Justice: A Building Block of Accountability

Francis, our resident in Liberia, explains the progress with our Community Justice Teams in Monrovia.

CJTBy Francis Lansana, Accountability Lab Resident.

The Accountability Lab is an incubator for the world’s most creative accountability ideas. In Liberia, the team works with innovative people and organizations to develop tools- and the communities around them- that can make power-holders more responsible.

Justice is a building block for accountability. It’s also a crucial element of sustainable peace and development.  In an effort to support peace and foster development in Liberia, the Accountability Lab is promoting the use of conflict mediation and resolution with citizens in low-income communities of Monrovia.

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Over 50 people attended this week’s community meeting in Logan Town to discuss justice issues in the community and introduce the Community Justice Teams.

The project, which was first initiated in West Point and implemented by the West Point Health & Sanitation Organization (WPHSO), has now been scaled-up to Logan Town on Monrovia’s Bushrod Island.

Logan Town is a community that has a population of over 30,000 inhabitants and only one police station which, it is widely agreed, does not have the capacity to respond to the legal and security needs of citizens. In an effort to support the Liberian government in building peace and bringing justice to all, the Accountability Lab is training eight mediators in Logan Town. The mediators will work with the local court and police department to refer cases back down to locally trained Community Justice Teams, who will work to resolve disputes sustainably.

The Accountability Lab believes that building the capacity of community members to solve disputes in their communities is one of the best ways to promote peace and democracy, which in turn leads to development. The Lab has observed that aggrieved parties are more responsive to non-binding mediation and often engage in more constructive dialogue without the threat of formal legal sanction that inherently arises in governmental courts.  In our work in West Point, there has not been a single instance of recidivism in the cases that have been dealt with by our trained mediators.

In the eyes of many Liberians, the use of conventional legal systems such as the police and courts are expensive, time-consuming and not the best way to solve civil disputes. As a result, many people resolve their grievances through violent means. As an institution that works from the bottom-up with a real focus on citizens, the Accountability Lab is working to ensure that disputes are resolved in more constructive ways.

The Logan town Alternative Dispute Resolution Center will be managed and run by the Citizens Bureau for Development and Productivity, a local NGO led by John Kamma. In our training for the mediators, Mr. Kamma opened the session with some words of caution. “Access to justice through the formal justice system is an accountability issue. The loss of public trust and confidence in the justice sector is a direct result of the police and courts being unresponsive to citizens’ needs.”

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The Community Justice Teams collaborate with the local police and courts. Logan Town police officers and UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) representatives attended the community meeting.

“When an aggrieved party is unable to meet the financial costs associated with the court system, justice is repeatedly delayed or denied. This is shameful for a formal justice system that should serve everyone equitably and adequately, regardless of money, age, or status- and it is a recipe for potential conflict. Something must be done to restore the functioning of justice in Liberia.” Through this project, we are doing it- and we look forward to keeping you updated from on-the-ground here in Monrovia.

 

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Making power-holders accountable in the developing world

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