LIBERIAN DELEGATION – STUDYING FOI IN CONNECTICUT (JUNE 3 - 4, 2013)
The FOI Commission will host the Liberian delegation on June 3 and June 4, 2013. Colleen Murphy, the FOIC’s Executive Director, will bring the following Liberian government officials to the Connecticut General Assembly, the State Capitol, and the Supreme Court during the course of those dates:
• J. Maxime Bleetahn, Information Officer, Ministry of Education
• Winston O. Jah, Registration Coordinator, National Social Security and Welfare
• Selena Polson-Mappy, Superintendent, Bong County
• Ralph Sonkarlay, Technical Focal Point, Deputy Minister for Budget
• Norris Tweah, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism
• George Williams, Information Officer, Center for National Documents & Records
The following individuals from the Carter Center will also be present: Alphonsus Zeon, Liberia Access to Information Project; and Kari Mackey, Global Access to Information Initiative.
From 1989 through 2003, Liberia endured years of civil war for control of its government. Liberia’s infrastructure and institutions were devastated. An estimated 250,000 people out of a total population of 3 million died in the fighting. In 2003, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was negotiated by a broad range of Liberian stakeholders. The Agreement established a transitional government, and set an election for October 2005. Over the next five years, the Liberian government made important strides, but gains outside of the capital of Monrovia were limited, and there were persistent allegations of corruption.
In 2011, presidential elections were held again, under the Liberian constitution. Liberia has made notable progress in creating an initial framework to reverse years of conflict, poor governance, and widespread suppression of basic freedoms. Nevertheless, Liberia continues to struggle with the challenges of reconstruction, including the reestablishment of trust in government, combating corruption, and creating strong and capable institutions. Liberians have asserted that lack of information exacerbates fear, inhibits citizens’ engagement, impedes media capacity to report, and hinders government efficiency. Key civil society actors and media representatives have identified right to access government information as a critical tool for their democracy.
On September 16, 2010, the Liberian Freedom of Information law passed. The law established a Freedom of Information Commissioner who oversees government compliance with the law, resolves appeals of unsatisfied requests, and raises general awareness of access to information. Unfortunately, many Liberian government agencies are slow to implement the Act. The FOI Commission is honored that the Carter Center has organized this study mission in Connecticut so that the delegation can review the following questions:
• Why has Connecticut been considered/ranked one of the best FOI regimes in the
• What have been the main components of implementation that the Information
Commission has promoted?
• What would the FOI Commission see as most critical first steps for implementation?
• What are the main types of requests received?
• How do you support public officials? and
• What facts/issues does the FOI Commission consider when reviewing
and deciding on cases?