The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Sierra Leone to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Sierra Leone'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. strategy to promote democracy and freedom in the country emphasizes building a strong foundation of democratic principles, fostering government transparency, and upholding human rights. In pursuit of those goals, the U.S. Government is implementing programs that promote good governance and the development of a stable political process by supporting local and international organizations that work to expand and strengthen civil society. The United States seeks to achieve results through targeted diplomacy and assistance in several key areas including the development and implementation of fair, transparent, and sustainable democratic processes; the empowerment of women in political, economic, and social life; support for the final activities of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL; devolution of power from the central government to regional governments; media training to encourage accurate reporting; and support for anticorruption initiatives. In addition, increasing informed civic participation of all citizens is a primary goal for the U.S. Government.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The United States promotes and supports continuing government efforts to decentralize and become more accountable. One area of focus is the reconstitution of local government institutions, which were abolished in the 1970s but reinstituted in 2004. Over the next five years, approximately 70 local ward development committees should be better equipped to engage their local District Council in an informed dialogue, thereby creating the conditions for citizens' participation in local governance and fostering the enabling environment for sustainable economic growth. U.S. funding will continue to integrate governance interventions into livelihood, food security, and natural resource management activities. U.S. programs will strengthen local government to enact policies that support activities to increase income for farmers and other inhabitants of rural areas. Local councils will be encouraged to adopt and implement the forestry policy and the conservation and wildlife policy, being developed at the national level, to promote co-forest management and provide alternative livelihoods. The U.S. Government also promotes policies that will link farmers to regional and international markets.
The U.S. embassy uses multiple outlets to address human rights-related issues and the need for good governance, including speeches to the parliament and public, radio interviews, and development assistance programs. Such fora provide opportunities to discuss the need for engagement on women's issues, the rule of law, anticorruption, and labor exploitation. Public diplomacy efforts support nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society through programs that include films, lectures, and discussion on an array of topical subjects, including civil rights, women's rights, and politics in democracy. Through the U.S. International Visitor Leadership Program, the United States provides opportunities for participants to study topics such as trafficking in persons, accountability in governance, and responsible political reporting. The program provides opportunities for free discussion and exchange of ideas by students, journalists, civil society organizations, academics, and civil servants.
The United States is the largest contributor to the SCSL, which is charged with bringing to justice those persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights in the country since 1996. U.S. officials communicate regularly with senior SCSL officials to determine how the United States can most effectively support SCSL efforts as the court completes the last phase of its operations--the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
The United States provides assistance to government ministries and senior officials to promote the effective management and monitoring of industries, including the extractive industries and fisheries. The United States supports efforts to reduce opportunities for criminal activity, including smuggling and trafficking of people and illicit goods. U.S. programs promote efforts to expand educational opportunities for nearly 10,000 children either employed in, or at risk of being employed in, the worst forms of child labor. The U.S. Government also supports the expansion of educational opportunities for young women and programs that address gender-based violence. Through the U.S. ambassador's Girls' Scholarship Program, the United States provides educational scholarships that enable thousands of girls and young women to attend primary and secondary school. Furthermore, the U.S. government assists a local radio station in its efforts to raise awareness on issues including domestic violence, gender-based violence, child abuse, and education for children.