Rule of law involves creating people-focused institutions | Waldemar Vrey, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Political and Rule of Law

Waldemar Vrey, UNMIL Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Political and Rule of Law Photo: Albert G. Farran | UNMIL | 29 Jan 18

5 Apr 2018

Rule of law involves creating people-focused institutions | Waldemar Vrey, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Political and Rule of Law

In an interview in December 2017, Waldemar Vrey, the DSRSG for Political and Rule of Law in Liberia, talked about the UN’s work to develop a functional rule of law environment. A former South African military officer, he had the overarching responsibility for UNMIL’s support to the justice sector, the police, other law enforcement and security agencies, and prisons, as well as for the promotion and protection of human rights.

How would you characterize your prior career as preparing you for the challenges that you’ve faced here in Liberia?

I’ve been in UN peacekeeping for more than 13 years, with a security background before that, having served in the South African military for about 25 years. In the UN, I was first stationed in Burundi and worked on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration as well as security sector reform. I also worked in Sudan and South Sudan on issues including civilian and military justice, corrections and security sector development. Then I served in Somalia, with the UN Political Mission, where the focus was on justice, corrections and security sector reform; and police, military and maritime development, as well as demobilization and de-radicalisation of Al-Shabaab defectors. All these experiences prepared me well for the tasks at hand in Liberia.

In your role as UNMIL’s senior official in the rule of law area, could you talk a bit about why rule of law is important for the UN and for Liberia?

"Access to justice is a key responsibility of the state to deliver to its people"

Rule of law is integral to the work of the United Nations, as it provides the enabling environment necessary for achieving the fundamental goal of the Organization, maintaining international peace and security. The rule of law agenda is not merely providing simple justice to people on issues of disagreement. It deals with the responsibility of government to provide proper governance across all its structures. It deals with the ability of the citizenry to take action against the government should it feel aggrieved. Rule of law involves creating people-focused institutions. Access to justice is a key responsibility of the state to deliver to its people. The UN Security Council has regarded the rule of law as one of the key priority areas for support to Liberia since the beginning of UNMIL.

Can you talk a bit about some of the work you’ve done in the time you’ve served here focusing on rule of law issues?

The major focus at the time of my arrival in October 2015 was the ongoing preparations for the full assumption of security responsibilities by the Government of Liberia from UNMIL, in accordance with the deadline set by the Security Council. Significant efforts were ongoing across the security sector to implement the Government plan for UNMIL’s transition, led by the Ministry of Justice. It was a considerable collective effort, and my role was to lead the UN contribution, working with my fellow Deputy SRSG in his role as UN Resident Coordinator, to ensure comprehensive and coherent UN support to the process.

"Since that point, the Government has demonstrated tremendous capability in dealing with security challenges and at no point has UNMIL had cause to commit UN resources for any reason, to ensure security in the country, which is a compliment to Liberia"

The successful assumption of security responsibilities by the 30 June 2016 deadline was a huge achievement for Liberia. Since that point, the Government has demonstrated tremendous capability in dealing with security challenges and at no point has UNMIL had cause to commit UN resources for any reason, to ensure security in the country, which is a compliment to Liberia.

The security transition process was the catalyst for some real progress in the security sector: development and passage of legislation to professionalize the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Immigration Service and to formalize weapons control; a revised National Security Strategy which has people at the core and as the basis for security, not the other way around; the strengthening of county level early warning and security coordination; and the development of an Integrated Border Management Strategy. Another notable achievement has been the change within the Liberia National Police towards a community-oriented approach to policing, focused on creating an enabling environment. This was fundamental to the successful conduct of peaceful elections in Liberia over the last couple of months. I am extremely proud of what the Liberian police achieved and of my team who worked so closely with them.

With respect to the justice sector, one key area for UNMIL has been strengthening capacity for electoral dispute resolution. UNMIL has maintained excellent relationships with the Government at the highest levels, including with the Chief Justice and the Minister of Justice, and this facilitated our support in this sensitive area.

"change within the Liberia National Police towards a community-oriented approach to policing, focused on creating an enabling environment. This was fundamental
to the successful conduct of peaceful elections"

Two other areas of UNMIL’s work that have come to fruition over my time here were our support to the establishment of a Gender and Security Sector National Task Force, which now coordinates Liberia’s implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security. The other is the culmination of years of support to the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, when it received full accreditation from the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions.

To what extent was UNMIL directly involved in helping build Liberia’s rule of law institutions?

I would like to acknowledge here the forward-looking perspective of previous UNMIL leadership in seeking to ensure a holistic approach to the rule of law sector. Although the initial period of the Mission was consumed by creating a stable environment, including demobilizing all armed groups, the work to build the judiciary, the Ministry of Justice, the police, and other rule of law institutions started simultaneously. But because this was such a major undertaking, and because there were such limited resources, this work initially proceeded slowly.

From the beginning, UNMIL mentors and advisers were co-located in key institutions - the Ministry of Justice, the Judiciary, and the Liberia National Police, the prisons managed by the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and later, the Liberia Immigration Service. They worked with national colleagues each and every day. In this way the UN played a major role in supporting national institutions, from the development of policy and planning capacity, to setting up budget and administrative processes, to the development of legal frameworks. This last area has taken some time, as legal frameworks must move through a drafting, consultation and then validation process, before reaching the legislative process.

"I would like to acknowledge here the forward-looking perspective of previous UNMIL leadership"

These are time-intensive activities, and it’s always a struggle to have a budget that meets the requirements, so it’s a lot of incremental work over a number of years. The UN’s role has changed over the years, gradually taking a back seat as national institutions developed capability to fully lead development and reform processes. Today, Liberia is one of those places where you move around and feel the warmth from the people toward the UN.         


Liberians really appreciate what we have done here. This positivity comes from the way the UN has worked here, not bossing Liberians around but working with them to reach their objectives.             

"Today, Liberia is one of those places where you move around and feel the warmth from the people toward the UN. Liberians really appreciate what we have done here."

A key factor in UNMIL’s support to building Liberia’s rule of law institutions has been the use of quick-impact project funding. UNMIL has used this tool over more than a decade to address priority gaps in rule of law infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, and to facilitate capacity-building in critical areas.

Supporting decentralization has been a focus of the UN’s work in Liberia. What has been the achieved in the justice and security sectors with respect to decentralization?

I would put decentralization high on list of deliverables UNMIL has been working to achieve. The Mission commenced at an early stage to invest in rule of law infrastructure across Liberia - building or rehabilitating courts, prisons, police stations and border depots. And while these are far from perfect facilities, they are functional. This had a positive impact as there was little to nothing in terms of government services at the time that UNMIL was established.

A more comprehensive approach came in 2011 after Liberia was placed on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission and UN Peacebuilding Fund support created a huge surge in the financial resources available to Liberia for the decentralization of justice and security services.

"UN Peacebuilding Fund support created a huge surge in financial resources available to Liberia for decentralization of justice and security services."

In the design of the peacebuilding plan, we used a ‘hubs approach’ to enhance access to justice and security at the regional and county levels. The hubs were to provide a decentralized and holistic approach to security and justice service delivery and a means by which national agencies could provide effective security across the country in preparation for UNMIL’s transition. In launching the first hub, in Gbarnga, we used an integrated approach to strengthen the police, the courts, prosecution and defence, corrections, and human rights monitoring, both in capacity and infrastructure, and sought to improve coordination across these institutions as well as to improve their relationship with their communities.

The Gbarnga Hub did achieve some success in improving service delivery, but its reach into the three counties it was to serve was not sufficiently strong, and most of the population were never able to use it. So the Government led a re-think of the hubs approach, and decided to invest next in a county-level model.

"The Liberians and UNMIL have set the scene successfully for a functional rule of law environment."

As we depart, I can say that justice and security institutions are functioning across the country, albeit at various degrees of efficiency. Could the situation be improved? Sure. The Liberians and UNMIL have set the scene successfully for a functional rule of law environment. This is a big cornerstone for the future. The decentralization approach is by no means finished. It will take much more time, and many more resources to be fully realized, but major effort has gone into this area during UNMIL’s time, thanks to the Liberians first but also thanks to international support.

"The decentralization approach is by no means finished. It will take much more time, and many more resources to be fully realized, but major effort has gone into this area during UNMIL’s time, thanks to the Liberians first, but also thanks to international support."

What would you identify as some of the biggest challenges the Mission has faced in its work to develop the rule of law and human rights in Liberia?

Some of the challenges are what you might expect in any country coming out of an extensive conflict. For example, strengthening rule of law in Liberia has been less about restoring something that existed pre-conflict, and more about contributing to establishing a normative framework. This has related challenges in terms of the political will to undertake reform, as many with decision-making authority are anxious about changing the status quo. Another challenge, which is common to post-conflict environments, is the quite severe limitation in capacity and, of course, resources.

One specific challenge we faced initially, which was a real hindrance to making progress in rule of law development, was an almost total absence of coordination amongst national actors in the sector. The doctrine of the separation of powers was taken so literally that it was almost impossible in the early days to get the different branches of Government talking together in the same room, let alone working together to develop a strategic way forward for the sector. It was not until the national rule of law retreat in 2008 that, with UNMIL support, progress was eventually made in this regard.

There are also challenges created by the UN. My experience in peacekeeping so far, as in Liberia, is that the short-term nature of our mandates can be debilitating. We are given mandates from the Security Council, which is advised by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The Member States advance the political discussion about Liberia’s priorities, and that provides us with a framework in which to deliver. However, we are given, at best, annual mandates. In the case of Liberia, some have been even shorter.

"My experience in peacekeeping so far, as in Liberia, is that the short-term nature of our mandates can be debilitating."

So you think there is an inherent limitation in peacekeeping mandates?

Limited mandates have a tendency to limit strategic thinking, which compromises our ability to accompany the country to reach longer-term objectives. For example, training some 300 Liberian police for six months is great, and it’s an absolute requirement, and we did it and did it well, repeatedly. But did we help stand up an institution with all the administration and legal frameworks to accompany it? Were we successful in delivering a full package? Probably not as well as we would have hoped. We do tasks according to a results-based budget on a 12-month cycle. We rarely look at longer-term delivery and therefore do not focus on creating sustainable foundations for institutions.

It’s been a pattern, globally, that once peacekeeping missions are deployed, they stay at least four to five years. So an internal discussion needed in peacekeeping is how to think strategically about the country we are working in and not only with resolving the immediate short-term problems. If we want to have the preventative lens on – and the Secretary-General is raising this regularly and putting it in his strategic frame – then we have to think beyond just one-year delivery cycles. We also need to be clearer in our mandates so that host nations can understand what they can realistically expect of us.

"If we want to have the preventative lens on – and the Secretary-General is raising this regularly and putting it in his strategic frame – then we have to think beyond just one-year delivery cycles."

Another challenge in peacekeeping is that we sometimes experience political difficulties in delivering across the whole mandate, and when we are unable to create forward movement in an area, we end up marking time and moving forward on politically easier agendas where we have some momentum, hoping to eventually create momentum in the more difficult, stalled areas. As a result, we risk falling into a trap where we put the difficult bits aside and then find it hard to come back to them. As the Organization with the moral high-ground, the UN should be careful of doing easy things and avoiding the most important and difficult challenges. We should address the hard-core issues as the key and most important parts of our mandate.


Launch of the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia. Photo: Christopher Herwig | UNMIL | 17 Jun 08

What role have regional and international partners played in supporting the development of justice and security institutions here?

Countries torn by war are not necessarily first looking at their immediate region for assistance. It takes time and effort to get them to form these ties and build their networks. Peacekeeping operations can and should do more to support this by asking questions about regional policy from the very beginning and utilizing their good offices role in this regard. In fact, the presence of a peacekeeping mission can affect the responsibilities and roles of regional bodies, and this can be seen in Liberia, where regional bodies became too comfortable with the presence of the UN and did not step up their intervention in the early post-conflict years. 

"While the leadership of Liberia is firmly in the hands of Librarians, the
contribution and interconnected support from ECOWAS, the African
Union and the UN has grown substantially."

Liberians have designed their institutions with a view to what they have learned from outside of the continent, rather than looking at compatibility in the West Africa region. To some extent, it was the UN which brought examples to Liberia of what happens in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and elsewhere in the region. In more recent years, this has turned around. The region has really stepped up. While the leadership of Liberia is firmly in the hands of Librarians, the contribution and interconnected support from ECOWAS, the African Union and the UN has grown substantially. This had a significant impact on Liberia, particularly during the contested 2017 electoral process. Now, we see Liberians are starting to travel and consult in the region, and regional conventions are starting to have an impact on Liberia. On another positive note, UNMIL Radio is going to become an ECOWAS asset. And the administrative hub for the West Africa Standby Force will be based in Liberia. So we will definitely see more regional linkages as the country moves forward.

With respect to support to the justice and security institutions, international and regional partnerships have played critical roles in Liberia. The Peacebuilding Commission’s engagement, for example, had considerable impact in helping to raise justice and security sector development on the national agenda. The US is the major bilateral partner to the rule of law sector. Notably, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, France, Norway and in particular China have proved loyal supporters of the sector over the last decade, both in terms of financial support and political engagement and advocacy. Meanwhile, ECOWAS has invested much time and resources in developing an early warning system in Liberia as part of a broader regional programme.

Looking back, is there anything that you think the Mission could have done differently from the beginning, to have had a different outcome?

I know that all UNMIL staff at the various stages of the Mission had the best intentions for Liberia. I do think, however, that if UNMIL had had the framework to do things strategically, and had not been bound to one-year mandates, we may have followed a different approach. Building self-sustainability and the capacity of national institutions to take every aspect of work forward is an approach we could have considered from the start. That would have required vision and leadership at the onset to realise these dreams for creating sustainability after our departure.

"Building self-sustainability and the capacity of national institutions to take every aspect of
work forward is an approach we could have considered from the start."

In this context it would have been helpful to be provided with a desired end state of the Mission from the onset, which would have allowed Mission leadership in concert with Headquarters to design a comprehensive exit strategy. With that, we also could have more easily managed expectations towards UNMIL by the Liberians.

One area where we could have done things differently, and which is a lesson to be learned by the UN, is in the justice sector. In the Liberian context, much greater focus could have been placed on the customary justice system and on developing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. We have supported these areas, but it could and should have taken more prominence in our engagement. Much has been done to develop policy options for ways in which the customary and formal justice systems could work together to deliver justice; the Ministry of Justice and the Law Reform Commission have both been engaged in this work over the years. It is essential that this work be taken forward, decisions made and the agreed path expeditiously implemented. In doing so, Liberia should retain the informality and local nature of the customary system. Efforts to take forward the formal application of an alternative dispute resolution mechanism must also be actively encouraged to address grievances and enhance access to justice. Efforts are also required to address limitations in the formal justice system.

Many trials are outstanding, and Liberia needs to work toward a system where courts are able to turn cases around more quickly. For this to happen, investigations need to be done properly, and prosecutors need to be on top of their job. Defence counsels need to be present and effective. The overall tempo needs to increase significantly within the courts. For both systems, it will be important to focus on adherence to international human rights principles and standards.

In terms of what you are working on now as the Mission comes to a close, what are your priorities?

Principally, we are trying to wrap up UNMIL’s work in a way to ensure as smooth a transition as possible to those areas of support where the UN Country Team or other partners will continue or start to engage. We had some experience of this already as UNMIL ended its support to the corrections sector in early 2017. We are leaving behind a corrections system with enhanced management capacity, internal training capacity, a five-year strategic development plan, and numerous policies and standard operating procedures for the effective management of prisons and the humane treatment of prisoners. Again, the reform and development of the corrections sector are not complete, but they are clearly on the right path.

In terms of the transition to UNCT support, when I arrived, I worked with UNDP on developing a joint programme on strengthening the rule of law, including security institutions, particularly the police, the immigration service and so forth. It took time to sell the idea to the Government and to the international partners, but I am extremely proud to say that, together with UNDP and national actors, we finalized this joint programme. It is a realistic programme targeting priorities though the next 36 months with some US$18 million. We already have more than half of the money raised. While sizeable, it is not enough money to address all justice and security sector needs, but it’s going to go a long way. UNDP will work with the incoming Government to refine the priorities of the programme. They will also seek the support of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operation’s Standing Police Capacity to bring in advisers to support the national police. This will be coordinated with the US, ECOWAS, Sweden and other partners, to ensure complementarity of our efforts.

"I am extremely proud to say that, together with UNDP and national actors, we finalized this joint programme. It is a realistic programme targeting priorities though the next 36 months with some US$18 million."

A further priority is to provide a useful way for the incoming Government to address the perennial challenge of limited resources. Does Liberia have an affordable and sustainable security institutions design and structure? For example, Liberia currently has just over 5,000 police officers. The national budget does not allow for more than this, so could we train another 300? Yes, but that’s not the long-term solution. You need to be able to pay these officers a salary and deploy them where they can best serve. Could Liberia consider ways to measure efficiency and cost effectiveness? Does it get value for its bucks? How do Liberia’s structures compare to the wider ECOWAS region? Can Liberia use its resources to the greater advantage of its people? To this end, UNMIL, working with the Government, UNDP and the World Bank recently launched a Public Expenditure Review to determine minimum financial needs for the effective functioning of the security and justice sectors. The outcomes of this project, due in April 2018, may be a critical start line for such a strategic discussion.

Everybody is in agreement that an ongoing human rights presence through the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) is needed in Liberia, so a big effort was launched, in collaboration with the Government, to take forward the establishment of this office as a priority. The new office will open just as UNMIL closes. The Peacebuilding Support Office has agreed to fund its first year, and we are mobilizing donors to support this further.

"Everybody is in agreement that an ongoing human rights presence through the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) is needed in Liberia, so a big effort was launched, in collaboration with the Government, to take forward the establishment of this office as a priority."

What human rights work remains to be done in Liberia beyond UNMIL’s closure?

National reconciliation in Liberia remains an ongoing process. The majority of the recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission have not been taken forward. The situation is not that bad: there are not a number of ethnic groups ready to go to war with each other. But there are deep wounds that still exist from the past. And in a society where storytelling is a rich art, the stories tend to get more colourful as they get carried from generation to generation. There needs to be a forgiveness process in Liberia, where people reach out to each other, listen to each other, at least acknowledge the pain that they collectively brought on each other and to form new alliances, to build again on social cohesion. These are challenges which will be inherited by the incoming Government, and I trust that both the Independent National Commission on Human Rights and the OHCHR can provide support and guidance.

The significant level of sexual and gender-based violence in Liberia is also a human rights issue that will need a whole Government approach to address effectively. From the rule of law perspective, the criminal justice response to addressing crimes involving sexual violence is poor, despite considerable investment in efforts to build specialist capacity within the police, prosecution and courts. Investigations are often compromised; prosecutions are limited, and the cases which do reach court are dealt with much too slowly.

"There needs to be a forgiveness process in Liberia, where people reach out to each other, listen to each other, at least acknowledge the pain that they 
collectively brought on each other and to form new alliances, to build again on social cohesion."

There are also ongoing accountability and human rights issues with respect to justice and security institutions, although concrete efforts and progress have been made.

Overall, there is a lot of work here for the High Commissioner to support and deliver.

Out of all of these parallel issues you’re focused on, is there work you look at now and think you just won’t have time to get to it?

We have to be objective: we can’t stay until everything is perfect. It’s good enough for us to go, although ongoing efforts on critical issues still need to be taken forward. This will of course be the responsibility of the incoming Government, to be supported as appropriate by the international community. Let me give you four examples.

While progress has undoubtedly been made with respect to legislative reform, serious gaps remain as many laws are outdated. A specific effort must be launched to review all laws to reflect current realities, such as the Rules and Regulations Governing the Hinterland of Liberia, and laws involving gender. Updating and advancing gender justice by reforming laws that restrict women’s rights while promoting progressive, gender sensitive legislation, particularly in the areas of domestic violence and reproductive rights, must be considered.

Constitutional reform also needs to be taken forward. The past decade has demonstrated the shortcomings and gaps within the Constitution.

Many badly needed economic and development reforms envisaged for Liberia, particularly decentralization, local governance and the justice sector, will continue to be delayed in the absence of an updated Constitution.

The reform of the legal and judicial system is not complete, and remaining challenges and recommendations identified as far back as 2008 are still to be implemented. With a new Government taking office, now would be a good time to weigh the performance of the reforms implemented to determine the extent to which they have resulted in greater access to justice and the strengthening of the rule of law. Liberia should consider engaging in a broad, national conversation on the kind of justice system it needs and can afford, with improved delivery of justice for all as the primary goal. Such a discussion should include the issue of the harmonization of the dual justice systems, and should be guided by the fact that services should be delivered where the people actually are and not on the basis of legislative administrative boundaries. In Liberia, six of the 15 counties have 80 per cent of the population, yet most resources of Liberia are cut in slices of equal value. Until this is addressed, we will continue to see all the sectors struggling to deliver proper services. The planned national census of 2018 provides an ideal opportunity to all sectors to review their service delivery and to align services to where people are concentrated. The Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice could undertake a rationalization of the justice system, reviewing the number and location of courts, to improve access while avoiding unnecessary expense.

The final example of areas where progress has been made but ongoing attention is needed is the corrections sector. The prison population in Liberia is more than 2,000 inmates. There are not hundreds of thousands of people being held, but current prison infrastructure cannot cope with this level of demand, and overcrowding and poor conditions are the norm. Those immediately responsible for the corrections sector within the Ministry of Justice have tried to secure funding to address this, but sadly, as in all the countries where I’ve worked, prisons are at the bottom of the queue when it comes to any financial allocations. However, prisoners need to be fed and cared for in a humane environment. They have rights too. The central prison here in Monrovia is on the beach. It’s prime property. A tourist hotel could be built on that location, so I have been encouraging the Government to offer this property to one of the big hotel groups, but in exchange, they need to build a modern prison in a more appropriate location. People think it’s a good idea, but it hasn’t happened.

These areas and others will be addressed by UNMIL in a set of strategic recommendations we are preparing on our departure for consideration by the Government, the UN Country Team and international partners.

It sounds as if, overall, you have confidence in the future of Liberia. Do you have confidence in where the country is headed?

Liberia is on its way. The train has left the station. It depends now on everybody who is steering and directing the train, how fast or how well it is going to move. Liberians have demonstrated the ability to do it. During the time of Ebola, when help seemed far way, many Liberians worked hard to overcome the tragedy that took hold of this region, and they did so in a fantastic and commendable manner. In a way that did more for nation-building than a few years of our presence. It brought Liberians closer together.           

Our departure is one of those key moments on the growth path of Liberia. The UN will remain here, but it’s in the nature of the relationship that we had, and in the size of our peacekeeping Mission, that our departure really puts the responsibility back in the hands of Liberians to do things for themselves now. And in reality, Liberians have been doing it for themselves already. Many haven’t quite realized this. Now it’s time to for all Liberians to build national confidence in their own institutions. They need to see that their institutions are delivering.

"We’re not only interested in state-building. We want to see the position of every Liberian improved."

If other institutions follow the example of the police, who have taken a people-centric and community-based approach that will build confidence and help strengthen Liberia’s position. We’re not only interested in state-building. We want to see the position of every Liberian improved. That takes a lot of effort.

What recommendations do you have for Liberians themselves and for the internationals who will continue here, helping Liberia move forward?

The new Administration should be careful about introducing too much change too soon. Familiarize yourself sufficiently before you start change.

People need a bit of stability now with the crossover from one administration to the other, so demonstrate that stability to the people, build their confidence, win their hearts and minds, and then form your own policy guidance to move forward.

To the new leadership of justice and security institutions, I recommend that you see the legislative branch of Government as your partner, not your enemy. The fact they are the principal oversight body does not mean that they aim to prevent you from achieving their aims. They are in many ways an extension of the institutions to ensure that your actions are within the legal and governance frameworks and that you serve Liberia’s people. They are also responsible to ensure that you are fairly treated when resources are allocated. Forge good relations with them.

I would also say to both new and existing leadership that the basis for the effective functioning of rule of law institutions has been sufficiently built. Put your efforts within these frameworks. Not only will that build confidence within Liberian society, but it’s going to create enormous confidence with international partners who may be more open to support Liberia in raising resources. You also need to make sure that all people have access to justice in even the remotest locations. Don’t underestimate the valuable contribution also being made through the informal sector, through the elders, through alternative dispute mechanisms for which a legal framework is being established, and which is a lot less expensive, and an easier way to resolve challenges.

As long as these strategic decisions keep rolling out, placing Liberians at the heart of decision-making, Liberia will be in good stead.

Photo: Christopher Herwig | UNMIL | 15 Aug 08