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Access to Information in Liberia

  • An information request led to a small business loan for Liberian entrepreneur Wondial Annan who makes and sells frozen sour milk, a refreshing treat in Liberia’s relentless heat. The profits covered her children’s school fees for a year.

In response to the government of Liberia's invitation, The Carter Center supported the historic passage of Liberia's Freedom of Information Act — signed into law on September 16, 2010 — which provides all persons the right of access to public information. Access to information (ATI) is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, as well as the Constitution of Liberia.

While Freedom of Information (FOI) laws or regulations have been passed in over 90 countries around the world, Liberia was the first country in West Africa to establish a comprehensive right to information law. However, years of devastating civil wars have left the government of Liberia with a limited capacity to fully and effectively put an ATI regime into practice.

To strengthen the legislation's implementation and enforcement, The Carter Center works closely with key stakeholders, including the government of Liberia; the Independent Information Commissioner; the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism; and civil society leaders.

  • A woman addresses her fellow participants during a meeting at Forzohn Town, Mambahn District, Margibi County, Liberia. Through a nationwide effort to empower them, more women possess the courage to give their views in public meetings and participate in local government.

To date, the Carter Center's Rule of Law Program and partners have:

• Provided technical assistance, capacity building, and advice to nine target ministries and agencies which serve as a vanguard for the rest of government;

• Provided specialized training for designated information officers;

• Supported improvements in records management;

• Assisted in the development of manuals and procedures for ATI implementation efforts;

• Raised awareness of the value of ATI and specific responsibilities under the Liberian law;

• Helped establish the Information Offices with computers and equipment; and

• Supported the selection process for a new independent information commissioner (IIC) and assisted in the establishment of the IIC's office, policies, and procedures.

Ultimately, the value of Liberia's FOI Act rests in its use, as it is only by seeking and making requests for information that the benefits of ATI can be fully enjoyed. To that end, The Carter Center has partnered with the national Liberian Freedom of Information Coalition (LFIC) and, at the local level, has supported seven county freedom of information networks. Led by passionate and driven coordinators who are well respected and active within their communities, these seven networks and the national LFIC have become true champions for freedom of information.

Most recently, the Rule of Law Program has been looking into gender inequities in accessing public information and has completed a study of current barriers for women with a specific focus on accessing information necessary for economic empowerment. With these findings, the Center will work with local partners to further engage women's civil society organizations to improve awareness of the right to information and will partner with key ministries and agencies to develop creative solutions to overcome existing gender asymmetries.