In-depth

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SUPPORT TO MEDIA IN SIERRA LEONE IS KEY TO ENHANCE DEMOCRATIC GOOD GOVERNANCE (UNDP/ A. K. BAH)

With the successful conduct of the 2007 Presidential Elections, Local Council Elections in 2008 and by-elections held since, Sierra Leone has made important gains in the consolidation of its post-conflict democracy and progress towards self-sufficient administration of its electoral system. With support from its Elections Basket Fund partners including the European Commission, the UK Department for International Development, the Government of Ireland, the Government of Germany and the UN Peacebuilding Fund, UNDP has supported the Government in strengthening the technical capacity of Sierra Leone’s Electoral Management Bodies to administer credible elections in 2012 through the improvement of the electoral process as a whole, including support to legal reform, voter registration, institutional strengthening, and outreach and sensitization of electoral stakeholders.

Democratic gains made in Sierra Leone through the electoral process alone are not enough to guarantee the entrenchment of democratic values. UNDP also supports the strengthening of democratic institutions through support to the Sierra Leone Parliament and African Peer Review Mechanism. UNDP also promotes free and fair media through support to the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, established in 2009 to ensure access to balanced, neutral and unbiased information for all citizens, and the Independent Media Commission which facilitates media monitoring and compliance with Sierra Leone’s Media Code of Practice.

UNDP is also working to enhance progress in the area of Public Sector Reform, strengthening institutional capacities to bring about efficiency, effectiveness and accountability in public service delivery to the people, especially the poor and vulnerable. In addition, UNDP is strengthening the research and policy analysis capacity at the centre of government, working with the Strategy and Policy Unit in the design and roll-out of strategic and high-quality technical and advisory support to the Presidency, advancing performance management in the public sector and ensuring the effective implementation of government priority programming and coordination across Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

UNDP’s Access to Justice programming supports the implementation of the Government of Sierra Leone’s Justice Sector Reform Strategy by strengthening both the ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ sides of justice. This involves better capacitating state institutions to deliver justice to the poor and survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and of civil society institutions to hold the justice system to account. The project also seeks to enhance access to justice through the increased application of human rights standards, effective implementation of relevant national legislation and the adoption of gender-sensitive practices in both formal and customary justice systems in Sierra Leone.

UNDP also works towards ensuring the greater involvement of women in decision-making processes that contribute to peace consolidation and development in Sierra Leone. This will be achieved through support to the enactment of the affirmative action for a minimum 30% quota for women in decision-making and the development of guidelines for its implementation.

Finally, UNDP’s work in the area of HIV and AIDS aims at strengthening the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat’s capacity to accelerate a community response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic by creating opportunities for the population to develop and act on homegrown solutions to HIV and AIDS, addressing concerns around prevention, care, and treatment and to develop sustained responses.

Recent Accomplishments

  • UNDP provided extensive technical support to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) in the design, procurement and piloting of the first ever Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system in Sierra Leone. Pilot testing was undertaken in full public view in 14 electoral districts and feedback collected allowed NEC to further refine operational procedures and software for the roll-out of the system in 2012.
  • 170 NEC staff and Commissioners were trained in the BVR technology, enabling them to register 2.7 million voters as well as successfully print and distribute voter identity cards across the country in the run-up to the 2012 elections.
  • NEC was supported with the procurement of all sensitive election materials. This included ballot boxes, indelible ink and ballot box seals. A total of 38,000 ballot boxes with accompanying lids and an additional 1,900 extra lids were procured. UNDP also supported NEC with the design and printing of the ballot.
  • NEC was assisted to establish regional tally centres which facilitated the more accurate and speedy counting of results.
  • Technical advice and logistical and material support for comprehensive electoral security planning was provided to the Office of National Security and the Sierra Leone Police.
  • UNDP support ensured that international standards and best practices, and views and concerns from all electoral stakeholders through consultative processes, informed the drafting of the Public Elections Law and the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) Act. The Public Elections Act approved by Parliament in August 2012. The law is a consolidation of previous electoral laws into one single document which established the first Electoral Offences Court in Sierra Leone and replaced the Electoral Laws Act of 2002.
  • The Independent Media Commission effectively monitored radio stations and newspapers across the country to ensure compliance with the Code of Ethics for Elections Reporting in order to prevent the promotion of violence by political parties in the run-up to the 2012 elections.
  • The parliamentary service was established and positions were filled in eight departments with skilled personnel tasked with providing effective professional support to Members of Parliament.
  • Through a coordinated approach with German International Cooperation, formal justice services were extended to rural areas through the establishment of Mobile Courts. Through Saturday Court sittings, the backlog of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases in Freetown was reduced and cases involving women and girls were significantly fast-tracked.
  • The Family Support Unit Officers of the Sierra Leone Police were trained across the country on the newly developed a SGBV Case Management Manual resulting in police prosecutors making charges and referrals to the appropriate provisions of the gender laws and charges to SGBV cases following effective investigations.