7 May 2008
Security Council
SC/9325

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5887th Meeting (AM)


SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD REAL OPPORTUNITY EXISTS TO CONSOLIDATE GAINS IN SIERRA LEONE


IF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SUSTAINS SUPPORT FOR PEACEBUILDING PROCESS


Briefed by Department of Peacekeeping, Peacebuilding Commission;

Secretary-Generalís Report Recommends Peacebuilding Office to Follow Current Mission


There was a real opportunity to consolidate the gains made in Sierra Leone if the international community sustained its support for the peacebuilding process, the Security Council was told today during the introduction of a report containing the Secretary-Generalís recommendations for a further United Nations presence when the current United Nations mission withdrew, as planned, in September.


Briefing on the sixth report on the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Dmitry Titov, said that every effort had been made to ensure that the new entity Ė- the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) Ė- optimized United Nations system-wide cooperation and synergies in the fulfilment of its mandate.


Mr. Titov noted that, as outlined in the Secretary-Generalís report, UNIPSIL would assist the Government in identifying and resolving political tensions; completing good governance reforms; politically and economically empowering youth and women; implementing the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework; supporting the work of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund; strengthening the justice sector; and supporting security sector reform.


(UNIOSIL was established by Security Councilresolution 1620 (2005) for an initial period of 12 months beginning on 1 January 2006.† It succeeded the large United Nations peacekeeping operation -Ė the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) -- which successfully completed its mandate in December 2005, helping to restore peace and stability in the country after a long civil war.)


The new Government of Sierra Leone, since its inauguration in September 2007, had taken several major steps to implement its reform agenda and to promote transparency and accountability, Mr. Titov reported.† On 5 July, it would take another major step with the holding of the local council elections, although political tensions between supporters of the two political parties would likely persist in the lead-up to the elections.† Considerable progress had been made in enhancing the professionalism and effectiveness of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and the Sierra Leone Police.† Regrettably, however, there had been little improvement in the socio-economic conditions, and the soaring prices of staple commodities and fuel had only exacerbated the situation.


Overall, he concluded, the prospects were hopeful for Sierra Leone to move forward and improve its fragile socio-economic situation.† However, that would require that the Government make tough economic and political decisions and implement policies that promoted transparency and accountability.† That would also require sacrifice and patience on the part of Sierra Leoneans, as the country continued its journey towards full economic recovery.


Also briefing the Council, Frank Majoor of the Netherlands, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commissionís Country-Specific Meetings on Sierra Leone, said that the Government had made significant progress in implementing several commitments contained in the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework in the areas of justice and security sector reform; anti-corruption; energy sector development; and in the preparation for local council elections.† However, the fragile economic situation -- against a backdrop of rising fuel and food prices -- meant that the United Nations and international partners needed to support the Government to ensure that food security issues did not destabilize the country, especially in the lead-up to local elections.† He recommended that a task force be set up for that purpose.


The Sierra Leone Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework was adopted by the Peacebuilding Commission on 12 December 2007 to ensure Sierra Leoneís cooperation with the Commission on the basis of national ownership, mutual accountability and sustained engagement.


Mr. Majoor said that, after the Cooperation Frameworkís adoption, engagement with Sierra Leone had focused on three primary objectives: generating support for implementation of its commitments; broadening the donor base; and triggering new activities or scaling-up existing activities in peacebuilding.† The Peacebuilding Commission had agreed on a work plan outlining a strategy on resource mobilization, outreach and advocacy.† The Framework had been transmitted to all relevant stakeholders through a joint letter from Sierra Leoneís Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands.


He welcomed continued support from the Security Council for the Peacebuilding Commission, and requested that the Council ensure that the office of the follow-on integrated peacebuilding mission in Sierra Leone had dedicated staff to actively support the Commissionís work.† The follow-on mission must also have adequate operational capacity and logistical support, he added.† A new Executive Representative of the Secretary-General would ensure the necessary guidance during the transition process from UNIOSIL to the follow-on mission.


The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 10:43 a.m.


Background


When the Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Sierra Leone, it had before it the sixth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), dated 29 April (document S/2008/281).† It provides an update on the progress made by the mission in implementing its mandate since his last report on Sierra Leone of 4 December 2007 (document S/2007/704), presents further information on UNIOSILís completion strategy and sets out the Secretary-Generalís proposals on the mandate, structure and strength of the post-UNIOSIL office.


The Secretary-General says that, following UNIOSILís withdrawal in September, the United Nations sustained commitment will be required.† The establishment of a United Nations integrated peacebuilding office that holistically addresses the countryís political, economic and peacebuilding challenges will be a significant channel of continuing international support for peace consolidation.† The Secretary-General, therefore, recommends the Security Councilís approval of the establishment of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) for an initial period of one year with the mandate, structure and strength set out in paragraphs 61 to 72 of the report.


(Those paragraphs detail the staffing strength and proposed functions of the new Office, to include a peace and governance section, a human rights and rule of law section and a youth and gender empowerment section.)


During the reporting period, the Government of Sierra Leone made commendable efforts to implement its agenda for peace consolidation and economic recovery, the report states.† UNIOSIL also made significant progress in supporting the Governmentís efforts to consolidate peace, by assisting it in strengthening the capacity of the security sector, promoting respect for human rights and the rule of law, building the capacity of the National Electoral Commission to conduct elections and making arrangements for the handover of United Nations Radio.† However, the country still experienced political tension along ethnic and regional lines, a slow economic recovery rate, poor economic and social conditions and serious governance challenges, which, if not carefully managed, have the potential to derail the peace consolidation process.


UNIOSILís capacity-building support to the National Electoral Commission and the security sector has enhanced the ability of these governance institutions to discharge their constitutional mandates, the report says.† The approach of the Sierra Leone Police to law enforcement is increasingly more professional and better coordinated.† Moreover, UNIOSIL training and mentoring in crowd control has improved the capacity of the Police to manage mass actions of civil disobedience, including student demonstrations and worker protests.† As a result, it is steadily gaining the confidence and respect of the public.† However, the Police Force still requires support from the international community to purchase equipment and upgrade its facilities throughout the country.


Also according to the report, significant progress has been made in professionalizing the Armed Forces with the support of the United Kingdom, the International Military Advisory and Training Team, UNIOSIL and other donors.† In order to safeguard these positive developments, improvements will need to be made to the living and working conditions of military personnel, as well as to the logistical support provided to the army.


The security situation in the country has continued to improve, owing to the increased capacity of the security sector, the report states further.† The commitment of the leaders of the Mano River Union countries to a peaceful resolution of the issues confronting them has also contributed to the prevailing stability in Sierra Leone and the subregion.† The Secretary-General encourages the Government to continue to support efforts to revitalize the Mano River Union.† He also calls on the Government to provide leadership in promoting national reconciliation, broadening political dialogue and involving all citizens, regardless of political affiliation or ethnic and regional origin, in the national recovery and political processes.


The report notes that the Government has continued to take steps to enhance political and economic governance.† The Secretary-General is heartened to see the level of support that has been provided by international partners to develop the capacity of Parliament and the justice sector and to further the Governmentís anti-corruption efforts.† The international communityís assistance will continue to be needed, as the Government pursues its decentralization, constitutional review and public sector reform efforts.


Sierra Leoneís engagement with the Peacebuilding Commission is a vital source of enhanced external assistance, and the Secretary-General encourages the Government to collaborate closely with the Commission in the continued identification and implementation of projects that would have a positive impact on economic recovery and overall peace consolidation.


Preparations for the local council elections are advancing, and the completion of the delimitation of wards and the redemption of substantial donor pledges to the election budget have ensured the timely completion of the major tasks associated with the elections, the report says.† The Secretary-General commends the Government for taking prompt steps to fulfil its financial obligations to the electoral process.


Briefings


Presenting the Secretary-Generalís sixth report on UNIOSIL, DMITRY TITOV, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, noted that the report, in addition to an update on developments in the country, also contained the Secretary-Generalís recommendations on the mandate, structure and strength of the peacebuilding office that was being proposed to succeed UNIOSIL.


He said the new Government of Sierra Leone, since its inauguration in September 2007, had taken several major steps to implement its reform agenda, as well as policies to promote transparency and accountability.† Cabinet ministers had signed contracts agreeing to implement the priorities outlined by President Ernest Bai Koroma, the Parliament had been constituted and was functioning, and the judiciary was operational.† The political and security situation remained generally calm, although incidents -- sometimes violent -- emanating from political intolerance between supporters of the main opposition political party, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), and the ruling political party, the All Peoples Congress (APC), had occurred in some parts of the country.


Turning to local elections, he recalled that, on 5 July, Sierra Leone would take another major step towards enhancing its democratic process with the holding of the local council elections.† The candidate nomination process had ended on 20 April, and some 1,300 candidates had submitted nomination papers for 456 councillor positions in the 394 electoral wards, while 65 candidates had submitted nomination papers for 19 Council chairperson/mayoral positions.† The United Nations was providing technical assistance to the National Electoral Commission and was also assisting with voter registration and election materials.† There was concern, however, that political tensions between supporters of the two political parties would continue in the period leading up to the elections.† UNIOSIL, therefore, was working closely with all key stakeholders to ensure a peaceful and violent-free election.† With the missionís assistance, an effective security plan, funded through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Basket Fund, was being prepared by the Sierra Leone Police. †UNIOSIL was also helping to strengthen the Political Parties District Code of Conduct Monitoring Committees, which had played a vital mediation role in the previous elections.


Considerable progress had been made in enhancing the professionalism and effectiveness of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and the Sierra Leone Police, he said.† UNIOSIL had been helpful in training and mentoring the Police and in building the capacity of the Office of National Security, which coordinated all Sierra Leonean security sector agencies, while the United Kingdom-led International Military Advisory Training Team had been assisting with the training of the Armed Forces.† The Government had also recently approved a reduction in the strength of its Armed Forces from 10,500 to 8,500 personnel over the next two years.† Despite those achievements, both the Army and the Police continued to be plagued by serious logistical deficiencies, particularly the shortages of accommodation, equipment and fuel supplies for the conduct of patrols.† Moreover, the national security agencies still required assistance in building capacity to combat drug trafficking and to improve airport security.


Regrettably, he said, there had been little improvement in the socio-economic conditions.† The soaring prices of staple commodities and fuel had exacerbated the situation.† Although the Government was sensitizing the population about the external factors leading to the rise in the cost of the countryís main staple -- rice -- there was a real risk that discontent over price increases could trigger unrest.† The Government had created a task force to deal with the food crisis and had promised to work towards achieving self-sufficiency in rice production, which would obviously require time and considerable investment to achieve.† Currently, the country produced only 30 per cent of the rice it consumed.


He said the peace consolidation process in Sierra Leone had the potential to be compromised if the country did not generate adequate employment opportunities for its multitude of young people.† It was hoped that the Bumbuna Hydro Electric Project, which was expected to increase the power supply countrywide, would create some employment opportunities and increase private investment.† In the short to medium term, the country would continue to need the generous and sustainable support of the international community to create jobs.


Concerning human rights and the rule of law, he noted an overall improvement in the human rights situation, as evidenced by the increased respect for civil and political rights, the adoption of legislation on the rights of women and children, and the operationalization of the Human Rights Commission.† However, efforts to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were still very slow.† The Justice Sector Development Programme, funded by the United Kingdomís Department for International Development, was playing a critical role in building the justice sectorís capacity.† However, the Government would continue to require long-term external support, in order to establish credible and sustainable rule of law institutions.


The adoption by the Peacebuilding Commission of a Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework for Sierra Leone had injected fresh impetus into the peace consolidation process, and UNIOSIL was working closely with Ambassador Frank Majoor, the Commissionís Country-Specific Chair for Sierra Leone, to support the Commissionís work.† The mission was advising the Government on the implementation of its commitments contained in the Framework, supporting the Governmentís preparations for the meetings of the Peacebuilding Commission and bringing key stakeholders together to support peacebuilding activities.


Regarding the Secretary-Generalís recommendations for a new entity, he said that every effort had been made to ensure that it -- UNIPSIL -- optimized United Nations system-wide cooperation and synergies in the fulfilment of its mandate.† As outlined in the report, UNIPSIL would assist the Government in identifying and resolving political tensions; completing good governance reforms; politically and economically empowering youth and women; implementing the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework; supporting the work of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund; strengthening the justice sector; and supporting security sector reform.


Concluding, he said there were hopeful prospects for Sierra Leone to move forward and improve its socio-economic situation.† However, that would require that the Government make tough economic and political decisions and implement policies that promoted transparency and accountability.† That would also require sacrifice and patience on the part of Sierra Leoneans as the country continued its journey towards full economic recovery.† He underlined that there was a real opportunity to consolidate the gains already made, if the international community sustained its support for the peacebuilding process.


FRANK MAJOOR ( Netherlands), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commissionís Country-Specific Meetings on Sierra Leone, said that, after the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework had been adopted, engagement with Sierra Leone had focused on three primary objectives: generating support for implementation of commitments contained in the Framework; broadening the donor base; and triggering new activities or scaling-up existing activities in peacebuilding.† The Peacebuilding Commission had agreed on a work plan outlining a strategy on resource mobilization, outreach and advocacy.† The Framework had been transmitted to all relevant stakeholders through a joint letter from Sierra Leoneís Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands.


He said that, as Chair, he had undertaken several ambassadorial-level bilateral meetings and visited key cities -- including Washington D.C., London, Brussels, Berlin and The Hague -- to raise awareness about the Framework and to garner political and financial support.† The Government of Sierra Leone had done the same with bilateral, regional and multilateral stakeholders.† Those advocacy and resource mobilization efforts were expected to culminate in a high-level stakeholderís consultation on the implementation of the Framework, to take place in New York on 19 May.


To prepare for the consultation, he said he had visited Sierra Leone from 21 to 25 April to meet the President, Vice-President and other senior Government representatives.† He had also met with majority and minority Parliament leaders, as well as members of civil society and the private sector.


He said the Government of Sierra Leone had made significant progress in implementing several commitments contained in the Framework in the areas of justice and security sector reform; anti-corruption; energy sector development; and in the preparation for local council elections.† However, the fragile economic situation -- against a backdrop of rising fuel and food prices -- meant that the United Nations and international partners needed to support the Government to ensure that food security issues did not destabilize the country, especially in the lead up to local council elections.† He recommended that a task force be set up for that purpose.


Preparations for the elections, scheduled for 5 July, had been marked by inter- and intra-party political tensions, he said.† Isolated violent episodes had been recorded in the southern and eastern parts of the country, which remained divided along ethnic and geographic lines.† Those developments underlined the importance of continued political engagement from the Peacebuilding Commission, and further underlined the need for urgent material assistance to help prepare for the elections.


To deal with youth unemployment, he said, the Government intended to establish a National Youth Commission to address the employment and empowerment of young people.† UNDP was currently reviewing its capacity and available technical expertise in the area, and the 19 May high-level consultation would present an opportunity to arrive at a common approach.


However, he said, UNIOSIL needed to fill the post of the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, which had been vacant since December 2007.† The absence of high-level leadership had limited UNIOSILís ability to actively support the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.† A number of stakeholders had also recognized the need for an informal coordination forum.† If possible, such a forum should be created out of existing mechanisms, such as the Development Partnership Committee and the Peacebuilding Commission Fund Steering Committee.


He welcomed continued support from the Security Council for the Peacebuilding Commission, especially to ensure the constructive engagement of all stakeholders.† He requested that the Council ensure that the office of the follow-on integrated peacebuilding mission in Sierra Leone had dedicated staff to actively support the Commissionís work.† The follow-on mission must also have adequate operational capacity and logistical support, he added.† A new Executive Representative of the Secretary-General would ensure the necessary guidance during the transition process from UNIOSIL to the follow-on mission.


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