Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report, May 2010
The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Liberia to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Liberia's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
Liberia has made significant progress in the transition to peace and stability following the end of its 14-year civil war in 2003, including holding its first free and fair national elections in over 20 years. However, the country remains a fragile democracy that relies on the United States, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and other international partners for assistance in maintaining stability and building the foundations for sustainable peace and development. The U.S. Government's priorities in the country are to promote peace and security, improve the quality of and access to justice, and strengthen democratic institutions.
To meet these objectives, the U.S. Government focuses on expanding its rule of law program outside of the capital city of Monrovia; continuing work with the government to address prison overcrowding; supporting programs to combat gender-based violence; and supporting local efforts to deter trafficking in persons. Consistent with the country's goal of fighting corruption and the entrenched culture of impunity, U.S. assistance includes efforts to combat corruption and develop a functioning judicial system. To foster a stronger independent press in advance of the 2011 national elections, U.S. efforts focus on strengthening the viability and capacity of the press to help create an atmosphere for free, fair, and credible elections, and a capacity building project for community radio stations and civil society.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human
Rights and Democratic Governance
The U.S. Government continues efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and the political process. In her August 2009 visit, the U.S. Secretary of State addressed the National Legislature about good governance and expressed similar sentiments in a joint press briefing held with President Sirleaf. Specific programs strengthened the electoral process through increased assistance to civil society and the National Elections Commission. To assist the legislature implement its Five Year Strategic Development Plan, the U.S. Government sponsored training sessions to increase knowledge of committee operations, ethics, and bill tracking, as well as sessions on how to improve standing rules and procedures and establish a legislative budget office. In addition, the U. S. Government is rehabilitating the legislature's library, archives, and research service to support better lawmaking. Candidates for legislative by-elections participated in training and a public debate organized by U.S.-funded NGOs, which also supported civic education outreach and voter education efforts. The U.S. Government also will send observers to an upcoming by-election in River Gee County.
The Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP) helps the country more effectively control and manage its public finances. The GEMAP program, funded by the United States and other partners, placed internationally recruited financial controllers and management experts in key ministries, agencies, and state-owned enterprises to encourage transparency and accountability. The U.S. Government conducted an evaluation of the GEMAP program that focuses on the effectiveness of U.S. Government investments and provides recommendations on future U.S. government support to assist the country improve its economic governance. A follow-on program will focus on training and institution building across government. U.S. support for key government institutions also continued through the Senior Executive Service program that attracts qualified local citizens to fill critical government posts. U.S. officials publicly highlighted the need for transparency and accountability in all branches of government and worked privately with officials, NGOs, and international organizations to identify areas of concern and encourage systemic reforms.
U.S. efforts to strengthen the judicial sector and expand access to justice include training for judicial personnel, supporting legal aid clinics, providing law student scholarships, offering specialized legal skills training and internship programs, supporting university law programs, promoting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and conducting public legal education. U.S. assistance supports several American justice sector advisors who work closely with the minister of justice, the chief justice, investigators, prosecutors, public defenders, and other court officials. U.S. programs provide training for NGOs to assist victims of gender-based violence in navigating the justice system and support a pro bono mediation specialist to develop training materials and conduct mediation training and law workshops. The U.S. Government provided a resident legal advisor to assist the government on anticorruption issues. In addition, the United States funded a university project that assisted the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to store and index their archives electronically.
The United States promotes freedom of speech and press in the country. U.S. Government assistance will contribute to greater access to information through supporting the professionalism and broadcast reach of community radio stations in seven targeted counties. This five-year effort will begin during the year and include training of reporters, program managers and producers to operate more professionally; procuring more powerful transmitters and other essential equipment upgrades; promoting the concept of more interactive public interest programming; increasing access to news and information; and specialized subject matter training in government budgeting, transparency, and corruption. The program will also support media and civil society efforts to advocate for the passage of freedom of information legislation. U.S. officials promoted human rights and democracy messages through taped or live UN radio programming and interviews on anticorruption and human rights. Two reporters traveled to the U.S. for training. The U.S. Government partnered with a Liberian university and the Press Union of Liberia to organize a symposium on “Peace Journalism.” The U.S. Government also organized a roundtable with an American expert on the business challenges facing media. In addition, the United States funded a program through an American university to strengthen media institution management and business planning.