A high-powered United States delegation called ONE, a grassroots campaign and advocacy organization committed to the fight against poverty and preventable diseases, particularly in Africa, paid a courtesy call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Wednesday, June 20.
Co-founded by Bono – an Irish singer, musician and humanitarian – and other campaigners, ONE is non-partisan and works closely with African policy makers and activists. An Executive Mansion release said the US delegation’s visit to Liberia and, later, Ghana is part of a five-day listening and learning trip involving a delegation of prominent Republicans and Democrats as part of a ONE Vote 2012 Campaign.
Speaking during the meeting with President Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry office, the organization’s Chief Executive Officer, Michael Elliot said his delegation was honored to meet with the Liberian leader to discuss the country’s future development agenda and see how ONE can be a partner in moving forward.
Mr. Elliot said that it was gracious of President Sirleaf to make time for their bipartisan delegation, and told her: “Your leadership generates great confidence amongst leaders of the U.S. and other countries of the world.”
He indicated that the objective of the mission was to gain a deeper understanding of the development challenges in Africa and see, first-hand, how strong African leadership and smart donor investments are helping Africans fight their way out of poverty.
Mr. Elliot further informed the President that ONE takes similar trips several times a year, together with high-profile delegations, to different countries all over the continent. He emphasized that the purpose of the trip was not to make news, but to listen and learn quietly. “We explore a wide spectrum of issues and learn about what is working, what is not working, and what more is needed to empower people living in extreme poverty,” Mr. Elliot said.
The ONE Chief Executive Officer said experiences gained are shared by team members upon their return to the United States, as they help the organization develop more effective ways to communicate Africa’s challenges and successes to U.S. policy makers and the public as a whole. The delegation, according to Mr. Elliot, had visited health, agriculture, education, and trade projects. They also met with entrepreneurs, key government officials and leaders from civil society and the private sector, the release signed by Presidential Press Secretary, Jerolinmek Piah said.
The release said an interactive dialogue between President Sirleaf and the ONE delegation followed, with each member raising specific questions for the Liberian leader. It indicated that areas highlighted during the interactive dialogue included security, peace and reconciliation, foreign investment, food security, embargo and sanctions on sectors and individuals, energy, media issues, relations with neighbors and the rest of the world.
For her part, President Sirleaf welcomed the delegation and said she was delighted that Liberia was added to their schedule to exchange views. President Sirleaf said peace, democratic participation and good relations with all leaders in the region to ensure that peace prevails are imperative obligations of her government.
She noted that the resurfacing of coups d’états in the sub-region was posing new challenges, pointing out that both ECOWAS and the AU are tackling the issue. Highlighting her administration’s achievements so far, President Sirleaf indicated that her government was able to mobilize over US$16 billion in direct foreign investment, clear its external debts, rebuild the security institutions, and maintain an open society where basic rights and freedoms are respected, as well as gradually restore basic social services among others.
The Liberian leader told the visiting US-based team that restoring energy, inclusive of the reconstruction of the hydro, and addressing the huge challenge of youth unemployment are among the critical challenges facing the administration.
President Sirleaf was, however, quick to mention that the government is making efforts to address the indicated challenges, with 2015 set as the timeframe for the restoration of the hydro, the release added.
She also briefed the team about the unfortunate incident at the Liberia-Ivorian border, but gave assurances that the two countries are working closely together to maintain the peace. The Liberia Chief Executive further informed the delegation that U.S.-Liberia partnership must grow in the next decade as the United States remains Liberia’s most critical and important partner.
Other personalities that formed part of the ONE delegation were: former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman; Shane McRann Bigelow, of Bernstein Global Wealth Management; Kitty Di Martino, of the Albright Stonebridge Group; Tom Freston, of Firefly3; Michael Gerson, Senior Advisor at ONE; Patrick J. Griffin, of Griffin/Williams Management Consulting; and Dee Dee Myers, of Glover Park Group, a former Press Secretary to President Bill Clinton.
Others were : John Podesta, of the Center for American Progress; Ralph E. Reed, Jr., of Century Strategies; Dan Runde, of the Project on Prosperity and Development; Matthew A. Schlapp, of Cove Strategies; Susan S. Sher, of the University of Chicago Medical Center; Jeff Davidoff, 0Chief Marketing Officer of ONE; Tyler Denton, ONE’s Trips Director; Luisa Engel, Senior Manager for ONE/(RED) Special Projects; Ben Leo, Global Policy Director at ONE; Laurie Moskowitz, Senior Director for \us Campaigns at ONE; Ginny Wolfe, ONE’s Senior Director of Strategic Relationships; and photographer Morgana Wingard, among others.
Ms. Barku Tubman, of MBL, accompanied the group to the meeting with President Sirleaf, the release concluded.