Core Program areas:
1. Peace building and Conflict Prevention
- Transparency and Accountability in Concessional Communities
- Indigenous Peoples Rights to Natural Resources Benefits and Conservation
- Reconciliation and Peaceful Co-existence
- Peace Education with Children and Youth
Transparency and Accountability in Concessional Communities
The Rural Human Rights Activists Programme (RHRAP) is currently implementing a mini project that focused on corporate social responsibility, community participation as well as improving relationship between actors within concessional communities as it relate to the mining sector of Liberia. RHRAP has realized that these core areas are some of the potential areas for violent conflict if not adequately manage with consensus.
Based on stakeholders meetings and consultations in 2011-2012, the below strategic objectives with bullet points were developed to engage the process.
- To build the capacity of local communities in understanding agreements signed between mining companies and the Government of Liberia and ensure that both live up to their legal responsibilities vis-à-vis those communities; and promote indigenous people participation within the entire mining process.
The gap in knowledge that exists in local communities on the nature and purpose of concession agreements that has been reached between the government and mining companies is a source of constant conflicts. There have been some conflicts or strong disagreements between stakeholders in some mining communities due to community resident’s dissatisfaction on how mining contracts are concluded/reached between the government of Liberia and concession companies. Therefore, community residents (indigenous communities) full participation in the entire mining process starting from the drafting of agreements/contracts leading to exploration, and then follow by mining with the involvement of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to ensure check and balances must be initiated and guaranteed to avoid violent conflict in the long run. This strategic objective will contribute to both social and financial accountabilities from top to bottom (from government, companies to communities).
- Promote intergenerational equity in mining communities (community residents and mining companies) as well as at national levels.
Besides timber and some other agriculture products, natural resources when abstracted, can no longer be replaced. In so doing, community residents in these indigenous communities must be aware of these facts. RHRAP stands to stimulate the minds of community’s residents by presenting the facts and variables to them using case studies/best practices in the mining sectors. RHRAP seeks to work with these communities to identify sustainable development programs that will positively impact the lives of these mining communities even when the mining is over. In addition, this initiative seeks to advocate as well as lobby with other stakeholders including donors, and relevant governmental agencies that deal with mining activities in Liberia to prioritize intergenerational equity (Sustainable Development). Prior to the Liberian civil conflict, mining companies in Bomi Hills, Bong Mines, LAMCO, etc operated in these communities for years mining iron ore, diamond, gold and have left the country. But there are no tangible developments that these communities even the government can show as benefits gained from these extractive operations. What is left in most of these communities are environmental pollutions and degradation.
- Promote the rights of the indigenous people’s culture, and to their land.
In some mining communities, community residents continue to cry with government concerning the manner in which their lands are being taking away without consensus. The indigenous people are gradually losing their land they used for their cultural practices, forest trees used for herb (medication) as well as sources of incomes from hunting and farming. The fact is that, indigenous people are gradually losing their ecosystem. Besides the issue of environmental degradation, there is a social issue that has to do with the restoration of the cultural heritage of the indigenous people which is at the core of these communities.
Institutional capacity building:
As Liberia gradually moves from post conflict reconstruction to development stage with the country focusing on expanding the mining of its natural resources, the issue of policy development to properly guide the mining processes of the country’s natural resources that will benefit not only the few, but the entire citizenry is now cardinal to Liberia. Given the numerous challenges facing such achievement, it is incumbent upon civil society actors including RHRAP to effectively contribute to the creation of a vibrant extractive industry. But this can only be achieved if Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) acquire the requisite knowledge and skills needed for such intervention. From past case study, policy issues relating to mining industry is a complex issue that requires additional trainings for CSOs so that they can effectively contribute to the peaceful managing of the process. This was seen or observed during the workshop organized by Sydney University held in Monrovia in 2012.
Therefore, RHRAP is increasing it staffs knowledge and skills on policy oriented issues that affects natural resource management which will help RHRAP to adequately monitor corporate social responsibilities, promote community participation and Inter-Generational Equity as well as improving relationship between actors.
Initial Strategic Activities
Consultative meetings and workshops: RHRAP is building awareness among stakeholders on the legal obligations of extractive industry companies and the government of Liberia to deliver social benefits contained within concession agreements. This is currently being done through organizing series of stakeholder engagements and awareness meetings and workshops.
Community Workshop: RHRAP is organizing few educational workshops for community residents to develop their understanding of the nature and purpose of the mining agreements, the impact of illegal mining activities, and mechanisms to address rights violations, abuses and grievances.
Researching and compiling corporate social responsibilities: RHRAP is currently researching and compiling corporate social responsibilities within mining agreements signed between the government and mining companies. At the end of 2013, RHRAP will then print and distribute 1,500 handbills containing simplified versions, in Liberian English, of concession agreements to help ordinary rural residents better understand their purpose and engage more constructively. The publication will focus on the provisions that are directly related to corporate social responsibility, community participation, and natural resource management.
Advocacy and lobbing: RHRAP also lobby to the Liberian legislature and the Foreign Ministry to uphold its legal obligations (Printing Concession Agreements into Handbills) by proactively providing all concession agreements for public consumption in line with its statutory mandate.
At the conclusion of RHRAP monitoring and investigation field visits to investigate adherence to the contract agreements throughout the 3 year period, RHRAP will lobby to the Liberian legislature and the foreign ministry to uphold its legal obligation to proactively provide all concession agreements for public consumption.
Institutional capacity building:
Two of RHRAP staffs are expected to participate in an additional training program that will be offered by Sydney University for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) intended to increase the knowledge and skills of CSOs who are actively involved with programs that focused on the mining sectors of Liberia. The first phase of the training is expected to start in November in Monrovia and the second phase in Australia.
- Promoting the Rule of Law
- Policy Advocacy
RHRAP PROGRAM RULE OF LAW PROGRAM
The Criminal Justice System which constitutes the key aspect for the promotion of the rule of law is a serious challenge in post war Liberia. Although, Liberia has very good laws on the books, but the implementation aspects of these laws are what undermining the rule of law. The following are troubling factors hampering the Criminal Justice System in Liberia:
- Illegal arrests and detentions of peaceful citizens
- Police brutality
- Entrench corrupt practices within the Criminal Justice System of Liberia
- Prolonged detention of detainees without due process which contravenes the statutory laws of Liberia
- Mob Justice within the various political subdivisions of Liberia leading to the death of people and
burning down of infrastructures especially Police Stations and other security houses
- The lack of timely and effective Criminal Justice System
- Deplorable prisons and police cells conditions including the treatment of offenders
- Inadequate correctional centers causing over crowdedness of prisons and police cells
These are key challenges to the restoration of the rule of law in Liberia.
As a result of the above mentioned impediments to the upholding of the rule of law in Liberia, majority of the Liberians have lost confidence in the entire Criminal Justice System the (Police, Court and Prison) which is a threat to the restoration of fundamental human rights and democratic principles in Liberia. Tensions between law enforcement officers and community residents leading to the burning down of Police Stations are on the increased in Liberia.
What is being done by RHRAP?
Promoting Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Rural Communities: This is an education and advocacy initiatives that focus on improving the Criminal Justice System (CJS) (Police, Court and Prison) of Liberia, using various methodologies to contribute to addressing those challenges mentioned above. This program is being supported by the Inter-Church Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) and Kenkin Actie (KIA) based in the Netherlands.
Under this program, RHRAP is organizing workshops for Criminal Justice System workers in Gbarnga, Bong County to improve their knowledge and skills in the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights as it relates to the rule of law. RHRAP is also organizing Citizen Action Committees (CACs); a community based social structures comprises of various indigenous community representatives. For the past 2 years, RHRAP has organized 4 CACs with 15 members each in 4 indigenous communities and is providing them with training on the Criminal Justice System with emphasis on arrests, prosecution and detentions (Criminal Justice Highway).
RHRAP is organizing learning and sharing meetings for communities and CJS Workers with focus on community policing. We have an established working collaboration with the Ministry of Justice to enforce the rule of law including the courts, prisons, and other detention sites.
RHRAP continues its engagements with stakeholders with focus on the Justice Ministry through learning and sharing meetings to improve the rule of law. RHRAP also monitor prisons & other detention sites and work towards improvement.
Expansion of its Rule of Law Program in Lofa County
There is a need to expand our work in Lofa County, one of the largest political subdivisions of Liberia through organizing rural community’s structures known as Community Action Committees (CAC) and building their capacities through education and awareness activities such as workshops, Town Hall Meetings, and community radio programs. Other activities includes building community and criminal justice workers relationships (Community policing), engaging the Justice Ministry and other stakeholders peacefully through meetings and roundtable discussions for the improvement of the Rule of Law with emphasis placed on the Criminal Justice System. Others includes, monitoring prison conditions, the courts and making sure that proper and adequate documentation is being carryout in line with the country’s criminal justice system. Under this program, RHRAP will also fill bail on behave of illegal detainees.
Where needed, RHRAP will seek the intervention or collaboration of the House of Representatives through its House Standing Committee on Justice matters in Liberia to improve the Criminal Justice System of Liberia. On quarterly bases, RHRAP will organize press conference to provide position statements on the application of the rule of law in Liberia.
Current support to RHRAP Rule of Law Program
RHRAP and its longtime partners which are: The Inter-Church Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) and Kenkin Actie (KIA) Netherlands, have reached a 3 years agreement (2012-2014) to support RHRAP’s Rule of Law Program in rural communities of Gbarnga, Bong County. The total cost of the three years program is 301,000 thousands United States Dollars intended to cover two counties which are Bong and Lofa Counties. But ICCO and Kenkin Actie has contributed 101,000 thousands Euros for the three years.
With this, RHRAP program will not be extended to Lofa County unless additional funds are solicited to run the Lofa County Program; and this is why RHRAP is requesting the Global Criminal Justice Fund for support.