Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations says the crucial and continuously important roles women have played in sustaining peace and security in Liberia have laid an enduring foundation for gender equality and equity as enshrined in the country’s Constitution.
Highlighting institutional and policy frameworks aimed at women’s empowerment and equality as well as access to justice, Ambassador Lewis Garseedah Brown II named the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) for Security Council Resolution 1325 (2009-2013) that has significantly contributed to women’s participation in the national security sector and decision making processes at the national and local levels in Liberia.
According to a dispatch from New York, Ambassador Brown made the assertion when he participated in a panel discussion at the United Nations Headquarters earlier this week. He was joined by Senior Expert of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chair of the Executive Board of Justice Rapid Response, Ambassador Marja Lehto; the Under-Secretary and Director, United Nations; Other International Organizations; and International Law Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, Mr. Sudhir Bhattarai.
As the 6th Committee of the 71st General Assembly continues at the UN Headquarters, the Permanent Missions of Finland, Liberia and Nepal to the United Nations, U.N. Women and the Rule of Law Unit on behalf of the UN Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group co-sponsored a panel discussion under the theme: “Women’s Access to Justice: A Transformational Approach.”
Ambassador Brown indicated that an evaluation of the 1325 National Action Plan has been conducted; gaps in its implementation identified and the Ministry of Gender and partners are reviewing recommendations that came from the evaluation process.
“The decision to adopt a new National Action Plan will be made after the recommendations have been reviewed carefully,” he said, adding that the National Gender Policy is a progressive policy framework which aims to eliminate the marginalization of women and girls in Liberia by 2020.
The Ambassador also informed the gathering that the country’s Ministry of Justice also plays a key role in scaling access to justice for women with regards to sexual and gender based violence and plays a pivotal role in reporting government’s progress in implementing human rights instruments. “The ministry leads the response of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), which includes the institutional strengthening of the justice system – including police, courts and the entire formal justice system,” he said.
Likewise, in March 2015, a cross-section of women participants, including the Legislative Caucus, NGO Secretariat, media, cross-regional peace networks, representatives of women’s groups from the 15 counties, as well as the leadership of the Rural Women’s Structure – all of whom participated in the Constitutional Review Conference – adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Ambassador Brown assured the gathering that in the wake of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) drawdown, the country continues to construct infrastructure at the county level to enhance women’s access to justice, which is intended to bring justice and security providers closer to the community thereby giving women access to fair and accountable professional services.
“From November 2015 to May 2016,” he said, “citizens, especially women, were able to forward their complaints for redress through public service outreach officers. The closeness of magistrates, judges and police enables women to access the criminal justice system with more ease.”
Despite the achievements Ambassador Brown noted, there were still critical needs and efforts to address the gaps and challenges. He named resource mobilization and capacity-building as two main areas that will enable government to do more in its delivery of justice to women and the entire population.
The event, which featured Ambassador Brown and others, provided an opportunity for Member States to share good practices, challenges and lessons learned on enhancing women’s access to justice, including in fragile and post-conflict settings. It also provided an opportunity to learn more about the normative work and recommendations of the CEDAW Committee on women’s access to justice, and state parties’ commitments and obligations in these areas. The occasion followed up on a high-level meeting on women’s access to justice held in 2012, providing an opportunity for Member States to report on the implementation of the voluntary pledges to enhance women’s access to justice made on that occasion.
The event also offered an opportunity for dialogue between the legal and rule of law advisers, development and human rights experts on an issue which is of fundamental importance to the rule of law, to the promotion and protection of human rights, and to strengthening institutions and good governance.