By C. Winnie Saywah Jimmy
The Carter Center has entered a partnership with the Government of Sweden through a US$ 7.5 million grant aimed at improving its access to justice program in Liberia for the next three years.
Negotiations surrounding the support made through the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia began in December, 2013 with the agreement that it will support Carter Center’s efforts to make access to justice more accessible for undeserved rural populations including women and youths.
The efforts is also targeted at strengthening the Carter Center Community-based dispute resolution for traditional leaders since 2006 and the Carter Center has been engaged in providing civic education on the law to rural citizens.
The agreement is also another step towards supporting the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission to provide free legal assistance and link the needs of ordinary citizens to national policy making as the Center engages in programs in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs as well as with the chiefs.
The Chief of Party of the Carter Center, Pewee Flomokou, thanked the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) through the Swedish Embassy for the support which according to him will give the Center the space to transfer capacity.
Mr. Flomokou said the three-year grant sustains the program in a significant way because the Center is prepared to work with what it has as it looks out for more donor support for extension of the programs noting that its intention is to pass on the programs to the Justice and Peace Commission when the Center shall have left the country.
He explained how it is the Center’s goal to ensure that more ordinary people experience the protection of the law because in most of the counties circuit courts are limited and imagine what would happen if there were no chiefs adding that the Swedish Government’s continuous investment in Liberia’s future particularly the support to the program is worth commending.
The Ambassador of the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia, Sofia Strand, said her government regards the support to equal access to justice as an essential part of its overall aim to create conditions that will enable poor people improve their lives.
Amb. Strand said the program seeks to strengthen democratic, equitable, and sustainable development initiatives; recalling that since the civil crisis in the country, the international community has worked hard to strengthen the formal justice and security sectors of Liberia.
“My belief is that the assistance will offer continued support to empower men, women, boys, and girls in Liberia to obtain justice based on principles of human rights, and strengthen gender equality while the reform of the formal system is taking place,” she said.
She explained how the grant will be used in three sub-programs which include gathering legal information on dispute resolution, strengthening capacity of customary leaders and leading the framework for access to justice.
The program which begins immediately and is expected to end in 2016 focuses on the continuous support to women and boys based on human rights principles and Amb. Strand has assured that her government is interested in contributing more in development and laying a better future for Liberia.
Amb. Strand said her government has strong commitment to Liberia as evidenced by the increase in bilateral support which is projected for US$ 45 million this year and will target democratic governance and human rights.
One of the partners, the JPC through its National Director, Roosevelt Gould, said the access to justice program is geared toward bringing justice to the people. He observed that there is a shortage for real justice actors in the country because in reality justice is actually found in areas where there are cities like Monrovia.
He said with the operation of the program through support from the UNDP Justice Security Trust Fund, there is visibility of community justice advisors while the alternative dispute resolution is now carried out in seven counties and it is anticipated that with the Swedish Aid, more will be done.