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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Liberia (Monrovia)

22 April 2008

Address to the joint session of the 52nd Legislature of Liberia

Mr. Speaker of the House of Representatives,

Mr. Vice-President of Liberia and President of the Senate,

Mr. President Pro-Tempore of the Senate,

Distinguished Members of the Legislature,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am deeply honoured to address this joint session of the 52nd Legislature of the Republic of Liberia.

I have come to Liberia to see at first hand the remarkable achievements your country has made in recovering from a devastating conflict. And I have come to reassure the Liberian people of my steadfast commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in your nation.

After taking office as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I said that addressing Africa's key challenges would be a priority for me. That commitment remains equally strong today.

I am delighted that since its inauguration in January 2006, the Government of Liberia, under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf, has focused on important priorities. These range from economic recovery, poverty reduction and debt forgiveness to fighting corruption and impunity; from revitalizing the agricultural sector to restoring basic services and infrastructure, including roads, schools and hospitals. All of these are essential to the vital and painstaking work of healing the wounds of conflict and fostering national reconciliation.

In this context, I am heartened to know that the Government is making progress in implementing the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme; known as GEMPA, reforming the security sector and strengthening the capacity of its institutions; regaining control and efficient management of its natural resources; and consolidating its authority throughout the country.

Equally reassuring, all the branches of Government are working harmoniously for the benefit the people of Liberia. I would encourage you, as parliamentarians, to continue to engage fully and constructively with the Executive and Judicial branches of Government, in determined pursuit of national priorities.

Liberia's international partners share in your sense of achievement. The United Nations, ECOWAS, the African Union and others have worked along with you to help bring peace to Liberia. Today, we can look to this country as an example of what the international community can achieve when it pulls together in a clear and common cause. I thank my colleagues in the United Nations Mission in Liberia for their contribution.

Above all, I pay tribute to President Johnson-Sirleaf for her vision and commitment. Under her leadership, the people of Liberia are given a unique opportunity to join together, to build a just and inclusive society which assures the participation of all people, irrespective of political or ethnic affiliation.

Distinguished Members of the Legislature,

Liberia has made great strides in its recovery from conflict, but still faces daunting challenges. More progress is needed in reforming the legal and judicial system and extending the rule of law throughout the country. More remains to be done in reintegrating populations affected by war and promoting reconciliation and national unity. Big challenges remain in reconstruction and development. Delivering the peace dividend in these areas is necessary to underpin the stability that Liberia currently enjoys.

An especially acute concern -- here, in the region and in the world as a whole -- is the rising prices of food commodities. Liberia is abundantly blessed in agricultural resources. Today, I challenge your country to demonstrate to the world you have the capability to not only meet many of your own needs, but also to export food to the region. I challenge you to reduce poverty and create jobs in Liberia by developing your agricultural sector. And I challenge all international partners to help you realize your country's potential in this area.

In this and other challenges confronting Liberia, the entire United Nations family will work with you. We will work with you as you strive to reach the Millennium Development Goals, including in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We will work with you as you heal the divisions that tore Liberia asunder in the past. We will work with you as you build a comprehensive national strategy for the future -- one which gives equal weight and attention to development, security and human rights, all underpinned by the rule of law.

As Members of the Legislature, you have a key role to play. The world looks to you to modernize Liberia's legislative framework so as to combat corruption, create an environment friendly to investors, and instil principles of good governance in all branches of Government. This is a weighty agenda, but one you will be able to look back on as the important legacy of Liberia's 52nd Legislature.

As the most representative legislature in the history of this country, you have a unique chance to build a national vision for a secure, peaceful and prosperous Liberia one that provides opportunities for all its citizens. You have a mandate to open a new chapter in Liberia's history, and put the country and its people first, before personal interests.

Distinguished Members of the Legislature,

As you know, UNMIL has embarked on the first phase of its drawdown, in compliance with UN Security Council resolution 1777. In September, the Security Council will decide on the next phase of the drawdown, after reviewing the progress made by the Government in meeting certain critical benchmarks.

My recommendations to the Council will be based on the approach we have used so far: a gradual and phased drawdown of the Mission's military and police components, linked to the Government's ability to assume full responsibility for its national security. Our common strategic goal is to ensure that Liberia has a solid security sector -- one that can stand on its own feet before UNMIL completes its withdrawal.

As we work together towards this shared goal, the United Nations will remain vigilant about any developments in the sub-region that could affect Liberia's peace and stability. I will do everything in my power to ensure that the gains you have made are safe and beyond jeopardy.

Today, I will leave Liberia confident that the business of the people is being addressed through the legislative process, and that the 52nd Legislature will provide the oversight to guide it forward.

I wish you continued success and prosperity and the United Nations will always stand behind you and your people.

Thank you very much.