SECRETARY-GENERAL, IN UNPRECEDENTED HIGH-LEVEL PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION EVENT, SAYS SUPPORT CRITICAL TO SUSTAINING SIERRA LEONE’S IMPRESSIVE PROGRESS
SECRETARY-GENERAL, IN UNPRECEDENTED HIGH-LEVEL PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION EVENT, SAYS SUPPORT CRITICAL TO SUSTAINING SIERRA LEONE’S IMPRESSIVE PROGRESS
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sierra Leone configuration
2nd & 3rd Meetings (AM & PM)
SECRETARY-GENERAL, IN UNPRECEDENTED HIGH-LEVEL PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION EVENT,
SAYS SUPPORT CRITICAL TO SUSTAINING SIERRA LEONE’S IMPRESSIVE PROGRESS
‘Now That We Have Placed the Spotlight on Sierra Leone and Its Peacebuilding
Needs, We Cannot Afford to Turn Our Backs to It,’ Says Commission Chairman
Given targeted support from Member States, the United Nations and all other relevant stakeholders, the implementation of the Sierra Leone Cooperation Framework could mark the difference between a Sierra Leone burdened by persistent threats and a Sierra Leone that had the opportunity to successfully consolidate peace, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Peacebuilding Commission as it opened its high-level stakeholders consultation on that country this morning.
The day-long session of the United Nations new body brought together high-level representatives of Member States, regional and subregional organizations, United Nations agencies, the private sector and civil society in an effort to increase international engagement in building peace in Sierra Leone and identify new initiatives and partnerships towards that goal.
Commending as “impressive” the partnership forged between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Peacebuilding Commission over the past two years, the Secretary-General hailed the adoption of the Cooperation Framework on 12 December 2007 as a major milestone and “an unprecedented and innovative engagement instrument, which succinctly captures commitments of the Government of Sierra Leone, the Peacebuilding Commission, the United Nations and other stakeholders to address the remaining peacebuilding challenges in the country”.
“Our collective and individual support will be critical to sustaining Sierra Leone’s impressive progress towards peace, development and prosperity,” he said.
The Peacebuilding Commission’s work on Sierra Leone was in many ways pioneering, said the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, in a statement read by the Chairman of the Commission’s Sierra Leone Country-Specific Configuration, Frank Majoor, also of the Netherlands. It represented a first case –- together with the country-specific work on Burundi -– in which the Commission’s mandate had been put into practice.
“We have reached the point of no return: now that we have placed the spotlight on Sierra Leone and its peacebuilding needs, we cannot afford to turn our backs to it,” he said.
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Zainab Hawa Bangura, said that, as one of the two pioneer countries in the work of the Commission, Sierra Leone was cognisant of its share of responsibility to justify its relevance. Her Government was absolutely committed to the full implementation of its compact with the Commission, despite numerous challenges, past and present. By far, the most important of those was the scarcity of resources for addressing the critical priority areas, in order to consolidate the peace and prime the country to economic growth and sustainable development.
The country had scored significant progress in its peace process since the end of the conflict in 2005, she said. Its democratic process was on a solid path, as demonstrated by the successful presidential and parliamentary elections last year, which had produced a new Government. Incredibly, Sierra Leone, only six years since the end of active brutal conflict, was now among the safest places in the West African subregion.
During the meeting’s overview session, the Chair pointed out that the objective of the high-level stakeholders consultation was to garner support for the implementation of the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework, explore opportunities for new partnerships, support existing initiatives for peacebuilding and broaden the donor base in Sierra Leone. That was a tall order, but one which could be achieved, given the diversity of stakeholder participants.
The Minister of Finance and Development of Sierra Leone, David Carew, explained the country’s aid coordination mechanism, which included an Assistance Coordination Office to work with donor agencies in order to channel the funds into various sectors of the economy and to facilitate Government programmes.
He also explained that the country’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) had been produced in 2005, for which a total of $630 million had been received, including 22 per cent by United Nations agencies. However, the inflows in aid had been far less than what had been anticipated. One challenge was that many donors used their contributions to fund their ongoing programmes in the country, rather than the ones that had been identified in the Strategy.
Manuel Lopez Blanco, Director for the West African Region of the European Commission, outlined the budget support to Sierra Leone, adding that the European Commission was one of the country’s largest multilateral partners. Jan Knutsson, Director-General for International Development Cooperation of the Foreign Ministry of Sweden, expressed his Government’s intention to double support to Sierra Leone in 2009, aligning it with the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework.
The meeting’s four thematic plenaries today addressed the main priority areas of the Sierra Leone Cooperation Framework: youth employment and empowerment; good governance and capacity-building; justice and security sector reform; and energy sector development. The Framework describes specific actions that the Government of Sierra Leone and the Peacebuilding Commission have committed to undertake to address the remaining challenges in the country. It is guided by the principles of national ownership, mutual commitment and sustained engagement.
Summarizing the proceedings of the day in a concluding statement, Mr. Majoor said that the participants had focused on the Cooperation Framework as a critical tool for peacebuilding in Sierra Leone, which required full and timely implementation by all stakeholders. While committed to the implementation of the Framework, the Government would need continued support of diverse stakeholders. The Commission had heard several encouraging promises of increased support and engagement today. To ensure the success of peacebuilding and development processes, both direct support and multi-donor funding mechanisms must be strengthened and widely publicized to promote wider participation. It was also necessary to develop an aid coordination policy and strengthen the links between development and peacebuilding in the context of the finalization of the next Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.
Closing remarks were also made by Minister Bangura and Carolyn McAskie, Assistant Secretary-General, Peacebuilding Support Office, who welcomed today’s “useful and unprecedented” event, which had given form and function to the Commission’s mandate. She said the international community was now at a very critical juncture in enhancing the environment for peacebuilding and wealth creation in Sierra Leone, so as to bring the fruits of those developments to the population. The next stage was for the Peacebuilding Commission to launch its first exercise of monitoring progress.
The Peacebuilding Commission held a high-level stakeholders consultation on Sierra Leone today, bringing together representatives of Member States, regional and subregional organizations, the United Nations system, the private sector and civil society with the goal of increasing international engagement with Sierra Leone in the efforts to consolidate peace in that country.
Opening the session, United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said that the adoption of the Cooperation Framework for Sierra Leone in December 2007 represented a major milestone. The Framework was grounded in the fundamental principles of national ownership, mutual accountabilityand sustained engagement. It was an unprecedented and innovative engagement instrument, which succinctly captured commitments of Sierra Leone’s Government, the Peacebuilding Commission, the United Nations and other stakeholders to address the country’s remaining peacebuilding challenges. The Framework correctly recognized that the primary responsibility rested with the people and Government of Sierra Leone. At the same time, it acknowledged that the international community, including the Peacebuilding Commission, should remain engaged, as continued support for Sierra Leone’s national efforts remained vital.
The implementation of the Cooperation Framework could mark a difference between Sierra Leone vulnerable to persistent threats and a Sierra Leone that could consolidate peace, he said. He hoped today’s event would result in clear commitments of support for the Framework’s implementation through existing programmes or new partnerships. The United Nations had played and would continue to play an important role in supporting Sierra Leone’s efforts for peace and development. He assured that country of the Organization’s continued support. The Peacebuilding Commission had already demonstrated its value by helping the country through successful elections and the democratic transition, and by broadening its donor base and enhancing Government and donor partnerships. Today’s high-level event provided an opportunity to build on those achievements and capitalize on the strategic moment for change and reform in Sierra Leone. He looked forward to the outcome of that important consultation.
ZAINAB HAWA BANGURA, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, said that, as a post-conflict country struggling to recover from the ravages of a violent and devastating armed conflict and rebuild its society, her country attached great importance to the cooperation instrument and its speedy implementation as a deterrent to relapse into conflict. Also, as one of the two pioneer countries in the work of the Peacebuilding Commission, it was cognisant of its share of responsibility to justify the relevance of the Commission, not only as a new institution within the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, but also as a critical force for the maintenance of international peace and security.
She said that the adoption of the Cooperation Framework last year was indeed a milestone in the Peacebuilding Commission’s engagement with Sierra Leone, as well as for the United Nations peacebuilding strategy. It had marked yet another significant step in the United Nations search for enduring peace and stability in countries emerging from conflict. The Government of Sierra Leone was absolutely committed to the full implementation of the compact, despite the numerous challenges, past and present. By far, the most important of those was the scarcity of resources for addressing the five critical priority areas identified by both the Government and the Commission for intervention, in order to consolidate the peace and prime the country to economic growth and sustainable development.
Noting that an appeal for that purpose had been launched early this year, she said that extensive studies conducted by renowned economists, including Paul Collier, had suggested that assistance to post-conflict societies had been too meagre too soon and that post-conflict situations took time to get better. Therefore, support to those societies should be phased over a period of time, rather than “dumped” in a rush. The Sierra Leone Compact was designed to avoid a “mad counterproductive rush”, while at the same time, it was structured to provide a speedy response to critical priorities. The country had scored significant progress in its peace process since the end of the conflict in 2005. Its democratic process was on a solid path, as demonstrated by the successful presidential and parliamentary elections last year, which had produced a new Government. Incredibly, Sierra Leone, only six years since the end of active brutal conflict, was now among the safest places in the West African subregion.
While the achievements were solidifying the foundation for sustainable peace, development and stability, the country was aware that much remained to be accomplished and that enormous challenges still undermined its efforts, including those relating to energy and unemployment, particularly youth joblessness. There was also an alarming shortage of the country’s staple, rice, which was a potential threat to peace and security, especially considering the country’s high unemployment level. The Peacebuilding Commission and the international community should urgently help Sierra Leone to avert that potential crisis. Awake to its own responsibility in that regard, the Government and the President had elevated the problem to the level of an emergency and had, accordingly, intensified the drive for food self-sufficiency and security as a matter of utmost priority.
FRANK MAJOOR (Netherlands), Chairman of the meeting, speaking on behalf of Maxime Verhagen, that country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that Sierra Leone fully deserved the Commission’s attention, not only because of what still needed to be done, but also because of everything that had already been achieved: a period of relative stability since the end of the conflict six years ago; the impressive work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and a democratic transition between two elected Governments in landmark national elections last year. That progress should encourage everybody to support the country in its efforts to sustain peace and build its future.
He said that the Commission still needed to ensure that political commitments were translated into concrete action. The Cooperation Framework for Sierra Leone, which was the result of intensive consultations between all stakeholders, must be the point of reference. It identified the priorities for peacebuilding in Sierra Leone, lay bare the gaps in national and international efforts to address them and suggested activities and actions that various stakeholders might now consider.
“We have reached the point of no return: now that we have placed the spotlight on Sierra Leone and its peacebuilding needs, we cannot afford to turn our backs to it,” he said. All stakeholders, national and international, civil society and the private sector, had the responsibility to consider how they could support peacebuilding efforts in Sierra Leone, taking into account their various strengths and capacities. That was really what the Peacebuilding Commission was all about: to provide focus where it was lacking; to provide support where it was needed or insufficient; and to encourage those who could add value. Some could provide technical expertise or share best practices, others could offer financial support or do business in-country, and still others could promote advocacy.
His Government was supporting Sierra Leone and the work of the Commission in several ways, often in direct support of peacebuilding related activities, he said. So far, it had provided some $22 million to support the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and a new multi-year pledge was imminent. Debt cancellation for Sierra Leone amounted to roughly $43 million. The Netherlands had also provided transportation equipment to the country’s armed forces, worth several million dollars. Most of his country’s contributions had been made through multilateral channels. The Netherlands had also facilitated the return of refugees and the use of the diaspora to assist the country’s development. It was also helping post-conflict transition and disarmament through the regional programmes of such agencies as the World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank. Also noteworthy were its contribution of $18 million to the Peacebuilding Fund and its forthcoming contribution to the “Conflict Facility” of the International Finance Corporation.
With reference to specific peacebuilding needs in Sierra Leone, the Netherlands was willing to consider future financing possibilities through multilateral channels. Naturally, it was interested in those areas in which it had developed specific expertise, such as justice and security sector reform, and human rights. His Government had decided to finance the work of the Peacebuilding Support Office that directly served the country specific meetings for Sierra Leone, and some $400,000 had recently been made available for such purposes.
The Peacebuilding Commission’s work on Sierra Leone was in many ways pioneering, he said, adding that it represented a first case –- together with the country specific work on Burundi -– in which the Commission’s mandate had been put into practice. One should not lose sight of that broader perspective. Nor should one lose sight of the importance that progress in critical areas in Sierra Leone had for the Commission as a whole. There were no blueprints for the Commission’s engagement through that forum. He encouraged all participants to carefully consider the Cooperation Framework and the needs that it had identified, to listen to various speakers today, and to inquire about possible activities and successful programmes that could be scaled up.
Speaking in his capacity as Chairman, Mr. MAJOOR said that the objective of the high-level stakeholders consultation was to garner support for the implementation of the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework, explore opportunities for new partnerships, support existing initiatives for peacebuilding and broaden the donor base in Sierra Leone. That was a tall order, but one which could be achieved given the diversity of stakeholders participating
DAVID CAREW, Minister of Finance and Development of Sierra Leone, explaining Sierra Leone’s aid coordination mechanism, said that aid inflows came from multilateral and bilateral institutions, and United Nations agencies. To ensure their harmonization, the Government had set up an Assistance Coordination Office to work with donor agencies to channel the funds into various sectors of the economy and to facilitate Government programmes. The first Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) had been produced in 2005, for which a total of $630 million had been received, including 22 per cent by United Nations agencies. Those funds had been channelled into the country via different instruments.
However, the inflows had been far less than what had been anticipated to fund that first generation Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, he went on. One challenge was that many donors used their contributions to fund their ongoing programmes in the country, rather than programmes that had been identified in the Strategy. Aid coordination in Sierra Leone, despite its obvious advantages, faced many challenges, including that it was construed as relinquishing power. Also, at times, there was a lack of capacity to track information and to report properly. A lack of transparency on the part of partners also made it difficult.
Sierra Leone had determined that effective coordination required that there be commitment on the part of both the Government and donors, he went on. There should also be effective institutional arrangements and donors should adhere to the Paris Declaration. In Sierra Leone, there were too many actors with too many ideas, compounded by inadequate capacity on the part of the Government and partners, alike. Support was urgently needed to scale up the funds for the country to enable it to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
MANUEL LOPEZ BLANCO, Director for West African Region of the European Commission, expressed appreciation for the high priority given to Sierra Leone and the Peacebuilding Commission’s committed engagement in that country. He also underscored the importance of the leading role and ownership of the Sierra Leonean Government, saying that that was the core element of the Commission’s development policy and the basis for partnership. A viable and sustainable coordination mechanism was clear leadership and ownership of the partner country, essential for better division of labour among donors. That was also key for the success of the development agenda, along with budget support. Proper coordination was also important in the light of one of the basic objectives of the Commission’s engagement with Sierra Leone, namely to broaden the donor base.
Presenting the European Commission’s approach to budget support in fragile countries, he said that, last year, it had adopted a communication, proposing ways and means of responding to situations of fragility, leading to the adoption by the European Union Council of political conclusions on the matter. Regarding budget support, it had recommended further increases in the capacity to deliver support in difficult environments under reinforced cooperation with other relevant international institutions. The approach had focused on six country cases, including Sierra Leone.
Regarding cooperation with that country, he said that the Commission’s experience of poverty reduction budget support was quite extensive, beginning in 2000. Continuity and predictability of budget support was important to address fragility. The necessary condition for budget support was the existence of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, and he welcomed the fact that Sierra Leone’s second generation Paper was nearly ready. Also required was to attract more funds from donors, existing and new ones, and to shift towards the sector approach. Only then would it be possible to proceed to sector-wide programmes.
Fragile countries faced huge financial needs to rebuild States, deliver basic services and pay salaries regularly with a very narrow revenue basis that must be reconstructed, he continued. Meanwhile, they had to manage difficult macro-economic reforms to stabilize their economy, restore budgetary discipline, raise revenues, fight corruption and meet expectations for better service from an increasingly impatient population. Budget support in fragile situations could contribute to macroeconomic and fiscal stabilization, boost economic governance reforms and support the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
The current and foreseeable exogenous shocks were very dangerous for fragile States, he said. The international community should pay special attention to helping those countries weather the financial consequences of economic shocks to avoid relapse into crisis, and budget support should be flexible in that critical period. The risk of social unrest, with inevitable political stability spillovers, remained high. The cost of doing nothing could be huge compared to the risk attached to budget support in fragile situations. The international community should jointly address the question of emergency financing needs while managing such additional risks.
As far as the European Commission was concerned, for fragile States, first and foremost, strong political will by the country authorities was needed to achieve economic and social recovery. Equally strong efforts were needed from the international community, and that was what the Peacebuilding Commission was all about: to mobilize and sustain a high level of commitment on both sides. In the case of Sierra Leone, the Economic Commission was currently implementing an ambitious multi-annual programme. Its implementation had not been easy so far, given the difficulties the country had encountered in implementing its International Monetary Fund programme. Close coordination with the Fund would help to support macro-economic stabilization during recovery and manage the programme.
He added that the main challenges in budget support in post-conflict countries included the acute lack of human capacity at all levels. Given that, general dialogue on technical assistance and capacity-building in Sierra Leone was of utmost importance. Also important was to help the Government to mobilize adequate human resources, encourage the International Monetary Fund’s greater involvement in the multi-donor budget support group and agree in advance between donors on the basic elements of budget support. It was also crucial to maintain the necessary link between the continuous and sustained reform of public financial management and budget support, which had to go hand in hand.
JAN KNUTSSON, Director-General for International Development Cooperation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said that two years was a short time span for an intergovernmental body to be fully operational, but he was pleased that the Peacebuilding Commission was already starting to show its merit and potential contribution, particularly in the countries on its agenda. The Cooperation Framework represented a political commitment between the Government of Sierra Leone and the international community regarding a number of key priorities. The Framework should serve to bring efforts together, increase coherence, improve effectiveness and maximize peacebuilding outcomes. Sweden looked forward to working with partners and the Government of Sierra Leone to respond collectively on the challenges ahead in the Framework’s implementation.
He said that the Government of Sierra Leone, with support from the United Nations and other partners, had made significant progress on several Framework commitments, including the preparations for the local elections. He also took note of the report of the Constitutional Review Commission, the plan to reform the justice sector, the approval of a national anti-corruption strategy and the establishment of a fully operational Human Rights Commission. In response to those developments, the international community should fulfil its commitments. As part of restructuring its development aid, his Government had decided to focus on a group of 12 countries in conflict and post-conflict, including Sierra Leone. Sweden would double its bilateral cooperation to Sierra Leone in 2009 and intended to focus its contribution on the priorities in the Strategic Framework. It had also contributed more than $40 million to the Peacebuilding Fund over the past three years.
Sweden welcomed the proposal to replace the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) with a peacebuilding support office, as discussed during the last Security Council briefing on that country, he noted. Continued strong leadership from the Secretary-General’s representative for that country was of crucial importance to provide coordinated and effective support to national efforts. The Mission and the United Nations country team should continue to operate in an integrated fashion, supported by coherent messages from Headquarters. The Peacebuilding Commission should bring together all important stakeholders, paying close attention to the problem of youth employment and empowerment, for which there was currently no coherent strategy or capacity to respond. In that context, he welcomed the United Nations current review of its capacity to deliver and looked forward to strong leadership by the Sierra Leonean Government in that important area. Sweden also recommended the establishment of a pooled funding mechanism at the country level in order to channel flexible resources for peacebuilding. The mechanism could be linked to the priority sectors of the Cooperation Framework. Such a mechanism would be particularly helpful for donors like Sweden, which had no representation in Sierra Leone.
Also necessary was to accelerate implementation of the important programmes financed by the Peacebuilding Fund. “We cannot afford to have money waiting in the bank when the needs for tangible peace dividends are urgent,” he said.
Plenary on Youth Employment, Empowerment
As the high-level stakeholders consultation got under way, MARTIN NEY ( Germany), session Chairperson, said that close to two thirds of Sierra Leone’s youth were unemployed or underemployed, but that the challenge of youth marginalization went beyond lack of economic opportunities; remedial efforts should also extend to the empowerment of young women and men. Hopefully, the plenary session would highlight some of the successful initiatives that had been directed at the youth.
JOSEPH SAM SESSAY, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security of Sierra Leone, said that youth had always been very important in the country and had been major players in the civil war. In the last elections, they had also been crucial in securing democracy, as they were the ones who secured the polling stations to ensure that there was no fraud. For Sierra Leone, supporting youth was about developing a middle class where a vacuum currently existed. For agriculture in particular, support for youth meant providing them with the opportunity to improve their livelihood. The Government’s vision was to promote agriculture as the engine of growth. In tackling the issue of youth employment and empowerment, quick return for labour was of paramount importance. The Government’s current efforts in that direction included a Youth Employment Scheme and a Food-for-Work programme, which promoted youth employment in the rehabilitation of feeder roads. Another effort was a youth training programme in agriculture.
He announced that more than 17,000 jobs had been identified for youth in the area of agriculture, showing that opportunities existed in that sector. As part of the country’s effort, the President was prioritizing agriculture. Sierra Leone believed that willing international support would help to create more opportunities for the youth in agriculture. In addition, the country also felt that there was a market opportunity for it under the current increasing food prices, particularly in the area of rice production for export. As a rice producing country, it had the potential to increase production with irrigation. Already, 14 potential irrigation areas had been identified and five had been prioritized with the capacity to produce more than 20 per cent surplus rice for export.
GEERT CAPPELAERE, Acting United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, gave an overview of the United Nations country team’s engagement in the area of youth employment and empowerment, saying that there was a need for a collective vision for youth empowerment. There was the need to engage young people fully, as well as to have a policy and a strategic plan. The existing youth policy should be reviewed and there should be a strong single coordination mechanism to ensure that efficient and effective decisions were made quickly. Government efforts in that regard should be matched by partners’ support. For better effectiveness, investment in youth should move from small-scale projects to predictable and long-term funding for the Government. For its part, the United Nations remained committed to supporting Sierra Leone in the area of youth employment and empowerment.
NIYI ROBBIN-COKER, Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Business Forum, discussed the role of the private sector in youth employment, saying that the youth were strongly represented in the formal sector and that youth employment was a function of economic growth. The private sector’s goal was to see economic growth in the country within the next four to five years, with the participation of the sector. The international community should assist Sierra Leone’s return to a market economy. The country had a long way to go to become an attractive place to do business.
He said that the private sector could play a role in youth employment by participating in the reform process and by informing policy development. Other areas included articulating sector growth strategies, improving information dissemination, reducing domestic market inefficiencies, mentoring youth enterprise and supporting direct youth employment. In order to move forward, Sierra Leone needed to think bigger and differently, particularly by focusing its replacement Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper on economic growth. Interventions by public sector and development partners should also be focused on addressing market failures, rather than on market participation. In addition, a $5 billion to $20 billion social enterprise and investment fund should be established and reforms should be accelerated, in order to improve access to finance, justice and land.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers stressed the need to support Sierra Leone on its path towards development, while also urging the Government to promote good governance by ensuring that the council elections in July were free and fair. They stressed the need for better cooperation and coordination among various stakeholders and called for a coherent policy framework on youth employment as that would have a positive effect on the country. Several speakers noted that youth unemployment was a social security issue, as well as an economic one, and that women were among the most vulnerable groups. In that regard, it was important that ongoing educational programmes be fully implemented. Assisting the youths to meet their basic needs was described as being of utmost importance in enabling them to achieve human security so as to stand on their own feet.
Plenary on Good Governance, Capacity-Building
The Facilitator of the panel, RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica), said that the Government of Sierra Leone, with international support, had made significant progress in the area of good governance and democracy consolidation. Last year’s national elections and the ensuing democratic transition were a landmark achievement and a clear testament to the democratic spirit of the people and leadership. Those gains needed to be consolidated, especially in the areas of national reconciliation, enhanced dialogue between political parties, support to the Parliament and other key institutions.
He said that the Sierra Leone Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework clearly stated that additional support was needed to enhance the capacity of national institutions, such as the Parliament, National Electoral Commission, Political Parties Registration Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, National Commission for Democracy and the national Human Rights Commission. Efforts in support of governance institutions should be complemented through enhanced dialogue among political parties and reconciliation and the full participation of all segments of the population in decision-making. That was especially critical in the lead-up to the local council elections on 5 July.
Additionally, progress on peacebuilding priorities should not be separated from capacity-building in its broadest sense, he said. Government institutions and other national stakeholders had limited capacity to deliver services, implement reforms and ensure adequate economic and financial management, and thus, all programmes and activities must incorporate capacity-building as a key element.
Introducing the discussion, Minister BANGURA highlighted the areas of progress in Sierra Leone and specific requirements for additional support, saying that prevention of corruption and good governance were among the Government’s priorities. A national anti-corruption strategy had been launched in an effort to promote a comprehensive approach to reform, focusing on zero tolerance to corruption and building partnerships in fighting that scourge. A two-year anti-corruption strategy had been launched last week, envisioning prevention, eradication and suppression measures, and instant investigation of all cases that came to the attention of the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Among the Government’s other initiatives, she mentioned the accord of conduct and ethics for ministers and other Government officials. Recent presidential and parliamentary elections had been a landmark achievement and a demonstration of the maturity of the people of Sierra Leone. She also outlined the efforts to promote enhanced dialogue and national reconciliation, and development of skills and efforts to re-energize key institutions, including the Parliament and the judiciary. Of crucial concern, however, was the limited capacity to deliver services and implement reforms.
GEBREMEDHIN HAGOSS, Officer-in-Charge and Chief of the Peace and Governance Section of UNIOSIL, provided an update on the work of the United Nations in support of the Government. In particular, he mentioned the Organization’s assistance in the conduct of national elections in 2007 and the efforts to promote robust dialogue in preparation for the local elections scheduled for 5 July. UNIOSIL in conjunction with the national election commission had launched national dialogue to promote wider cross-party commitment to a violence-free election process. In the area of public sector reform, a major area of concern revolved around systemic weaknesses of State governance institutions and the flight of experts from public service. The international community should remain engaged in the political process by scaling up investment in institutional capacity-building.
He said that the country’s new administration had expressed strong commitment to priority targets and results-based management systems. It was equally important to address the lack of incentives and brain drain, as well as the lack of training and working infrastructure. In response to those challenges, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had launched various initiatives, including a strategy and policy unit within the office of the President; efforts to address the brain drain in the public sector by tapping into the diaspora; and creation of a development fund for capacity-building. It was important to finalize the Government’s strategy by finalizing the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper; strengthen the administrative apparatus and horizontal and vertical accountability; resolve ethnic tensions; strengthen advisory capacity; and support the constitutional review process.
SULIMAN BALDO, Director of the Africa Regional Programme on the International Centre for Transitional Justice, presented key civil society initiatives in support of the Framework. Dealing with mass atrocities and human rights abuses, the Centre had provided advice on the reparations to victims of violence and the conduct of the activities of the Special Court on Sierra Leone. It had also provided extensive recommendations to promote peacebuilding in the country. While progress had been slow, the Government should be applauded for moving forward in implementing some of those recommendations.
He said that the engagement of the Peacebuilding Commission had been a galvanizing force for redirecting international attention to Sierra Leone, but the country remained at the bottom of the human development index and the situation remained fragile. Recent meetings of parliamentarians and civil society players in Sierra Leone had commented on the plans in key peacebuilding areas. Various projects had been identified in order to improve the country’s capacity to absorb international assistance, which was one of the challenges. Among other issues of great importance was coordination of national and international efforts, for which the United Nations high-level participation was essential.
Several speakers in the ensuing debate stressed the role of capacity-building and good governance for peace consolidation, while also pointing out the need to coordinate efforts in that regard. Also highlighted in the dialogue was the need to invest in education and training, promote results-based management and provide technical assistance to the country. Investment in institutions and capacity was needed, as well as the efforts to clearly define responsibilities and equally strengthen each branch of Government. Speakers also shared their experiences and best practices in providing assistance to Sierra Leone.
The representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union said the Union had engaged the Parliament’s leadership in both Burundi and Sierra Leone in initiatives to promote dialogue and ensure that decision-making was as inclusive as possible. The Parliament was the crucible of national reconciliation where the divergent interests of society were debated and mediated. The Union, in cooperation with UNIOSIL and the United Nations Development Programme, had conducted an assessment of the functioning of Sierra Leone’s Parliament and had shared the results of its mission with the Peacebuilding Commission’s Peacebuilding Support Office. She looked forward to the operational stage of mobilizing funds and implementing a meaningful technical assistance programme for Sierra Leone’s Parliament, which would also benefit from a new project of the Union to support post-conflict parliaments in Africa in promoting reconciliation.
Summarizing the discussion, the Facilitator said that it was clear from the debate that the Sierra Leonean Government was on the right track, undertaking impressive reforms in the area of good governance and democracy consolidation. However, additional efforts were needed to strengthen the capacity of various Government institutions. In that regard, the proposed multi-donor funding mechanism for capacity-building, to be managed by the United Nations Development Programme, was a welcome initiative. In preparation for the local council elections, it was critical to strengthen the Political Parties Registration Commission and other dialogue and dispute resolution mechanisms. It was also clear that the efforts to strengthen the Parliament’s capacity needed to be better coordinated, in order to ensure greatest ownership by local stakeholders.
Plenary on Justice Sector, Security Reform
KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom), session Facilitator, noted that, since the end of the conflict in Sierra Leone, several initiatives had been developed to rebuild and reform the justice and security institutions. The Government, with the support of the United Kingdom and other partners, had developed a five-year justice sector development programme. Also, recently, President Ernest Bai Koroma had launched the Sierra Leone Justice Sector Reform and Investment Plan 2008-2010 with four goals: safe communities; access to justice; strengthening of the rule of law; and improving justice service delivery. That strategy had been costed, prioritized and well sequenced. The impressive developments that had ensued were very much in line with the commitments of the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework. However, additional efforts were needed to fully implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in support of the National Human Rights Commission and the constitutional review process. Hopefully, concrete ideas for partnerships would emerge from today’s discussions, which would better meet the commitments contained in the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework.
MARK WHITE, Security Reform Adviser in the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom, said that the security and justice sectors could take a significant amount of the credit for the relatively swift and smooth transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding. The police had been able to assume primacy for internal security within three years of the end of the conflict; the withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) had passed without incident; and the role of both sectors in facilitating last year’s free and fair elections had provided resounding endorsement that Sierra Leone’s security and justice architecture had come of age in the eyes of the population as truly providing security and justice for the people.
However, he added, the relative success of those sectors meant that both the Government and the international community supporting their efforts now faced the dilemmas that the Peacebuilding Commission was designed to address and were torn between consolidating progress and maintaining an enabling environment, or reducing support in order to implement policy objectives and deliver a peace dividend. That decision, however, did not need to be an “either/or” one; there was a third way. The next step was for the security sector to look at the allocation of funding, not simply as an insurance mechanism to maintain an enabling environment, but at ways in which it could deliver Government policy priorities. The security sector and the Office of National Security were the Sierra Leonean Government’s greatest assets, with the potential to be an extremely effective policy tool. Acting on that -– integrating security and development activity -- was a must if the country was to continue to move forward, given the current dire resource constraints.
KATHLEEN CRAVERO, Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery of UNDP, said that a general collapse of the rule of law had contributed to the outbreak of the crisis in Sierra Leone. Since the end of the country’s civil war, there had been many interventions in the sector. However, the judiciary sector had not received the attention it needed in the immediate post-war period. Instead, support by donors had been ad hoc. Effort was now being made to redress that situation. UNDP’s focus was on long-term improvement, and the new comprehensive plan for judicial reform reflected that approach. UNDP had also supported the recovery of the judiciary with catalytic funding from the Peacebuilding Fund. Along that line, recent achievements had included the establishment of 10 temporary courts, training and deployment of justices and magistrates, procurement of offices and equipment, and the introduction of typewritten judgements instead of handwritten ones.
She added that the remaining challenges included the persistent difficulty in attracting qualified personnel into the judicial system owing to low wages. At the same time, most of the prosecutors only had limited skills and experience in trying cases and widespread impunity remained the norm with regard to domestic, gender-based and sexual violence. For many citizens, access to justice was difficult because of the costs and the fact that only three of the country’s 200 lawyers practiced outside Freetown. There had also been persistent reports of executive interference in work of the judiciary.
Given those challenges, the United Nations was shifting its emphasis from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, she went on. In that regard, UNDP had a global programme on the rule of law, under which Sierra Leone had been identified among the priorities. UNDP was attempting to apply lessons learned from other countries in its work in Sierra Leone in seeking to ensure that justice was embedded in the greater rule of law. For that effort, UNDP realized that there was need for a much stronger United Nations.
ANITA PIPAN, of the European Union, said that improving security and justice should remain high on the priority list in Sierra Leone. The European Union welcomed the launch of the Justice Sector Reform Plan and hoped that it would improve access to justice and raise the confidence of the citizens in the judicial and security systems. The Union also believed that justice and national reconciliation were crucial for consolidating peace. She noted that a lot had been achieved in terms of security sector reform and welcomed the efforts of the Government to trim the armed forces. In that regard, the ongoing reform initiatives needed to be further consolidated.
In the ensuing discussion, participants sought to know the role that mediation and arbitration could play in justice sector reform, as well as how conditions of service of members of the judiciary could be improved in order to make those jobs more attractive. It was also noted that, in Sierra Leone, a traditional legal system was operating side by side with the modern democratic one. Seventy per cent of the people only used the traditional system because the modern system was very expensive and many of them could not access it. Thus, building up a new and modern system required bridging the huge gap between those two systems, which required a large amount of funding.
Mr. MAJOOR, Commission Chairman, said that quite a lot of work had already been done in terms of justice sector reform. For instance, the 2008-2009 Comprehensive Strategy was very realistic and set out clearly the country’s priorities both in the short and long terms.
Plenary on Energy Sector Development
Facilitator of the session LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said that he was deeply impressed with recent positive developments in Sierra Leone’s energy sector, which had come to the forefront of the Commission’s discussions last fall as the new Government’s top priority. The Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework noted Sierra Leone’s energy crisis as one of the main challenges to its economic growth and recovery. The shortcomings in the supply of electricity constituted a critical and overarching challenge affecting all peacebuilding priorities. The Framework also pointed out that addressing the energy crisis would have a significant positive impact on employment generation, public revenues, poverty reduction and overall recovery of the country, also delivering a critical and long-awaited peace dividend to the population.
He said that, as a result of the implementation of Sierra Leone’s energy sector emergency plan, which had been put in place since the adoption of the Framework, there had been a significant increase in the availability of electricity in Freetown. The Government had also secured funding for the completion of the Bambuna hydroelectric power station. However, additional resources were still needed, particularly to fully rehabilitate the transmission and distribution networks.
Opening the discussion, Minister CAREW updated the Commission on the situation with regard to the energy sector in Sierra Leone, thanking all the partners who had provided assistance. Provision of cheap power created favourable conditions, facilitated education and improved the delivery of services. The energy emergency plan had allowed the country to provide additional power to the capital. The construction of the power plant had been a positive step, but it was also important to update the power network, which had been designed to handle only 25 megawatts. The Government had also had to review some unfavourable terms of the contract with a supplier.
The Bambuna power plant would only be completed in 2009, and Sierra Leone still faced significant challenges, which included the need to review the country’s financial management capability, train the workforce and review the tariffs, he continued. In the provinces, the challenges included power generation, distribution and commercial aspects, including affordability of tariffs. The Government was focused on energy as an important part of its development agenda. The country was looking at harnessing all the hydro-potential it could utilize and was also planning to buy power from secondary producers. With investment, the country could harness significant amounts of power.
ENGILBERT GUDMUNDSSON, Country Representative for the World Bank in Sierra Leone, stressed the importance of the electricity issue for the overall peacebuilding efforts, saying that the country’s emergency plan had been a very significant step forward. The World Bank had moved quickly to support that endeavour, which could become a major confidence boost for the people. It was also important that the Bambuna project, which had been initiated before the outbreak of the conflict, had been revitalized. Among other endeavours was the rehabilitation of a small power station, with support from China, as well as projects by Italy and the United Kingdom.
He cited among other recent developments the convening last week by the Government of a group of power sector experts and development partners to discuss the energy plan and its implementation. A comprehensive strategy for the energy sector was needed. In developing the energy sector, it was also necessary to move beyond big cities to the rural communities. Regional cooperation was also important, and Sierra Leone should continue the dialogue with other countries of the region on the West African power pool and other opportunities. Big decisions remained, which related to, among other things, private sector involvement.
Mr. BLANCO of the European Commission said that energy provision was a priority for both the Government and the population at large. Short-term energy projects should be strengthened through medium- and long-term efforts. Donors’ assistance was essential in that regard, as well as good governance and credibility of public financial management structures, as well as final cost recovery, which would make the project affordable. The European Commission stood ready to provide some 16.7 million euros to help the country to provide affordable energy supply in Freetown and some provinces. It intended to help to build capacity, as well. The European Commission’s regional programmes supported West Africa’s power pool. The setting up of an energy providers forum in Freetown would be instrumental in improving coordination and coherence.
Several speakers in the debate agreed that electric power was one of the important and much needed peace dividends for the country’s population. A delegate suggested that, to facilitate the provision of technical assistance, the Government should prepare a list of its requirements, which would allow the donors to prioritize their aid accordingly. Another speaker said that the experience of Sierra Leone might prove useful for other countries.
The Chair said that, while the group working on the energy issue in Sierra Leone was still relatively small, that group had come together to realize the emergency plan and was now looking at longer-term issues. A number of countries were also engaged in the issue, including Egypt, China, Japan and Morocco. The involvement of financial institutions was of great importance.
Summarizing the discussion, the Facilitator said that interest in supporting further development of the country’s energy sector had been clearly articulated by the participants. Much progress had been made in the past few months, but the task ahead was demanding and required the continued support of international partners, particularly the World Bank and European Commission. Collectively, it was important to ensure that the completion of the Bambuna hydroelectric station was on track and that the distribution and transmission lines were restored. It was also necessary to ensure greater coordination of activities in the energy sector under the leadership of the Government.
CAROLYN MCASKIE, Assistant Secretary-General, Peacebuilding Support Office, said in a closing statement that today’s event, which had been useful and unprecedented, would soon show a dividend. Its organization represented a very interesting example of how the Peacebuilding Commission had given form and function to its mandate. The international community was now at a very critical juncture in enhancing the environment for peacebuilding and wealth creation in Sierra Leone, so as to bring the fruits of the developments to the population. The next stage was for the Commission to launch its first exercise of monitoring progress. Sierra Leone was doing its part and it was necessary to ensure that it did not become a case where support was lagging or absent.
Minister BANGURA thanked participants for their contributions and reiterated her appeal to the country’s partners to scale up their support. Noting that a great deal of ideas had emerged during today’s discussions, she said that Sierra Leone looked forward to the outcome leading to a widened donor base in support of its peacebuilding effort. The Government remained fully committed to implementing the compact, she said, calling for the Commission’s sustained engagement in her country.
Presenting the Chairman’s statement, which would be issued following the meeting, Mr. MAJOOR said that the consultations had been extremely rich and had raised a number of issues that needed to be built on as the international community moved forward in its partnership with the Government and people of Sierra Leone. He also highlighted the upcoming visit of the Commission’s delegation to Sierra Leone at the beginning of June, as well as the forthcoming semi-annual review, as foreseen in the Framework.
Summarizing the meeting’s key points, he said that the participants had focused on the fact that the Cooperation Framework was a critical tool for peacebuilding in Sierra Leone, which required full and timely implementation by all stakeholders. Its commitments were essential to ensuring lasting peace in the country. While committed to the implementation of the Framework, the Government would need the sustained support of diverse stakeholders. In that regard, the Commission had heard a number of encouraging promises of increased support and engagement today. To ensure success of peacebuilding and development processes, both direct support and multi-donor funding mechanisms must be strengthened and widely publicized to promote wider participation. An aid coordination policy should be developed as soon as possible. Also, in the context of the finalization of the next Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, all efforts should be made to strengthen the links between development and peacebuilding.
Among other issues, the Commission had addressed youth employment and empowerment today, with many speakers agreeing on the need to prioritize a youth employment strategy, which needed to be developed under the Government’s leadership, he said. Moreover, youth employment and empowerment must be considered in the context of the country’s overall development. The Commission welcomed the decision of the Manu River Union ministerial meeting to engage on issues of agriculture and food security. The international community must provide technical support and ensure timely implementation of the programmes financed by multi-donor funds. The Commission also welcomed the formation of the energy partners forum and reaffirmed the need to develop a medium-term and costed strategy for energy sector development. Also emphasized in the debate had been the need to create an enabling environment for business and private sector participation. In the lead-up to local elections, it was important to foster national reconciliation and ensure the participation of various parties.
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