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Drug Policy Reform Stakeholders Roundtable Held in Liberia

The Liberia Drug Policy Reform Stakeholders Roundtable was a one (1) day gathering of local and national civil society organizations, drug policy stakeholders that seeks to identify current challenges, develop concrete actions point, and recommendation to ensure that the current Liberian Drug Law is review and amended to address the issue of evidence based drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for substance users in Liberia.

 

The event brought together thirty (30) representatives from various CSOs, governmental institutions and stakeholders from across Montserrado County in a one (1) day Stakeholders Roundtable in Monrovia. During the event, participants went through policy discussion process involving stakeholders within the drug policy, prevention and rehabilitation sector focusing on the role of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) in the implementation of Liberia’s Drug Law, the role the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) in combatting drug trafficking as well as the Ministry of Health role in the implementation of the Liberia Drug Law of 2014. The event was hosted by LDEA in its conference room in Fiamah, Sinkor-Monrovia. Key speakers included James Koryor, Executive Director, GASD, Bolley B. Morlu of the LIS, Rueben Bobby Logan, Executive Director, APYL, Joseph S. Quoi of the Ministry of Health, Mental Health Unit, Robert B. Kutu-Aquoi of the LDEA and Joseph Cheayan of the Institute for Democratic Action & Development. The event was covered by print and electronic media.

 

The Global Action for Sustainable Development, Association of Progressive Youth of Liberia and Youth Aid Liberia partnership with the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency held a one-day Stakeholders Roundtable on Drug Policy Reform in Liberia.

 

Representing the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency, Mr. Robert B. Kutu-Aquoi, Director for Prevention, LDEA welcomed the stakeholders at the gathering and pledge his institution’s unflinching support and commitment to Drug Policy reform in Liberia. Mr. Kutu-Aquoi stressed that if the law is reform and amended to address some of the challenges faced LDEA officers in carryout their duties, LDEA can minimize if not eradicate the proliferation of drug use in Liberia.

 

For his part, the Executive Director of GASD, James Koryor stated that his organization was grateful to form part of organizations that have pledged their commitment to lead the drug policy reform process in Liberia. The GASD boss mentioned that if CSOs can consolidated efforts and increase advocacy, more can be done to address the current drug abuse problem in the country that poses a serious national security threat to the state. Koryor also stated that it is time CSOs collaborate, share resources and information and partnership with government institutions in achieving the needed results.

 

The anti-drug advocate also stated that the if CSOs are to advocate for drug policy reform, they should focus on critical areas including child protection, availability of data, decriminalization, evidence-based prevention programs and the establishment of a specialized and dedicated agency to address drug prevention and rehabilitation, while the LDEA only focuses on enforcement.

Also speaking Mr. Julius Tobga of the Foundation Against Drug & Child Abuse, stated that drug policy reform is critical in vital and as such Liberia can research available regional and international policy and laws in placed to review and use as a case study for Liberia more especially the Model Drug Law for West Africa.

For her part, the Executive Director of Association of Progressive Youth of Liberia, Rueben Bobby Logan stated that drug policy that addresses treatment, care, and support for substance users should be given serious attention by stakeholders. Mr. Logan stressed that CSOs should increase advocacy on budgetary support to statutory institutions more specifically the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency to increase and strengthen their enforcement capabilities.

 

Making remarks, Joseph S. Quoi of the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health recommended to the gathering the if CSOs are to succeed in the advocacy process, they should do a holistic mapping of key and relevant stakeholders including some strategic UN agencies, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Gender and education are critical to join the conversation.

 

Presenting on the Liberia Immigration Service role in combating drug trafficking in Liberia, Bolley B. Morlu, trainer at the Liberia Immigration Training Academy stated that the are many challenges faced the LIS ranging from under-resourced, porous borders, limited logistics and lack of collaboration from other Government agencies undermines the LIS to adequately perform their duties.

 

The LIS officer also stated that his institution has made some strive in providing some modern equipment to major border entry point including the Robert International Airport.

 

Also speaking, the Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Action & Development, Joseph Cheayan stressed the critical need for joint efforts to increase advocacy on issues affecting substance users in the country. Mr. Cheayan also calls for the support of a national CSOs stakeholder steering committee to facilitate a bigger engagement amongst relevant actors in the sector to sustain the gains that have been made as to the result of the stakeholder's roundtable.

 

CHALLENGES:

Like any other program or event, the Liberia Drug Policy Reform Stakeholders Roundtable had some challenges more especially mobilizing resources since the initiative was self-sponsored by the Global Action for Sustainable Development, Association of Progressive Youth of Liberia and Youth Aid. Also getting some relevant institutions to attend was also difficult, but with the right strategies implore the event was held as planned. These challenges now can be considered as lessons learned and we hope to improve on future events or activity.

RECOMMENDATION:

Participants at the meeting recommended the following as next steps:

  •  Steering committee be set up for the next event
  •  That a bigger meeting/ conference be held to give the debate a national attention
  •  That CSOs be committed to the process

CONCLUSION:

In view of all that has been expounded upon, it can clearly be acknowledged that the Liberia Drug Policy Reform Stakeholders Roundtable organized by the Global Action for Sustainable Development, Association of Progressive Youth of Liberia and Youth Aid was meticulously conducted with the overall goal, objectives and purposes being accomplished. Once more we appreciate each and everyone who took up their time to make this program a success we salute you.