established, incorporated and registered as a not-for-profit organization. The majority of its member organizations are also legally established.
The ARD was formed by over a dozen organizations. New organizations have joined while some of the founding members have either become dormant generally or within the alliance. Others have changed names.
Milestones in the Evolution of the ARD
August 2008: A broad-based consultative meeting of leaders of community-based organizations, pro-poor institutions and other grassroots institutions were facilitated by Green Advocates International on the need to enhance economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) in Liberia, leading to drafting of an MoU for the formation of network on ESCR in Liberia.
February 2010: The 1st Bi-Annual Meeting of the ARD was held in Monrovia which led to the adoption of ARD as the name of the network, approval of the MoU, and reached an agreement to take Bi-Annual meetings to rural areas, designation of Green Advocates International to serve as the secretariat to run the day-to-day activities of the network, and the secretariat mandated to draft the organization’s constitution for adoption at the next bi-annual meeting.
November 2010: The 2nd Bi-Annual meeting of the ARD was held in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County where the organization is formally launched with the adoption of the bye-laws and constitution.
May 2011: The 3rd Bi-Annual meeting of the ARD was held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
September 2012: The Alliance held its 4th Bi-Annual meeting in Kon Town, Grand Cape Mount County.
December 2013: The Alliance held its last Bi-Annual meeting in Gbapa, Nimba County as the next was disrupted as a result of the EVD Pandemic and since which funding constraint has prevented the organization from being able to hold another Bi-Annual meeting.
February 2019: Along with traditional local partners, GAI and NRWP and the YNCHR, and her international partner BFA, launched a report on the abuses that two Socfin rubber companies—SRC and LAC, have perpetrated against local communities in and around their respective plantations
May 2019: Along with the same local partners, ARD signed unto an IFC complaint that GAI filed on their collective behalf to the IFC against SRC for the abuses that this company committed against the local communities and their leaders.
Contribution and Benefits of the ARD to its Members
- Bringing several different national, county and community-based organizations under one umbrella has facilitated networking in solidarity action and lifted the voices of these organizations in their advocacy for ESCR across the country.
- Facilitated establishment of bank accounts for nine (9) of the member organizations.
- Facilitated the legalization of member organizations including helping five (5) to get their respective Articles of Incorporation and two (2) others to get notarized.
- Empowered some of the founding member organizations with small grants or funding that enabled them to implement some of their important programs at the community-level.
- Provided a platform and a forum to the member organizations through the bi-annual meetings, networking, sharing of progress, challenges and plans, meet and interact with practitioners and professionals in the ESCR realm and decision makers, duty bearers whose activities impact the exercise and enjoyment of the ESCR in areas including forestry, mining, oil palm, and the environment. For example, international organizations such as SOMO of the Netherland and MADAM, Sierra Leone participated in some of the bi-annual meetings while senior government officials including Managing Director of FDA, Senate Pro-temp, Labor Minister, Head of LEITI Secretariat, and concession company executives, namely from Sime Darby and ArcelorMittal, participated in some of the meetings which were attended by scores of community and organization leaders and representatives from across the country.
- Supported member organizations to document community grievances of violations of ESCR by the government and private sector entities in a manner that laid the foundation for Green Advocates International to use its legal resourcefulness to help file community complaints, grievances and/or profile legal representation for communities against both state and non-state actors, particularly private corporate entities such as concessionaires. These actions have contributed to the changing of company behavior change and the improvement in some of their management operations for the benefits of the communities including workers.
- Provided a platform through which its member organizations in Grand Gedeh and River Cess were able to bring to the attention of the FDA and development partners through Green Advocates International the grievances from their respective communities regarding the establishment of protected areas in their traditionally held and used customary lands, including mining areas by the FDA without their Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and with adverse effects on their livelihoods.
- Provided a platform where inconsistencies between the Community Rights Law (CRL) and the Community Rights regulations to the law attributed to the FDA were identified and used to petition the house of legislature to harmonize both the regulation and the law.
- Led the conduct of a comparative analysis of the 2014 version of the Land Rights Act’s Draft and the August 2017 version passed by The Lower House. This comparative analysis exposed serious pitfalls of the house-passed version, thus provided an effective tool for evidence-based civil society advocacy for the passage of a good Land Rights Act.
- Provided psychosocial support and protective environment including particularly legal representation for community human rights defenders (HRDs), who, usually as a result of their advocacy for the land and resource rights of their communities, have faced various forms of intimidation, harassment, arrest and detention of frivolous charges and helped to secure their release by working in strong and symbiotic partnership with Green Advocates International for legal aid.
- Worked with its partner organizations in gathering the evidence and mobilizing the communities that laid the foundation for Green Advocates International to file complaints on behalf the communities in cases such as those of Project Affected Communities against Sime Darby Oil Palm Plantation in Grand Cape Mount, YNCHR against SRC in Bong/Margibi, Al-Bloteh against GVL in Sinoe, Maryland Citizens Action Movement against MOPP in Maryland, among others.
- Provide training and organization development for member organizations and communities and social mobilization for peaceful mass action such as the groundbreaking peaceful community mass action that led the organization in partnership with GAI, NRWP, YNCHR and BFA in Bong County against SRC.
- In partnership with GAI, NRWP, and regional partners, the ARD has been able to get the leaders, both male and female, of its member organizations to participate in various regional and national fora as well as international meetings and forums abroad.
The ARD is a member of various CSO networks, platforms and/or coalitions:
- CSO-Oil Palm Working Group (CSO-OPWG)
- CS-Working Group on Land Reform (CS-WGLR), NGO Coalition
- RRI Liberia Collaborators
The ARD is playing an active role in the activities of the National Oil Palm Platform of Liberia (NOPPOL) and the development of the national oil palm strategy of Liberia.