Established in 2006, the Justice for the Poor (J4P) program in Sierra Leone aims to understand and, ultimately, improve the dynamics of conflict, accountability, and equity at a local level. Rebuilding and reforming justice and governance is essential in Sierra Leone both for reducing poverty and for preventing a return to violent conflict. Sierra Leone’s socio-legal landscape is complex, with multiple, inadequately integrated rule systems.
In 2002, following eleven years of war, Sierra Leone ranked second from bottom on the Human Development Index (HDI). Among the causes of the conflict were decades of poor governance and the extraction of, and trade in, diamonds. Despite peace, strong growth, and increasing stability, Sierra Leone remains close to the bottom of the HDI with more than half the population in absolute poverty and some of the world’s worst maternal and child health indicators. To improve service delivery, the post-war period has seen the re-introduction, with Bank support, of a decentralized government system, including the re-establishment of local councils with key service functions.
Areas of Engagement
The J4P program began by undertaking research and dialogue with the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and other partners, and by advising Bank projects on government policy. Current activities build off the program's initial activities and focus on three main project areas:
- Accountability for Services Under Decentralized Service Delivery Program: The program provides technical assistance to GoSL on the implementation of accountability mechanisms for the delivery of services by decentralized government under a nationwide Bank-supported program.
- Extractives Governance: Building on research and pilots, the program is advising GoSL, communities and Bank operations (for example the Extractives Industries Technical Assistance Project) on strengthening the regulatory framework to improve community-investor relations, address inequities, improve durability of agreements and prevent the escalation of conflict.
- Linking Social Accountability and Legal Empowerment: The program is assisting in the scale-up of community based-paralegals, including through advising on legal aid policy, standardized mechanisms for training, supervision, monitoring and evaluation, and exploring means of linking paralegals with accountability for government services.
The project also supports World Bank programming in Sierra Leone through research and evaluation.
Partnership and Dialogue
J4P works with local partners to conduct context specific empirical research that then forms the basis for evidenced-based policy dialogue and reform as well as project design. In Sierra Leone, J4P partners with the following organizations and institutions:
Bringing Justice to Health Services: The Role of Sierra Leone’s Community Paralegals: In Sierra Leone, the Justice for the Poor program is working with the Government to help improve accountability around the Government’s initiative to provide free health care to pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children under five. By simultaneously working with communities to better understand health policies and empowering communities to take action, community paralegals help improve health care service delivery by holding the government accountable for breakdowns in the system that lead to absent nurses, improper use fees and ‘leakage’ of drugs.