|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sierra Leone configuration
2nd Meeting (AM)
PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION COMMENDS COMMUNIQUÉ SIGNED IN WAKE OF MARCH VIOLENCE
IN SIERRA LEONE, ENDORSES AGENDA FOR CHANGE, JOINT VISION AT SPECIAL SESSION
Secretary-General Says Sierra Leone’s People Want to See ‘Dividends of Peace’;
Country’s President, Foreign Minister, Head of UN Integrated Office Also Speak
Seven years after the civil war, the people of Sierra Leone wanted to see and feel the dividends of peace, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today, at an unprecedented high-level special session of the Peacebuilding Commission, which launched a Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Sierra Leone and rallied international support around the Government’s unified development strategy.
The Commission, in it’s Sierra Leone configuration, also heard from Sierra Leone’s President, its Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, and the Chair of the Sierra Leone country-specific configuration, in addition to the Secretary-General, before adopting a wide-ranging text (document PBC/3/SLE/L.2) underscoring the critical need for continued national leadership and sustained international support to overcoming the root causes of the conflict and addressing the emerging threats to peace consolidation.
In the text, the Commission endorsed the Government’s Agenda for Change as the core strategic document to guide all future national and international development efforts, and welcomed the completion of the United Nations Joint Vision for Sierra Leone as the Organization’s contribution to the Agenda. Crafted by the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) and the country team, the Joint Vision includes political and developmental benchmarks for United Nations peacebuilding efforts and a summary of all projects and programmes to be implemented.
The document commended the President of Sierra Leone, the leaders of the main political parties, as well as all Sierra Leoneans on the adoption of the Joint Communiqué on 2 April. That Communiqué, said the document, not only successfully ended the sudden outbreak of political violence and intolerance, but also charted a way forward for the democratic and peaceful development of the country, and outlined a multi-party consensus on strengthening key democratic institutions and national policies.
In order to review progress made in Sierra Leone’s peace consolidation process and in implementing the peacebuilding elements of the Agenda for Change, the Commission and the Sierra Leonean Government will convene formal meetings every six months. Those would also seek to provide recommendations and advice to all relevant actors on ways to overcome emerging threats and challenges, and mobilize additional technical and financial support for the Agenda and the Joint Vision.
Mr. Ban lauded the remarkable progress made by Sierra Leone since the end of the civil war, pointing to the State’s restoration of its authority throughout the country, reform and restructuring of national security institutions, and the disarmament and demobilization of 75,000 former combatants. Also, more than half a million refugees and internally displaced persons had returned voluntarily, and the country had held peaceful and democratic national and local elections.
However, despite impressive gains, the situation remained fragile, he said. The outbreak of political violence in March had been a wake-up call on challenges that required urgent and continued attention. It also reminded all of the importance of sustained global support. Adoption of the political parties’ Joint Communiqué had renewed hope in Sierra Leone’s journey towards peace and prosperity. It had also set an example for other countries in the subregion. And international partners had provided critical and timely support, including UNIPSIL.
The Agenda for Change was an ambitious blueprint for reform, progress and development, and fulfilling its commitments required teamwork and a sense of national cohesion and unity, he said. It also required continued support from the international community, including the United Nations. “Together, we must make further progress in addressing the root causes of conflict, strengthening democratic institutions and promoting economic and social development.”
Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma, speaking via videoconference, made a “fervent appeal” to the Commission to realign its assistance with the home-grown Agenda for Change, which would also herald a new era of partnership, driven by national priorities in line with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Voicing support for the Commission’s decision to launch a Multi-Donor Trust Fund, he expressed the hope that the global economic and financial crisis not affect support for the Agenda’s implementation. Particularly important was support for the Youth Commission, as youth was “a potent symbol of hopes for the nation’s prosperity”.
Upon his election in 2007, the President had resolved to articulate Sierra Leone’s aspirations for peace, good governance, and socioeconomic development in an agenda for change, he said. Agriculture reform and food security, improving infrastructure and transportation systems, and a focus on energy and water resources were high on the Agenda, reflecting the Government’s determination to ensure that social sector spending went towards national capacity-building.
Meeting the goals set in the Agenda required a robust partnership with the private sector, he stressed. Towards that end, the Government had established policies and legislation to promote private sector development. Among them was a strategy to help unleash entrepreneurial talent by eliminating cumbersome processes for starting a business. It had also introduced a fast-track programme in the courts for adjudicating business disputes.
Protecting and promoting human rights was viewed by his Government as integral to good governance, he said. With support from the Peacebuilding Fund, the Government had strengthened the Human Rights Commission and extended its operations. Conscious of the need to integrate environmental concerns into development, the Government had launched the Gola Forest Peace Park, and it hoped to be able to leverage the benefits of carbon trading some time in the future.
The Government had also enacted an anti-narcotics, anti-corruption and drug trafficking legislation to combat the recent wave of drug trafficking in the subregion, which had already led to jail sentences for some. The Government was also educating citizens on the ills of corruption and was working to establish mechanisms to prevent corrupt practices. With its development partners, it was hoping to bring about public sector reform, involving changes to staff pay and incentives, better management tools, and improved service delivery.
He said Sierra Leone’s security forces were vigilant in ensuring the country was not used as a transit point for drug cartels, but it was handicapped by the lack of means to police its borders. On the political front, mechanisms were in place to prevent misunderstanding between political parties. He applauded the role played by the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative in facilitating the signing of the Joint Communiqué between the two main parties, providing Sierra Leone with opportunities to transform “a challenge to stability” into “a prospect for advancing peace” and improving tolerance among political parties.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Zainab Hawa Bangura, hailing the Peacebuilding Commission as a “gap-filling” mechanism in pursuit of the United Nations core mandate of maintaining international peace and security, explained that the “Agenda for Change” was based on the President’s deep understanding of the country’s development needs and of the need to address the massive youth unemployment. The framework identified four priority areas, namely: agriculture and food security; infrastructure and transportation; energy and water resources; and human development.
She said the President’s vision focused primarily on the inextricable link between youth unemployment and security –- a nexus that informed the conceptualization of the Agenda. The bulging youth population and high unemployment rate in the Mano River basin contributed significantly to the instability that had engulfed the neighbouring countries in the past decade and a half. That was why Sierra Leone’s development partners had embraced the Agenda. The Government, in turn, appreciated the alignment of the United Nations Joint Vision and the launch of the Multi-Donor Trust Fund as complementary mechanisms.
Saying this would indeed be a special session for Sierra Leoneans, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative in that country, Michael von der Schulenburg, underscored the significance of the Joint Communiqué, first because it had emerged in a period when emotions gripped the country during the violent outbreak in March, and also because, in that turbulent environment, the parties had been able to come together. Now, the Communiqué had evolved into a multi-party agreement. Also important was the consensus the Communiqué represented on key national policies.
Presently, he noted, there were 32 different strategies in play, drafted by various United Nations bodies, bilateral donors, and also by the Government, highlighting the need to agree on one strategic document. The Government’s Agenda for Change was one such document, and he called on all participants today to endorse it and to agree that all others would be adapted to it, including the Joint Vision. The Agenda would do much for national ownership and pave the way for the forthcoming meeting ofthe Consultative Group in November, he added.
As for the United Nations Joint Vision, he recalled that the United Nations family had been asked by the Security Council to develop a fully integrated peacebuilding office and that its embodiment was the Joint Vision, to which 17 agencies had signed on. The “first integration” of that document was the Agenda for Change. After all, the Joint Vision was very clearly designed to support the Sierra Leonean Government.
He noted that the outlay for the Joint Vision was $350 million, of which 40 per cent had been contributed. Under normal circumstances, that would be a very healthy appeal for a four-year period. But, it was more difficult under trying financial times. It was important for donors to know, not only which specific projects and programmes their contributions were supporting, but that those activities would take place in a coordinated environment. He appealed for increased funding.
With 5.5 million people, Sierra Leone might not be a big country, but its significance went far beyond its numbers and borders –- it had emerged from conflict, including further outbreaks of violence, such as the incident in March, and it had held many democratic elections. The success in Sierra Leone could serve as an example for other countries. In fact, it was a good example of multilateralism at work.
Following those opening remarks, more than 25 speakers took the floor, noting the several accomplishments in the country since the Commission began its work there nearly three years ago. There had been achievements in peace, stabilization and sustainable development overall, they said, highlighting the free and fair elections, new government institutions, start of infrastructure reconstruction and national dialogue. The Commission’s Sierra Leone configuration had grown along with the country and the integrated peacebuilding strategy had helped to shape the United Nations work and that of the donors, even bringing in new ones. Still, the fragility was evident to all, particularly the high rate of youth unemployment, the power crisis in Freetown, and the country’s susceptibility to exogenous shocks and fluctuations in energy and food prices.
Most delegations welcomed the Agenda for Change as the core strategy for Sierra Leone, behind which all international partners should unite and align their support. Many were convinced that a unified strategy would hasten results, both in stabilizing the nation and augmenting national development. They called for much-needed resources –- even more crucial in times of economic crisis -- to bring to fruition this “pedestal” on which a better future for Sierra Leoneans could be built. The Joint Vision was commended as the basic implementation tool through which to coordinate support for the Agenda, and the launching of the Multi-Donor Trust Fund was seen as pivotal to the plethora of programmes and projects designed to usher in a new era of peace and stability.
The United Nations established the Peacebuilding Commission in December 2005, as an intergovernmental advisory body to help countries in post-conflict peacebuilding recovery, reconstruction and development. In October 2006, the Commission took a major step forward when a Peacebuilding Fund with a target of $250 million was launched at United Nations Headquarters. Days later, at its first ever country-specific meeting, the Commission recommended war-ravaged Sierra Leone for support from the newly established Fund.
Also speaking at today’s meeting was Richard Konteh, Deputy Minister of Finance and Development.
Additional statements in the discussion were made by the representatives of Chile, Egypt, Netherlands, Burkina Faso, United Kingdom, Jamaica (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement Caucus of the Peacebuilding Commission), Morocco, Sweden, Czech Republic (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Guinea, Bangladesh, Japan, Ireland, Brazil, United States, Portugal, Germany, China, South Africa, Italy, Luxembourg, Canada, Thailand and Pakistan.
Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi spoke on behalf of the European Commission.
The Commission also heard from Eunice Njovana of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), who delivered a statement on behalf of the United Nations country team; and Shamiso Mbizvo of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Also participating from Sierra Leone was Tommy Emmanuel William, Minority Leader of Parliament; and Davis Tam Baryoh, Chief Executive Officer of Citizen’s Radio and representative of civil society.
Delegates from the European Commission, World Bank and International Monetary Fund also spoke.
* *** *For information media • not an official record