IPJ Awarded Grant to Launch West African Human Rights Training Initiative
Before joining the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) at the University of San Diego, Senior Program Officer Dustin Sharp investigated and reported on human rights violations throughout West Africa. He documented problems ranging from police torture and excessive use of force, to abuses committed by rebel groups and violent pro-government militias. He traveled through conflict zones and interviewed victims with bullets still lodged in their bodies. Sharp will soon return to West Africa - this time to assist local human rights organizations in conducting their own investigations.
Sharp was recently awarded a $100,000 grant by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa to launch the West African Human Rights Training Initiative, a regional partnership between the IPJ and leading human rights organizations in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The two-year program comes in response to years of civil war and civil unrest, fuelled by corruption, poor governance, and lack of accountability. With conflicts marked by “blood diamonds,” child soldiers, and widespread sexual violence, the human rights fallout for many West Africans has been devastating.
“Full-blown war has ended, but the current situation throughout the region remains fragile,” said Sharp. “Now is the time for the international community to help build peace, and universities have an important role to play.”
The training initiative is designed to strengthen the ability of local human rights organizations to systematically document abuses that are occurring, and to use that information to pressure their governments for reform and accountability. Initial training cycles are scheduled to begin in Sierra Leone and Guinea in the coming months.
“Historically, a lack of accountability on the part of governments in the region has been a critical destabilizing factor,” said Sharp. “In the post-conflict context, what we need is to put a system in place that allows community actors to press for change, and this initiative will provide some of the tools and training required. Ultimately, it’s going to be this type of citizen-led push that will be central to promoting the consolidation of a just and lasting peace in the region.”
For more information on the West African Human Rights Training Initiative, go to http://www.sandiego.edu/peacestudies/ipj/field/west_africa.php
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