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Carter Center Featured Partner: U.S. Department of State

Featured July 2007

The U.S. Department of State has been an integral partner of The Carter Center, supporting the China Village Elections program since 2000, with more than $1.4 million in funding to help expand grassroots democracy at the village level. While this relationship has been very successful and continues, we are pleased to share that the Department of State will now be supporting two other exciting projects building governance capacity in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Liberia is in the process of recovering from a bitter civil war. The war had devastating consequences for the country, its infrastructure and its citizens, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and forcing others to flee as refugees or live as internally displaced persons.

With the signature of the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and successful presidential and legislative elections, Liberia currently has its best chance to escape the spiral of violence and build a peaceful society based on the rule of law. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's government is demonstrating real political will, and has sustained the confidence and support of the Liberian people and international community. Yet the challenges are daunting. A recent report by the International Crisis Group defined "resurrecting the justice system" as fundamental to the success of any other initiatives the president and her administration might undertake. The goal of the Strengthening the Rule of Law and Combating Impunity in Liberia project is to fill critical gaps in the delivery of justice in rural Liberia and to help develop a culture in which all persons and institutions are accountable to the law.

To attain this goal the project will focus on building judicial capacity at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) based on government priorities; conducting a public education campaign in partnership with the MOJ on citizen's rights and responsibilities under the law; and creating local and national policy dialogues on traditional justice practices and their relationship to the formal system and human rights standards. With the support of the U.S. Department of State, this project will be able to build on the Carter Center's recent presence in Liberia and long-standing relationships in both government and civil society to allow activities to deliver the most immediate impact.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the largest country in central Africa and has key strategic and geographical importance for the stability of the region. Six neighboring countries were directly involved in its long, bloody civil war in which an estimated four million people perished. Since the peace agreement was signed in 2002, The DRC has been working towards a democratic transition. A constitution was adopted in February 2006, and the first round of presidential and parliamentary elections took place in July 2006. The people of the Congo returned Joseph Kabila to the presidency in an October run-off after the initial round caused chaos and fighting and claimed thirty lives.

To assist with the Congo's efforts to consolidate democracy, further transparency and good governance, and increase respect for human rights, the Carter Center will be engaged in a yearlong initiative, which will focus on three distinct sectors: judicial, law enforcement, and civil society.

The Justice Sector Strengthening and Capacity Building in the Democratic Republic of the Congo project builds on the Center's work in monitoring the 2006 elections in the Congo. The goals of the project are to enhance practical understanding of human rights, fundamental liberties, and the rule of law among key actors in the Justice sector; develop the capacities of local civil society organizations to participate in promoting the transparency and accountability of their newly elected government, and strengthen the commitment of the key governmental actors to regional and global human rights treaties. We will work to accomplish these goals through human rights training for judges and police officers and provide small sub-grants for training activities for women's groups; providing support to key ministries and NGOs on monitoring compliance with international and regional human rights treaty obligations; creating an interactive, web-based extractive industries map; and convening a policy forum to support the engagement of human rights defenders in policy making processes, resulting in a National Human Rights Action Plan among donors and civil society.

These projects, beginning summer 2007, will benefit from close to $1 million in U.S. Department of State funding and mark the broadening of the deep commitment of the United States government to strengthening the rule of law, human rights, and democracy in partnership with The Carter Center.

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