The Inquirer (Monrovia)

22 February 2013

Liberia: We Welcome the MOU

editorial

ON THURSDAY, THE Government of Liberia (GOL) and the Carter Center Liberia office signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which intends to provide support to the Government of Liberia and ensure the smooth implementation of the Freedom of Information Law which was passed by the National Legislature.

According to the MOU, the GOL shall also identify, with the assistance of the Carter Center, up to two additional target agencies to which activities pertaining to the MOU will be focused, although implementation of planned activities under the MOU may be extended to or benefit other agencies of the GOL if possible with available resources.

SPEAKING AT THE signing ceremony yesterday at the Information Ministry on Capitol Hill, Information Minister Lewis Brown expressed the GOL's commitment to supporting free speech and making information available for the people of Liberia. Minister Brown said part of being a citizen is the right to know what the Government is doing in terms of development and all aspect of managing the affairs of the state. The Information Boss praised the Carter Center for its continuous partnership with the Government of Liberia by not only supporting government but critically engaging the ministry and the entire government to ensuring that the FOI Law is seriously implemented.

FOR HER PART the Carter Center Manager for Global Access to Information, Madam Laura Neuman said the Carter Center is prepared and willing to support the Government of Liberia in promoting democracy and transparency. The Carter Center Official said access to information is a basic tool in promoting transparency and democracy in any society and as such the center is willing to foster such.

WE WELCOME THE signing of the MOU between the Government of Liberia (GOL) and the Carter Center as the implementation of the FOI Law is cardinal to the promotion and sustenance of Liberia's new found democracy. If we as a people must continue on this path of democratic governance, freedom of information cannot be overlooked as it seriously forms the foundation for an open government and transparency.

HOWEVER, WHILE THIS MOU is being signed we urge authorities concerned to ensure that the FOI graduate from the slow pace of its implementation and the necessary steps be taken to complete it. As indicated in the MOU, it is our hope that the appointment of the FOI focus persons at the various ministries and agencies of government will begin and the recent fear expressed by the President of the Press Union of Liberia will be addressed in the not too distance future.

A PROPER MECHANISM should now be put in place for the implementation of this law because by now, the FOI focus persons should have been named and commissioned to begin their work. This must be done without delay if the government is seriously committed to ensuring access to information and the sustenance of democracy.

ACCORDING TO THE MOU, the Carter Center will help the GOL identify up to two additional target ministries or agencies for a total maximum of nine target agencies to which activities pertaining to this Memorandum will be focused.

THE CARTER CENTER shall also provide technical assistance to the GOL and share the international experience regarding best practices for the implementation, compliance and promotion of the FOI Act.

THE CARTER CENTER shall also help convene and facilitate workshops and training sessions for public officials of the target ministries or agencies designated information officers to raise awareness of the FOI Act and its operation and implementation.

THE GOL FOR its part will designate a principal counterpart to work with the Carter Center's representative related to freedom of information activities.

THE GOL SHALL also identify, with the assistance of the Carter Center, up to two additional target agencies to which activities pertaining to the MOU will be focused, although implementation of planned activities under the MOU may be extended to or benefit other agencies of the GOL if possible with available resources.

INFORMATION MINISTER LEWIS G. Brown signed the MOU on behalf of the Government of Liberia while Madam Neuman signed on behalf of the Carter Center.

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