|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
3rd Meeting (AM)
JOHN MCNEE OF CANADA ELECTED CHAIR OF PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION’S
COUNTRY-SPECIFIC CONFIGURATION ON SIERRA LEONE
Applauds Country’s Tremendous Progress, Warns Serious Challenges Remain;
Says Commission Must Be ‘Valued Partner, Effective Advocate’ in Years Ahead
Following his election, by acclamation, as the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Sierra Leone configuration this morning, John McNee of Canada applauded Sierra Leone’s continuing transition from conflict to peace and prosperity and outlined the main challenges ahead.
Mr. McNee said that his country had been pleased to contribute towards the country’s transition as a significant supporter of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and now looked forward to working more closely together with others at the Peacebuilding Commission.
Commending his predecessor, Frank Majoor ( Netherlands) for his excellent work, he said that, under the Netherlands’ chairmanship, the configuration had provided significant assistance to Sierra Leone, which had made tremendous progress. The roles and responsibilities of the security services had been outlined; free and fair elections had resulted in peaceful handover of political power at the State and local levels, and prior to the current global economic crisis, the growth had been on an upward trend.
Yet, he added, serious challenges remained: transparency and accountability in governance remained difficult to achieve; and the combination of high youth unemployment and growing narco-trafficking in West Africa were worrying. Sierra Leone also remained susceptible to other sources of instability in the region, including the food crisis.
Fortunately, the strategy guiding future peacebuilding efforts was well developed. In addition to the current strategic framework, President Ernest Bai Koroma’s Agenda for Change charted a clear path towards governance reform and economic growth. Progress on its key priorities in the areas of energy, agriculture, infrastructure and social services would be necessary to put the country on a sound footing. Likewise, the Joint Vision for the United Nations Family represented an innovative and comprehensive approach to peacebuilding. Sierra Leone was entering a new phase in its post-conflict development. The Agenda for Change was the basis for the country’s second poverty reduction paper. The United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) was the fourth generation of United Nations presence on the ground. In that light, he believed the Peacebuilding Commission must consider how it could best support the country in the years ahead. It must remain flexible and creative, tailoring its efforts to the needs on the ground.
“We must also demonstrate that the PBC is a valued partner, effective advocate and trusted adviser,” he said. Above all, it should not become complacent. The Commission had been established in recognition that the international community had too often looked away from a post-conflict State at the first signs of success. Now, the international community knew that the transition from conflict to development was neither linear, nor swift. It required international support at all stages of the progress. For its part, in addition to other multilateral aid, Canada had contributed $20 million to the Peacebuilding Fund. It had also recently increased its support to countries on the Commission’s agenda by providing over $450,000 to projects in Sierra Leone, Burundi and Guinea-Bissau.
The outgoing Chair, Mr. Majoor (Netherlands), said that Sierra Leone’s remarkable achievements, including restoration of stability, reform of the security sector, completion of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process; transitional justice and reconciliation through the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and the Special Court; and electoral successes, were “the work of many”. But, first and foremost, those were the achievements of the people of Sierra Leone and their leaders. The achievements were also a testament to what could be achieved with national will and determination, with international support. The United Nations had been a trusted partner of Sierra Leone, which had become “a laboratory” for innovation, when it came to the international community’s response to situations of conflict and post-conflict peacebuilding. The Commission’s engagement was yet another such innovation.
It was too early to draw final conclusions as to what the Commission had been able to achieve in Sierra Leone ‑- it was in the country that such a judgement should be made ‑- but he believed that the Commission’s “value added” could be defined as generating attention for Sierra Leone, broadening the donor base, supporting national elections, establishing an integrated and strengthened United Nations presence, identifying peacebuilding priorities and developing a cooperation framework that had led to the President’s Agenda for Change and United Nations Joint Vision.
Sierra Leone, he added, had been one of the first two countries on the Commission’s agenda, and members of the Sierra Leone configuration had contributed to the development of the Commission’s methods: streamlined meetings; using high-level stakeholder consultations; interacting with the private sector; visits to the country; visits to Member States’ capitals, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank; and close interaction with the Security Council, particularly on the UNIPSIL ‑- the first case of the Council authorizing a United Nations presence in support of the Peacebuilding Commission.
Regarding the new phase of the Commission’s engagement in Sierra Leone, he said that he expected that engagement to become less intensive in some ways and more focused on specific tasks, such as resource mobilization; donor coordination; addressing subregional concerns, including drug trafficking and organized crime; further strengthening of national institutions; and addressing corruption.
There was reason for optimism regarding peacebuilding in Sierra Leone, he said in conclusion. But, the security and political gains must be matched by tangible improvements in the lives of the people. Optimism should not obstruct the fact that Sierra Leoneans still lacked basic necessities, including adequate shelter, food, access to education, good roads and water. What had been missing were massive economic recovery projects, employment and infrastructure. There was still a role for the Commission to play, but it needed to be reshaped in view of the socio-economic development goals. His Government stood ready to contribute to that process.
The representatives of Jamaica, Japan, the European Community, Thailand, Republic of Korea, Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria congratulated the incoming Chair and expressed their appreciation for the dedication and pioneering efforts of Mr. Majoor. Speakers noted Sierra Leone’s enormous progress and expressed confidence that, under the leadership of Mr. McNee, the country would make new strides towards stability and development for the benefit of its people. In that connection, they emphasized the importance of continued international assistance and the engagement of the Commission.
The representative of Sierra Leone said that the fact that he had been invited to participate in the election today was a manifestation of the centrality of the notion of national ownership and transparency in the working methods of the Commission. Ambassador Majoor had left a legacy of hard work, dedication and a results-based approach. “Bravo and thanks to you for the job well done,” he said. To the new Chair, he extended his hearty welcome and sincere thanks from his Government and people for offering to lead the country-specific configuration. Mr. McNee had been an active member of the Commission and his country provided significant support to international peacekeeping. Canada also had an excellent record in the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Government of Sierra Leone would be faithful to its commitment and would fully cooperate with the Sierra Leone peacebuilding configuration.
* *** *For information media • not an official record