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Access to Information in Liberia

  • Participants take part in a parade celebrating International Right to Know Day that progressed through the major port town of Buchanan, Liberia, on Sept. 28, 2013. (Photo: The Carter Center/M. Darrough)

The Rule of Law Program supports transparency and accountability mechanisms and the advancement of the right of access to information in Liberia to help to professionalize government, prevent corruption, make sure citizens can secure basic rights, assure greater social inclusion, and promote greater trust between the government and its citizens. The program works with the government to help it be more transparent and responsive to communities’ needs. It also supports civil society so that it can help government and local communities set priorities, monitor government actions, and seek public information to improve lives.

At the government’s request, The Carter Center supported the historic passage of Liberia's Freedom of Information Act — signed into law on Sept. 16, 2010 — which gives everyone the right of access to public information, which is a fundamental human right guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and the constitution of Liberia.

Notably, Liberia was the first country in West Africa to establish a comprehensive right to information law. However, years of devastating civil wars left the government with limited capacity to fully and effectively put their access-to-information regime into practice. To strengthen the law's implementation, enforcement, and use, The Carter Center has been working closely with key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism; the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Affairs; the Information Commission, various freedom of information networks, the media, and civil society organizations.

Most recently, the Rule of Law Program helped government and civil society partners advance access to information in Liberia’s security and justice institutions, such as the Liberia National Police, and implement creative solutions to overcome obstacles facing women in exercising their right to information.

Additionally, the program currently is helping the Liberia National Police develop and implement complaints and commendations systems, critical for reducing impunity and building trust in the institution most responsible for citizen security.

  • Members of the Liberia National Police participate in a Carter Center-led session to review and build implementation capacities for the new complaints and commendations system.

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

  • Provided training and technical assistance on implementation of the Liberia Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2010 to more than 160 public officials across 25 government ministries, agencies, and committees, with a specific focus on security and justice institutions and reaching women.
  • Raised broad awareness of the value of access to information and specific responsibilities under the Liberian law, including through the development and dissemination of materials, publications, and radio programming.
  • Helped more than 50 civil society groups form freedom of information networks in seven counties that lead work to raise awareness and increase use of the FOI law in their respective communities.
  • Developed a freedom of information diploma and certificate courses that have been adopted by the Liberia Institute for Public Administration, the Liberia National Police Academy and Training School, the Judicial Institute, and the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law.
  • Assisted in the establishment of the Independent Information Commissioner’s office, policies, and procedures.
  • Curated and implemented an FOI exhibit at the Center for National Documents and Records Agency that publicly displayed the country’s original Declaration of Independence and constitution.
  • Helped the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism improve information flows and feedback related to the receipt, distribution, and use of resources to fight the deadly Ebola virus.
  • Conducted a mixed-methods study to assess barriers facing women in exercising their right of access to information and used the findings to develop solutions to help ensure that meaningful information is reaching women.
  • Assisted the Liberia National Police in developing standard operating procedures for implementation of new complaints and commendations mechanisms.

Women and the Right of Access to Information
Since 2014, the Rule of Law Program, with support from Irish Aid, has helped key government and civil society partners in Liberia ensure that meaningful information, particularly related to education, starting a business, land, and rights, reaches women. In collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection; the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism; the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL); county freedom of information networks, FOI facilitators, and others, the Center has served more than 2,000 women in Monrovia and three target counties.