|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6391st Meeting (AM)
Sierra Leone Makes Great Strides from Civil War to Stability, but Security Council
Urged Not to Completely Abandon Recovering Nation, in Briefing by Mission Chief
Sierra Leone had made great strides from civil war to stability, but required continued international support in the coming critical period to ensure maintenance of stability and crucial economic advancement, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative told the Security Council this morning.
“ Sierra Leone may today no longer be one of your most critical concerns,” said Michael von der Schulenburg, who is also the head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). “But we urge you not to abandon Sierra Leone completely: it is a potential success story, not only for Sierra Leone but for the Security Council.”
Joining Mr. von der Schulenburg at today’s briefing were John McNee of Canada, Chairperson of the Sierra Leone Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, and Zainab Hawa Bangura, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNIPSIL (see Background), Mr. von der Schulenburg said that three ongoing developments presented considerable risks, but could have a major impact on shaping the country’s political, social and economic future: efforts at better exploiting natural resources; preparations for 2012 elections; and developments in neighbouring Guinea.
He said that the Government, with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had been renegotiating contracts on the exploitation of diamonds and rutile, a precursor for titanium, and had recently concluded two significant iron-mining contracts, which would give extractive industries an unprecedented dominant role.
Additionally, with the largely unexploited gold resources and the potential of economically viable off-shore oil and gas reserves, Sierra Leone might be on the verge of turning from a major recipient of foreign aid to becoming a major exporter of primary mineral and hydrocarbon products. Those developments, however, held dangers of destabilization if not put on the right track from the very beginning, as witnessed by the havoc caused by so-called “blood diamonds” in the devastating civil war.
In regard to elections, he said that campaigning had already started, despite the two years that remained before the holding of polling. With parties already accusing each other of “shady intensions”, the election could be very challenging and complex, partly due to the fact that presidential, parliamentary and local council elections would be run at the same time. Other factors, such as the newly exploited wealth and temptations to try to exploit regional and ethnic differences, could cause further difficulty.
He called on the National Electoral Commission and the political parties to alleviate fears and show greater flexibility. He welcomed the commitment of the Sierra Leone Police to conduct regular dialogue with the political parties, and called on the force to increase its capacity for non-lethal crowd control and, among other measures, to establish early on the Independent Police Complaints Committee, as envisaged in the 2 April Joint Communiqué that followed inter-party disturbances in March.
In that context, he expressed concern over the Government’s intention to hold an inquest into the 1992 extrajudicial executions by the former military Government, which ruled the country from 1992-1996, saying that the action could be misunderstood by the opposition as an effort to influence the elections. If the inquest proceeds, the Government should make its intensions much clearer.
On Guinea, he said elections and a successful democratic transition there could, for the first time, create a subregion of like-minded States among the three countries of the Mano River Union, opening the potential of solving many shared problems, such as illicit drug trafficking and illegal fishing.
However, should the democratic transition in Guinea be stalled or reversed, that could have serious consequences for Sierra Leone, given the ethnic, cultural and geographic links between the countries, as well as the large quantities of small arms in Guinea, he said. In that context, he commended President Ernest Koroma and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for their careful approach in support of the transition in their neighbour.
Turning to UNIPSIL, he said that when the Secretary-General visited Sierra Leone, he wanted to draw attention to a successful United Nations intervention and, in particular, to the new model of an integrated peacebuilding mission, showing that it was possible to draw down from a large peacekeeping mission into a much smaller, civilian operation, while maintaining credible political and developmental engagement.
UNIPSIL, indeed, cost Member States only 2.2 per cent of the previous peacekeeping operations, he said. Unfortunately, that savings and success had not translated into any increase in United Nations financial resources for development, a key factor in peacebuilding. In fact, it was declining, and that could jeopardize United Nations work and credibility, and the entire integrated approach to peacebuilding.
Mr. McNee concurred that the peace consolidation and long-term development on which Sierra Leone stood poised to embark would require continued support. He noted that the Peacebuilding Commission would meet this afternoon to adopt an outcome document containing conclusions and recommendations.
He said that the Commission’s review process had focused on the “Joint Progress Report on the Agenda for Change”, prepared by the Government of Sierra Leone in full collaboration with the United Nations, international partners and civil society. Its findings were comprehensive and provided important recommendations for future action. All actors’ contributions had been exemplary regarding standards for aid effectiveness, engagement in post-conflict States and integrated service delivery.
Notable successes in the areas of good governance and the rule of law, youth employment and drug trafficking had been achieved, he said. The Anti-Corruption Commission continued its excellent work, and the establishment of the independent Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation would further advance democratization.
He, too, pointed to a list of emerging needs, including the preparations for the 2012 elections, which required the strengthening of the Political Parties Registration Commission, the National Electoral Commission and the police sector. Also noting the risks and benefits of exploiting natural resources, he said that those must be managed in a transparent manner that delivered the economic benefits of a peace dividend to the population as a whole.
Turning to the crucial issue of peacebuilding, he said that Sierra Leone had established the strategic and institutional mechanisms needed to implement peacebuilding activities. The Agenda for Change and the United Nations Joint Vision were two comprehensive and integrated strategies, but the need for resources remained significant.
In that context, he said that the United Nations Multi-Donor Trust Fund for funding the Joint Vision had received only $10 million towards a multi-year target of $204 million. The Sierra Leone configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, therefore, would develop a resource mobilization plan to meet current funding targets, attract non-traditional donors and explore alternate means of providing international assistance. A final investment in peace was necessary to secure the gains made since the end of the civil war.
Ms. Bangura said the visit of the Secretary-General had been particularly productive and had coincided with the inauguration of the second ever independent public broadcaster in Africa, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation. She said that many of the successes in Sierra Leone had been acclaimed in indicators such as the Global Peace Index, World Bank rankings and the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, among others. With respect to the furtherance of the culture of political tolerance, her President, on various occasions, had extended the olive branch and had pointed out that tolerance was a two-way street.
She said her Government was fully committed to strengthening governance and private sector development. The fight against corruption was unrelenting, including through the appointment of a new Anti-Corruption Commissioner. A Youth Commissioner had also been appointed to formulate strategy and policy relating to the empowerment and involvement of the younger population. As for the upcoming 2012 elections, the Government was committed to ensure that the National Electoral Commission and the Political Parties Registration Commission delivered effectively on their constitutional mandate, independently and free from interference.
Achieving openness and transparency in mineral resources exploitation was one of the Government’s development policies, she said. Her Government, therefore, was disposed to address concerns about mining agreements recently entered into, and to bring them in compliance with the mineral laws.
She said that some of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission still required support for full implementation, including the largely under-funded reparation process. The Government was also considering the Independent Review Panel’s report and the proposed inquest into the 29 December 1992 executions. In view of the prevailing global economic and financial uncertainties, she urged that pledges made at the last Consultative Group meeting on Sierra Leone held in London be delivered.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 10:47 a.m., at which time the Council immediately went into consultations on Sierra Leone and other matters, as previously agreed.
The Security Council had before it the Fifth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (document S/2010/471), which covers developments in the country and the mission, known as UNIPSIL, during the period from 1 March to 31 August 2010.
The Secretary-General states that Sierra Leone has made strides in consolidating peace and fostering national reconciliation, but that it requires continued assistance in those areas, as well as support for the 2012 elections, advancing good governance, combating corruption, drug trafficking and transnational organized crime, addressing youth unemployment and mobilizing donor support in coordination with the Peacebuilding Commission.
To help the country face those challenges, he recommends that the Security Council extend for an additional one-year period the mandate of UNIPSIL, which was established by the Council in 2008 to help build the peace in Sierra Leone, following the end of the country’s civil war in 2002 and upon the completion of the mandates of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL). The current mission has a mandate to provide political advice to foster peace and political consolidation, to offer support and training to the national police and security forces and to help strengthen democratic institutions.
The Secretary-General says that the overall security situation remained calm during the reporting period, with the main parties — the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the opposition Sierra Leone’s People’s Party (SLPP) — continuing to abide by the joint communiqué signed on 2 April, pursuant to the political disturbances of March.
The Government, he says, continued to deploy troops in support of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), and elements of the security sector conducted a joint exercise with the United States Coast Guard focused on the identification and interdiction of vessels carrying out illegal activities in coastal waters. The boundary dispute with neighbouring Guinea remained unresolved, but relations between the two countries remained cordial.
He says that the 2012 elections will be an important milestone, for which the Government, political leadership and political parties should take primary responsibility, while the international community is expected to play an important supporting role. He called on the parties to continue to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences, as required under the 2 April communiqué, to adhere to the code of conduct of the Registration Commission and to work closely with the National Electoral Commission on arrangements.
The Secretary-General notes that “immense challenges” remain in generating jobs for young people, especially in the current economic climate, with some 800,000 young people unemployed, employed without remuneration or underemployed. He stresses that reversing this situation requires stepped up international investment. In regard to corruption, the country’s former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources is still on trial for alleged corruption, and the number of cases being investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission remains steady.
In addition to domestic elections, important upcoming challenges include accelerated initiatives to wrap up several mining agreements, which could allow Sierra Leone to become a major mineral exporter, and presidential elections in neighbouring Guinea, the Secretary-General notes. “While generating great benefits for Sierra Leone, these developments could also carry considerable inherent risks that bring new and complex challenges, which the Government, political parties and other political stakeholders in Sierra Leone will have to anticipate and manage in the immediate future,” he says.
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