Security and justice from a county perspective: Grand Gedeh county, Liberia

The accessible and accountable provision of security and justice is one of the main requirements for a peaceful society and sustained social and economic development.

Security provision and access to justice are regarded as essential public services, are fundamental building blocks in promoting good governance and are critical for the creation of a secure environment at both the local and national level.

Liberia witnessed a civil war between 1989 and 2003 that destroyed its state security and justice institutions, devastated its productive capacity and infrastructure, and displaced around one-third of its population. Recovery has been slow, reflecting the extraordinarily low base reached at the end of fighting in August 2003. Reconstruction and reform began in earnest from mid-2004 with the full deployment of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and accelerated from January 2006 with the inauguration of a popularly elected government. Security sector reform (SSR) began soon after the disarmament and demobilisation of 101,495 ex-combatants in 2004, with major input from UNMIL and the US government. To date, the SSR process relaunched the police in 2004, dissolved or consolidated many of the plethora of irregular or undisciplined security forces established during the 1990s in 2004–05, and has re-created the military from scratch since 2006. Justice sector reform has re-established broadly functioning courts in all of the county seats, redeployed judges and county attorneys, restored some prisons and established a Judicial Institute in Monrovia to train or retrain sufficient magistrates and judges.

SSR has been a relatively open process in Liberia and has proceeded through county-level engagements with stakeholders and civil society in 2006 to determine the security needs of the nation. Similarly, in 2007–08 consultations at district and county levels were used to inform the Poverty Reduction Strategy (2008–11) and accompanying County Development Agenda, with Security and Governance and the Rule of Law being the first and third of four pillars. International Alert’s research and engagement with communities in Bong, Lofa and Grand Gedeh counties seeks to continue and strengthen this engagement at the local level, analysing whether security and justice priorities have changed over time and whether there has been ongoing progress in access to security and justice services.