|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sierra Leone configuration
1st Meeting (AM)
Peacebuilding Commission Adopts Draft Review of Outcome from June 2009
High-level Special Session on Sierra Leone
Acting without a vote this afternoon, the Peacebuilding Commission adopted the draft review of the outcome of its 10 June 2009 High-level Special Session on Sierra Leone.
The review (document PBC/4/SLE/L.1) includes an overview of the joint progress report on the Agenda for Change prepared by the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), the Organization’s country team, international partners and civil society.
It notes, among other things, the appointment of a new Anti-Corruption Commissioner and the efforts of the Anti-Corruption Commission; the transformation of the Joint Drug Interdiction Task Force into the Transnational Organized Crime Unit under the West Africa Initiative; and recent initiatives to expand the participation of women in peacebuilding and national politics, with a goal of 30 per cent of women in elective and other governance positions.
The review also notes the recommendations made to the Government of Sierra Leone, national stakeholders and international partners, including on continuing support for the National Electoral Commission and the Political Parties Registration Commission to ensure fair, free and peaceful elections in 2012; on strengthening the capacity of the national police to maintain the rule of law in a responsive and neutral manner; on promoting a responsible and impartial media; and on providing assistance for the implementation of the remaining recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Also during the meeting, John McNee (Canada), Chair of the Sierra Leone configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, welcomed Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone’s Minister for Finance and Economic Development, and Zainab Hawa Bangura, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as well as Michael von der Schulenburg, Executive Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), and Judy Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support. He then welcomed the members of civil society joining the meeting via video link from Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Noting that it was the first opportunity to review such a comprehensive report of progress, Mr. McNee commended the inclusive and consultative manner in which the report had been prepared, setting “a high standard that demands an equally committed response from the members of the Sierra Leone Configuration and your other international partners”. He also acknowledged the “invaluable support” provided by UNIPSIL and the Peacebuilding Support Office in making the meeting possible.
Ms. Bangura said Sierra Leone was indeed making significant progress in consolidating peace amid a plethora of daunting challenges, and the Government recognized and valued the Peacebuilding Commission’s vital role in mobilizing and coordinating international support for stability and growth. Though at peace now, the country remained mired in poverty, and breaking through that cycle was key to moving forward in the peace consolidation process.
While appreciating the support of the international community, alongside progress in decentralization, anti-corruption efforts, human rights, economic governance and security and stability, she said those efforts were not matched by an inflow of the resources required for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery. In keeping with the principle of national ownership, it was time to accord Sierra Leone the enviable role of a model for peacebuilding, as a reflection of General Assembly resolution 60/180 and Security Council resolution 1645 (2005).
Mr. Kamara said the Agenda for Change had already made a difference. The dialogue with all development partners had been evolving from one centred on peace and security to one about schools, health care, affordable electricity and the environment, among other things. The steps forward included efforts by the Government and civil society to ensure fair and open elections in 2012. They were unfolding against the backdrop of transparency-building efforts, including a new Freedom of Information Act, anti-corruption initiatives and a burgeoning media.
Turning to the economy, he said that although the global crisis had reversed some of the country’s growth, the economy was witnessing a comeback, thanks in part to the agricultural sector. Internal revenue generation was slow-moving but growing, and reform of the public sector and civil service, health sector projects and public sector financial management were among additional efforts being made.
For the Government’s part, health care, clean water and school-building projects were being implemented, as were efforts to boost the fishing and mining sectors, he said. Campaigns were bringing electricity to the rural areas, and road-building efforts would see more than 2,000 kilometres paved in the near future. The private sector was being developed and a Mines and Minerals Act currently being enacted would include robust environmental considerations. Among the recommendations of the progress report, he highlighted one on a multi-donor fund, saying that generous contributions would help Sierra Leone overcome its remaining challenges.
Ms. Cheng-Hopkins agreed, stating that the road ahead showed that further support was needed to continue recent successes, and noting the growth of revenues from Sierra Leone’s wealth of natural resources. The Peacebuilding Commission had refocused its work in a few areas, including good governance and the rule of law, she said, emphasizing the importance of multi-party dialogue, combating corruption, supporting free elections and ensuring that the police and courts upheld the rule of law. As for the Peacebuilding Support Fund, she said the $37 million allocated had almost all been spent, and the new tranche would be smaller because the Fund’s revenues, unlike Sierra Leone’s, were not growing. In addition, with more countries in need, funding would be less but more focused.
Noting that the Peacebuilding Commission had seen a transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding with a view to promoting development, she stressed the importance of national ownership in driving a country forward, noting that Sierra Leone was the first country in which the national strategy was also the peacebuilding strategy. Turning to the 2012 elections, she expressed hope that they would proceed peacefully, but noted that some parties were concerned that the period could be potentially explosive. Now was the time to put in safeguards to mitigate that possibility, she said, expressing hope that the proposals submitted on leadership development, reparation and youth unemployment could be more specific.
Many representatives commended Sierra Leone for overcoming challenges and taking firm steps to forge a future of peace, stability and sustainable development in an open, transparent manner. The country’s health-care reforms, efforts to grow its fisheries and hold fair and open elections were among the points applauded by many delegates. Morocco’s representative summarized the general tone when he said: “The Agenda for Change is bringing change to the people of Sierra Leone, but challenges remain.”
Some representatives pointed out the risky areas of the Agenda for Change, notably the illegal trafficking of drugs and the issue of youth unemployment. One delegate said drug-trafficking should be addressed on a regional basis in order to avoid “exporting” the problem to Sierra Leone’s neighbours. Some representatives also voiced concerns about addressing the fledgling mining sector, with some suggesting the establishment of strict guidelines to ensure a prosperous future. With the Security Council due to adopt a resolution on lifting the sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone, one representative emphasized the importance of addressing corruption firmly so that the exploitation of natural resources could provide “visible benefits” for its people.
Other suggestions included calls for a set of criteria that would be part of subsequent reports, in order to better track progress and setbacks. To bolster the coordination of aid, the next phase of the work of the Sierra Leone Configuration should be to streamline those efforts, one delegate opined. Another suggested inexpensive methods for reducing infant and maternal mortality.
Continuity of programming was another theme, with some representatives encouraging sustained funding for projects to ensure future peace and security. One delegate lamented the dwindling accounts of the country’s reparations programmes, in contrast to the 30,000 requests, including from women who had been victims of rape. Failure to continue that programme would create the risk of a flare up in frustration, but a successful programme would serve as a timely model for women who suffered such injustices around the world.
With delegates pledging advice and assistance to the Sierra Leone Government on a range of projects and initiatives, Austria’s representative echoed a broad message, saying, “Through joining forces, the remaining challenges could be overcome.” The momentum must become irreversible, he added.
Mr. von der Schulenburg said the mood in the country had changed significantly since 2005, adding that many had “left the civil war behind them” and were looking to the future. Continuous economic progress and improvements in the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals coexisted with a free press and free political parties. Only eight years after a lengthy civil war, there were no human rights abuses linked to that conflict to report, he said, emphasizing that poverty was the biggest remaining challenge. He cautioned, however, that new challenges had emerged, among them managing a new mining sector and the coming elections.
Citing the Secretary-General’s report, he said Sierra Leone was the country with the highest concentration of United Nations support, and all programmes were clearly linked with the national strategy. There was an argument for investing in success, he said, adding: “ Sierra Leone could be a success story for all of us.” It would be devastating if the country’s success faltered for lack of funding, he said, noting that only $10 million of the $204 million multi-year target had been received to date.
Speaking via video conference from Freetown, Sierra Leone, Abdul Karim Habib, Director-General for Foreign Affairs and UNIPSIL, said the country showed visible signs of turning around in key areas, such as energy and the fight against corruption, among others. As it moved towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals, that work should continue, not only through writing reports, but also by implementing the plan. He also noted the contribution to and emphasis on empowering the country’s youth, the issues of employment and the 2012 elections.
Ms. Bangura affirmed that the concerns expressed during the debate would be investigated and all parties would work towards addressing them.
Mr. Kamara stressed that “we should not go to sleep”, and that Sierra Leone had a responsibility to “be on top”. Although the $30-40 million available to the Electoral Commission was far below the $89 million needed, the country would move forward by putting the bulk of expenditures into the electoral system and machinery, enhancing voter registration and establishing a security system. Sierra Leone would study the methods adopted by Kenya, which had proved effective. Even with the challenges of corruption, illicit drug-trafficking and youth unemployment, among other challenges, as the economy grew so would the opportunities.
In closing, Mr. McNee said: “The next period will be critical for peace consolidation in Sierra Leone and for meeting the high expectations of its people for tangible improvements in their lives. I hope that collectively we will continue to assist the Government in delivering on its Agenda for Change and in building a self-sustaining and irreversible peace in Sierra Leone.”
Taking part in the debate were representatives of Portugal, Peru, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Ireland, Sweden, Brazil, United Kingdom and the European Union.
Representatives of the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration also participated.
* *** *For information media • not an official record