Carter Center’s Rule of Law Program in Liberia with support from the government of Sweden has completed training for selected candidates for its 2021 National Community Justice Advisors Project in Gbarnga City, Bong County.
The training was aimed at helping citizens to understand the law, and resolving disputes and justice through their community leaders, the Liberia National Police (LNP), and the Court system.
The approach is also intended to build peaceful coexistence among citizens, as well as prevent conflict, and promote adherence to the rule of law by strengthening the provision of justice for marginalized citizens.
Speaking at the opening of the program on February 22, 2021, Saah N’Tow, Program Lead of Carter Center, Rule of Law, told participants that the Carter Center Rule of Law Program has been partnering with Liberia’s traditional leaders, local organizations and formal justice actors to help citizens understand the law and to be able to resolve disputes and justice through their community leaders.
N’Tow, also disclosed that since 2006 Carter Center’s Access to Justice (ATJ) project has employed a partnership model to support community justice and civic education services through community engagement, promote local justice institution strengthening, and enhance national-level legal policy reform.
He said Carter Center’s activities in Liberia are designed to complement long-range investments by the international community and the government of Liberia to strengthen the formal justice and security sectors.
According to him, the project provides an effective means of engaging citizens to fill operational gaps within the nation’s legal framework.
Mr. N’Tow said the ATJ project places special emphasis on the needs of rural citizens including the often forgotten women and youth, while also concentrating on sustainable progress achieved through national-level policy reform.
He said the ATJ project is based on a methodology that engages local leaders and considers context and realities during the project planning and implementation processes.
He recounted the organization’s partnership with local organizations to provide support for the provision of free legal services to citizens in eight project Counties through a cadre Community Justice Advisors (CJAS).
“This project fits within the Center’s rule of law program mission of advancing good governance and trust to transform lives through enhanced accountability, transparency, and inclusive access to information and justice,” he noted.
At the same time, Mr. N’Tow added that the program is also closely aligned with pillar three of President Weah’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), which seeks to ensure access to justice, the rule of law, and human rights,” he stressed.
Additionally, Mr. N’Tow indicated that in order to reach the ultimate goal of democratic and peaceful Liberia governed by the rule of law, all persons must have an equitable right of access to justice that can be exercised to improve their lives, the lives of their family, and the community.
Therefore, “This project aims to straighten the rule of law by enhancing meaningful access to justice for marginalized citizens by ensuring that they are more aware of and supported to protect their legal rights,” he added.
He clarified that the project will provide effective free legal information and dispute resolution services to citizens in Liberia through a trained cadre of CJAS who will provide community-based justice services.
According to Mr. N’Tow, the main focus of the project will concentrate on raising awareness about citizens’ legal rights and providing legal assistance through advice, alternative dispute resolution, referral, or accompaniment, adding that the CJAS has a strong dispute resolution, Civic education and outreach, and case handling skills.
“Today, we have convened here to formally welcome our five new partners and one former partner the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) to join our efforts to provide free legal information and dispute resolution services to citizens.
“These partners,” he said, “Will operate and manage a network of community justice advisors to provide justice services in selected counties to include; Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, Margibi, Maryland, Montserrado, and Nimba.
The services, he disclosed, will include dispute resolution mediation as well as the provision of basic information to community members concerning the justice system, its operation, and any laws that are commonly used in the promotion of basic rights.
In remarks, Gbarnga City Mayor, Lucia Herbert, lauded Carter Center and other partners for organizing such a unique training for local citizens and civil society organizations in the County.
Mayor Herbert also called on participants of the weeklong training to be focused to make an impact on the citizens, especially as many cry from acts of injustice in the country.