The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Côte d’Ivoire to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Côte d’Ivoire’s human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government's strategy to promote freedom and democracy has focused on urging the signatories of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) to implement the terms of the accord as soon as possible. This includes issuing identity documents and voter cards to citizens of the country who were previously disenfranchised, establishing a new national army, and holding free and fair elections. The U.S. ambassador is actively engaged in efforts to prod the president, the prime minister, and the independent electoral commission to move forward on the OPA. International and local NGOs agree that addressing the issue of identification (documenting all those who are Ivoirian citizens) is fundamental to achieving greater freedom and democracy in the country. In addition to promoting implementation of the OPA, the United States has established three themes as cornerstones of its democracy strategy: the importance of free speech, open political debate, and a free and independent professional press; an appreciation for tolerance and diversity; and an insistence on the accountability of public officials. The United States also focuses on women's rights and the need to combat the worst forms of child labor, particularly in the cocoa sector. Persuading the government to be more proactive with regard to exploitative labor practices, including trafficking in persons, is a priority.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The United States has suspended most non-humanitarian aid to the country due to sanctions imposed as a result of the absence of credible elections following a military-led coup in 1999. However, the United States supports several important programs designed to further democratic principles. The U.S. Government funds the only international NGO observation mission of the OPA-mandated identification and voter registration process. The U.S. Government also promotes public participation in the democratic process through programs that advocate leadership skills and individual responsibility. For example, the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan hosted discussions on leadership with student leaders from different political parties.
The United States provides small grants to several Ivorian NGOs engaged in promoting human rights. U.S. funds supported organizations providing legal assistance to impoverished and underserved groups and educating young people about their civic rights. U.S.-funded exchange programs bring Ivoirian journalists, grassroots democracy and human rights activists, and government officials to the United States to learn from the American experience about issues such as freedom of speech, tolerance, and civic leadership.
Students, NGO activists, community and religious leaders, journalists and other professionals participate in a variety of U.S. outreach programs on civic education, transparency and good governance, tolerance, and women and development. Numerous programs to promote democratic principles focus on youth, civil society, and the next generation of leaders. To promote freedom of speech, the United States co-sponsors video conferences, book discussions, and roundtables for reporters and editors on the responsibilities of a free press. The United States distributes articles and materials on human rights, democracy, and good governance to key contacts and target audiences throughout the country.
The United States supports activities promoting women's rights and religious pluralism. To address women's rights, the U.S. Government finances a coalition of local NGOs working on combating gender-based violence in schools. To promote religious pluralism, U.S. officials continue to organize programs, including Iftar dinners for Muslim civil society leaders, a discussion with religious leaders on their role in effecting social change, and discussions to support interfaith dialogue. Religious leaders are included in programs promoting freedom of speech and women's rights. Several Muslim youth and civic leaders will participate in international exchange programs emphasizing tolerance.
The U.S. Government continues to fund efforts to combat the worst forms of child labor by providing oversight for the establishment of a child labor monitoring system. The U.S. Government funds a 40-month West Africa regional project that includes direct action in the country to reduce child labor in the cocoa and coffee sectors and child domestic labor. The project will expand child labor monitoring systems and improve the Ivoirian government's capacity to fight the worst forms of child labor. The U.S. Government continues to fund cocoa-farmer training that encourages the elimination of exploitative labor practices in cocoa production. Additionally, in conversations with government authorities, U.S. officials speak out against the worst forms of child labor, including child trafficking, and U.S. officials support public-private partnerships to end hazardous child labor in the cocoa industry.