In Security Council, Head of UN Sierra Leone Office Calls for Full Support for Unified Strategy, Praises Political Leadership for Communiqué Signed in Wake of March Violence

8 June 2009
SC/9673

In Security Council, Head of UN Sierra Leone Office Calls for Full Support for Unified Strategy, Praises Political Leadership for Communiqué Signed in Wake of March Violence

8 June 2009
Security Council
SC/9673
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6137th Meeting* (AM)

IN SECURITY COUNCIL, HEAD OF UN SIERRA LEONE OFFICE CALLS FOR FULL SUPPORT FOR UNIFIED

STRATEGY, PRAISES POLITICAL LEADERSHIP FOR COMMUNIQUÉ SIGNED IN WAKE OF MARCH VIOLENCE

Executive Representative of Integrated Office Briefs; Foreign Minister,

Chair of Peacebuilding Commission’s Sierra Leone Configuration Also Speak

In the Security Council this morning, the head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) called for international support for the United Nations unified post-conflict strategy in the country, while he praised its political leadership for an agreement that he said kept recent political violence from spiralling out of control.

Michael von der Schulenburg, Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, alerting Council members to a high-level meeting of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Sierra Leone country-specific configuration this coming Wednesday, asked for full support for the Joint Vision of the United Nations system, which covered the next four years of stabilization and development and required a total of $350 million.

Praising the Joint Communiqué signed between the governing and opposition parties after the March outbreak of violence, he said the agreement committed all parties to taking up their joint responsibility in building a democratic country, particularly in the need for consensus on key national policies such as those on youth employment, on the mitigation of regional rivalries, on the development of an independent media and on fighting the growing threat of illicit drug trafficking.

In briefing the Council this morning, Mr. von der Schulenburg was joined by John McNee of Canada, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s country-specific configuration on Sierra Leone, who said that the 10 June meeting would mark a new phase in the engagement of the Commission with the country and would align its work with the peacebuilding elements of the Government’s Agenda for Change.

He said that, as shown by the March violence, the country’s impressive democratic gains remained fragile and could still be easily reversed.  More work was needed to consolidate reforms in the justice and security sectors, especially with respect to strengthening the capacity and performance of the police.  Continued international support for building the capacity of State institutions was also critical.

Zainab Hawa Bangura, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, thanked the international community for its continued support and said that her Government realized that “To whom much was given much was expected.”  To harness the countries resources meaningfully, President Ernest Bai Koroma had established new structures, such as the Attitudinal and Behavioural Change Secretariat and Open Government Initiative.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), she said, had recently lauded the Government’s economic and structural reforms, but it had lamented that it lacked sufficient “fiscal space” for development and poverty reduction programmes.  She was gratified by the collective decision of both the Government and the country-specific configuration to host the forthcoming high-level session on 10 June to mobilize support and resources for implementation of the Agenda.

Following those presentations, all 15 Council members took the floor, with most seconding praise for the Joint Communiqué signed by the parties after the recent disturbances.  They stressed, however, that it was crucial for all provisions of that agenda to be carried out, with some underlining the importance of media reforms to prevent further violence since, they said, party-aligned media seemed to have help spark the disturbances.

Many speakers also expressed concern over allegations of sexually motivated violence during the crisis, as well as continuing female genital mutilation and other violence against women in the country.

The representative of the United Kingdom, followed by other speakers, asked why UNIPSIL had only reached some 70 per cent of its authorized staffing levels, after nine months of operations.  At the end of the discussion, Mr. von der Schulenburg responded that, because of the approach UNIPSIL was using, it could not fill the positions with general development professionals, but required experts in a variety of fields, many of whom were hard to come by.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Burkina Faso, United States, France, Mexico, Japan, Austria, Russian Federation, Costa Rica, China, Libya, Viet Nam, Uganda, Croatia and Turkey.

The meeting, which opened at 10:10 a.m. closed at 12:15 p.m.

Background

When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the second report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) (document S/2009/267), which covers the activities of the Office from 1 February to 31 May.

In the report, the Secretary-General says that the recent outbreak of political violence in March served as a wake-up call for the Government and people of Sierra Leone on the critical challenges that require urgent and continued attention.  The violence was also a stark reminder for the international community of the importance of its continued support for Sierra Leone’s peace consolidation process.

Indeed, he states, the recent disturbances had the potential to evolve into a full-blown conflict.  A number of factors are creating a climate in which political violence could easily thrive, including:  increasing regional divisions in the country; increasing identification of political parties with ethnic loyalties; a relentless migration of young people into the main urban centres; the huge numbers of unemployed and underemployed youth with limited or no hope for a better future; spiralling food prices; and the reductions in remittances and other effects of the global financial downturn.

Against this backdrop, the determined manner with which Sierra Leone overcame its recent political crisis was all the more laudable, the report goes on to say.  In displaying a determination to resolve suddenly emerging differences, instead of giving in to a vicious cycle of attacks and counter-attacks, the leaders and ordinary citizens of Sierra Leone have not only offered hope for their own future, but have set an example for other countries in the subregion experiencing similar political disturbances.

The Secretary-General commends the President of Sierra Leone, the political leaders of the governing and opposition parties and, indeed, all Sierra Leoneans, for their determination to rise above their differences and overcome the recent political disturbances, thereby consolidating the peace in their country.  The Joint Communiqué of 2 April constitutes a document of great national significance and he is encouraged that all major parties have now declared their adherence to it.  The United Nations stands ready to support national efforts for the implementation of the agreements contained in the Joint Communiqué.

Also according to the report, over the recent months the country has also made progress in dealing with three immediate threats to peace and security.  The Anti-Corruption Commission, motivated by the President, has become much more assertive in pursuing corruption cases brought against Government officials.  The President has taken the final steps to nominate a Youth Commissioner to help to kick-start programmes in support of youth employment and empowerment.  Furthermore, the recent sentencing and expulsion of the three main drug traffickers and the public destruction of the confiscated cocaine has sent a clear message to international crime syndicates that Sierra Leone is ready to fight any attempt to use its territory as a transit country.

While the Secretary-General says in his report that he is “generally encouraged” by developments in Sierra Leone, he remains concerned that the global financial crisis could decrease the international resources that will be available to Sierra Leone over the coming years.  He, therefore, calls on all Member States to continue to provide financial and other support to Sierra Leone’s peacebuilding efforts.

While the international community continues to play its part in support of the Sierra Leone peacebuilding process, he urges the Government and people of the country to remain committed to building a stronger economy anchored on meaningful utilization of its natural resources, which should be used to promote lasting peace and sustainable development.  This is the time for Sierra Leoneans to harness their rich natural resource endowment, reinforced by the support of the international community, to rebuild their country’s economy on a strong foundation, and to bequeath to future generations a nation that is strong, peaceful and stable.

The Secretary-General thanks the Government of Sierra Leone, especially President Koroma, and the people of the country for their continued collaboration with the United Nations.  He also thanks Executive Representative Michael von der Schulenburg and his UNIPSIL colleagues, as well as the United Nations country team, for their relentless efforts to realize the mandate of the peacebuilding mission.

Briefings

MICHAEL VON DER SCHULENBURG, Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, said that the sudden eruption of political violence that occurred this past March in Sierra Leone was the most serious outbreak since the end of the civil war in 2002, but the country’s politicians deserve the highest praise for how they had handled the situation when they signed a Joint Communiqué on 2 April of this year, which could serve as a model post-conflict agreement and should be fully supported.

The violence, he said, brought to the surface deeply rooted historical differences, between generations, northerners and southerners and ethnic groups, fuelled by a general dissatisfaction among many young people in Sierra Leone that peace and democracy had not yet brought them significant improvements in their daily lives.

He said that the Joint Communiqué stopped that spiral and also recognized the joint responsibility that both the governing and opposition parties had in building a democratic country, as well as re-emphasizing the importance of dialogue.  It also recognized the need for developing multi-party consensus on key national policies, such as those for youth integration and employment, on the mitigation of regional rivalries, on the development of an independent media and on fighting illicit drug trafficking and international crime.

Since the signing of the communiqué, President Ernest Bai Koroma had visited the destroyed party headquarters of the opposition and in return, John Benjamin, the Chairman of the opposition party visited the President’s party headquarters.  Regular multi-party talks had started in Freetown, others were planned, and the President had set up inquiries on allegations of politically motivated sexual violence.  Inquiries on the causes of the violence were expected soon.  Civil society organizations, religious communities and groups of artists had also supported the communiqué.

Turning to the forthcoming special session of the Peacebuilding Commission for Sierra Leone, he praised the new approach that seemed to be taking shape.  At the Wednesday session, he expected support for an integrated package of all peacebuilding initiatives, which would be a confirmation of how the Commission and UNIPSIL could mutually support each other.  UNIPSIL had developed a joint strategy, the Joint Vision, which brought together the Office and 17 United Nations development and humanitarian agencies, programmes and funds.  It covered a period of four years from 2009 to 2012 and envisaged a total financial envelope of $350 million.  That vision was meant to fulfil the mandate given to UNIPSIL by the Council and he asked for its full support.

Noting that, in September, the possible extension of UNIPSIL would be considered, he said that, in its ninth month of operations, the build-up phase had largely been completed and the emphasis had shifted to implementation through a service and support-oriented approach.  During the build-up, great care was taken to maintain the temporary nature of the Office.  The Office had tried to resist the temptation of creating permanent structures that could inhibit a possible exit strategy, if and when that was decided by the Council.  UNIPSIL had been developed in a way to facilitate a transition towards a more regular development set-up under a United Nations resident coordinator.

JOHN MCNEE (Canada), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission country-specific configuration on Sierra Leone, said the Commission’s engagement with the country had centred on three primary objectives:  focusing attention on political and security development; broadening the donor base and enhancing the coherence of international support; and supporting new or improving existing activities in peacebuilding priority areas.  The Commission had received steadfast support for those efforts from the UNIPSIL.  The Commission’s many advocacy and resource mobilization efforts would culminate in a high-level special session to take place in New York on 10 June.  That event would also mark a new phase in the engagement of the Commission with the country and would align its work with the peacebuilding elements of the Government’s “Agenda for Change”.

During a visit to the country on 20 April, he had held meetings with top officials, members of the opposition parties, the diplomatic community, civil society and the United Nations.  The visit confirmed that the Sierra Leonean Government had made commendable progress towards consolidating peace and democratic governance.  However, as demonstrated by the events in March, the country’s impressive democratic gains remained fragile and could still be easily reversed.  High levels of youth unemployment, widespread corruption, and the growing threat of illicit drug trafficking all raised the risk of relapse into conflict.  More work was needed to consolidate reforms in the justice and security sectors, especially with respect to strengthening the capacity and performance of the police.  Continued international support for building the capacity of State institutions was also critical.

He said that the Government was well aware of those challenges and of its own primary responsibility in addressing them.  The events of March ‑‑ which represented the worse cases of politically motivated violence since the end of the civil war ‑‑ had been followed by commendable and timely actions on the part of the President and senior leaders of both main political parties.  International partners, particularly UNIPSIL, also played a key role by supporting the Government’s efforts to restore law and order and facilitate a successful outcome to the bi-party dialogue.  The Joint Communiqué signed by the two leading political parties on 2 April provided a comprehensive basis for improving inter-party dialogue, strengthening democratic governance, and reforming key national institutions.  It was not only a significant achievement for Sierra Leone, but a helpful blueprint for countries in similar circumstances.

Adherence to it would require not only the political will of both parties, but also the international community’s sustained support, he said, adding that the United Nations and other actors must continue to provide resources for the Communiqué’s implementations.  In that context, he highlighted the catalytic role of the Peacebuilding Fund, which had provided timely financial support following the March events.  The Commission’s upcoming special session would garner support for the Government’s “Agenda for Change”, which was a robust national framework for growth, economic development and peaceful consolidation.  It outlined a clear strategy for national action and international support.  As such, the Commission’s future engagement would be aligned with the Agenda.  The Commission would also continue to advocate for greater subregional cooperation.  At the special session, it would call on all Member States and international partners to recognize the Agenda as Sierra Leone’s core national strategy.

In closing, he stressed that peace consolidation in Sierra Leone required collective and timely action.  Both the high-level special session and the Consultative Group meeting, to be held in November, offered important opportunities for international partners to redouble their commitment.  He was confident that, given the Government’s leadership and sustained international support, it would be possible to address the remaining challenges to peace and ensure realization of the “Agenda for Change”.

ZAINAB HAWA BANGURA, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, said “we have come a long way”, but clearly the recent “globally acclaimed” electoral processes undertaken in the seven years since the attainment of peace were not an end in itself.  With the support of the United Nations family, as well as the country’s bilateral and multilateral partners, the Government had accomplished significant milestones in consolidating peace.  Security had been greatly enhanced across the country, thus providing an enabling environment for the population to engage in its day-to-day activities without fear or hindrance, to improve their quality of life.  Many recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were being implemented, as a way of addressing the root causes of the decade-long conflict, which had deeply scarred the nation.  The constitutional review had been referred to the relevant Cabinet subcommittee, chaired by the Attorney General.

She said significant progress had also been made in promoting the fundamental principles of human rights and restoring the supremacy of the rule of law as prerequisites for political stability, economic prosperity and the attainment of social justice.  Robust legislation had been enacted to address human trafficking, all laws related to children and gender, anti-corruption and anti-narcotic drug trafficking.  The recently concluded trial of the case involving transnational organized narcotic drug trafficking cartels, as well as the ongoing trials of public officials charged with corrupt practices, demonstrated the Government’s commitment to combat that scourge.  The Government appreciated the assistance of the United Nations Office for Drug Control in establishing a Joint Drug Interdiction Task Force.

Despite such efforts, challenges remained, she said.  However, she reassured Sierra Leone’s partners of the Government’s commitment and cooperation.  In an effort to “re-brand” the country and to harness its resources and energies meaningfully, President Ernest Bai Koroma had established structures, such as the Attitudinal and Behavioural Change Secretariat and Open Government Initiative.  Those institutions, which were now fully operational, were designed to infuse strong moral and social values in society and to promote positive attitudinal change as the underpinning theme of the “Agenda for Change”, in which key priority areas for intervention were highlighted.  Those included, among others, investment in the energy sector, agriculture, transport and communications and social policy aspects such as health and education, as well as infrastructure.  The policy framework focused on private sector development and macroeconomic stability.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had recently lauded the Government’s economic and structural reforms, but had lamented that it lacked sufficient “fiscal space” for its development and poverty reduction programmes, she noted.  She was gratified by the collective decision of both the Government and the country-specific configuration to host the forthcoming high-level session on 10 June to mobilize support and resources for implementation of the Agenda.

In conclusion, she said that the politically charged atmosphere that had translated into bitterness and violence between supporters of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the main opposition, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in March, had certainly tested the endurance of the country’s “young and fragile” democracy.  The Joint Communiqué of 2 April was an exemplary innovative approach to conflict resolution, which would greatly help to invigorate democracy, as well as national reconciliation.  As an immediate step, the Government had banned radio stations that had instigated the skirmishes leading to the deteriorating security situation.  Sierra Leone deeply appreciated the Council’s continued engagement with the subregion, particularly the Mano River Basin.  However, there was a need to strengthen the revitalized Mano River Union, firstly in its effort to consolidate peacebuilding in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, and secondly to support the democratic transition process in the sister Republic of Guinea.  She reiterated her country’s call for the Security Council’s continued support, understanding and patience.  She also reassured members of the Government’s determination to keep up the momentum towards national recovery and peace consolidation by striving to overcome the country’s lingering socio-economic problems and to secure its future development.

Statements

PHILIP JOHN PARHAM (United Kingdom) said Sierra Leone was making progress in dealing with the immediate threat.  The Agenda for Change recognized that development required a stable, secure and peaceful society.  A combination of national leadership and international support was crucial to consolidate the gains.  Particularly crucial was an independent security sector.  Security, good governance and the rule of law were the bedrock upon which everything stood or fell.  The March outbreak of violence had been a cruel reminder of Sierra Leone’s past.  He commended Mr. von der Schulenburg for his leading role in marshalling the international community’s response to those events.  The Joint Communiqué set out clearly UNIPSIL’s role and profile.  The task now was to ensure that the country’s political institutions gained the necessary maturity.  It was perhaps too early to say whether a return to conflict had been averted and a lasting solution to the tensions that had given rise to the violence had been eliminated.  Sustained pressure was needed to implement the Joint Communiqué.

Noting that, as at the end of June, UNIPSIL would have only reached perhaps 70 per cent of authorized staffing levels, he asked why that was, stressing the need to ensure that the relevant experts were in place in all key areas.  Benchmarks, he added, were important, and the substantive units responsible for each area should get down to work.  At the same time, the kind of Mission needed for the longer-term should be kept in mind.  Intermediate outcomes would tell whether the Mission was on, or off track.  He cautioned, however, against unfocused projects and, at the same time, wanted to know what more could be done to “lock” United Nations partners into the Joint Vision.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said he was overjoyed at the improvement of the overall situation, despite the waves of violence and political intolerance in 2009.  He called on the “whole political class” to be more vigilant.  At the same time, he welcomed the spirit of responsibility shown by the leaders of the party in power and the main opposition party in signing the Joint Communiqué, and called on them to respect their commitments and to set up a monitoring mechanism to prevent future violent incidents.  He also recommended further steps towards reconciliation and building trust.  He thanked UNIPSIL and other countries in helping to prepare the Joint Communiqué, adding that the international community should support the parties in its implementation, particularly by strengthening the security and judicial institutions and reintegrating former combatants.  He was encouraged at the Government’s willingness to promote the social and economic well-being of the people, and had been reassured by the Foreign Affairs Minister’s statement, today.

Unfortunately, he said, despite the Government’s efforts, the country still faced challenges, which could call into question the important gains.  As recognized by the authorities in the Agenda for Change, society’s socio-economic fabric was vulnerable, accentuated by the world financial crisis, the high cost of goods, youth unemployment, drug trafficking, and cross-border organized crime.  He encouraged UNIPSIL and the country’s international partners to support the empowerment and employment programme for young people.  Policies of good governance would enable the mobilization of natural resources, leading to development.  The international community should support the Government in implementing its programme of peacebuilding, reconstruction and economic recovery.  Sierra Leone was seeing a post-conflict upturn, and significant progress was seen on the ground, owing in part to the contribution of UNIPSIL, the Peacebuilding Commission and the country’s bilateral and multilateral partners.  He encouraged UNIPSIL to continue to work in close cooperation with the Peacebuilding Commission to implement the Agenda.  Hopefully, the high-level session would culminate in adoption of a joint strategy.

ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States), recounting the genesis of UNIPSIL, said that the country was weathering serious challenges and the Office was an important factor in that effort, particularly in dealing with the recent crisis and in integrating the United Nations system’s work.  She reminded the two major political parties, however, that the international community looked to them to implement the Joint Communiqué.  She praised the objectives of the Agenda for Change, and welcomed efforts to transfer knowledge from the Special Court to the institutions of Sierra Leone.

She welcomed the Joint Vision strategy and looked forward to its consideration by the Peacebuilding Commission.  She noted with concern, however, the increase in drug trafficking through the country and welcomed efforts to fight it, including the recent arrest of 18 people for smuggling cocaine, which sent a strong message to traffickers that Sierra Leoneans would not allow their territory to be used for such purposes.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) welcomed the efforts undertaken by President Koroma and the parties in Sierra Leone to overcome the recent violence, particularly the Joint Communiqué.  He expressed deep concern over drug trafficking and welcomed efforts to fight it, saying France would support strengthening programmes to do so.  He also expressed concern over continuing sexual violence.  He called upon the parties in Sierra Leone to maintain their commitments to the Joint Communiqué, the Agenda for Change and cooperation with the integrated vision of the United Nations system.

CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico) expressed gratitude for Mr. von der Schulenberg’s work in such a complex situation.  He highlighted the need to combat the economic problems through implementation of concrete steps in the country’s economic and social sectors, especially by setting in train development strategies for agricultural production.  The youth employment plan and programmes for police training should aid in the establishment of the rule of law.  Also important were entrenching development strategies that would foster commercial activities conducive to socio-economic development and job creation.  That would lay the groundwork for preventing and resolving conflicts and boosting the quality of life for Sierra Leoneans.  He was concerned at the various outbreaks of political violence and intolerance, which had impacted on the nascent progress, and the role played by the media in that regard.  That was a clear sign of the prevailing attitudes among the main political forces.  The media should be monitored, since it was an essential ingredient in the peacebuilding process.

With that in mind, he stressed the need to also implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Those were of crucial significance to ensure that past mistakes were not repeated.  The Special Court had made major contributions to transitional justice, he noted, stressing the need to resume the unfinished process of revising the Constitution through transparent and inclusive dialogue.  He was concerned about organized crime and, in that context, was pleased that Sierra Leone was building institutions to combat drugs and weapons flows, for which UNIPSIL should bolster assistance to the Government.  He attached particular importance to the upcoming special session and to supporting the initiative to fight poverty and bring about socio-economic development through the Agenda for Change.

YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) said that the recent outbreak of violence showed that the situation in Sierra Leone was still fragile.  He expressed optimism, however, over the growing confidence that the culture of conflict prevention was taking root in the country.  Mr. von der Schulenberg’s role as mediator in the course of the outbreak demonstrated that an appropriate United Nations presence on the ground with strong leadership made a strong difference in post-conflict peacebuilding situations.

A peacebuilding perspective in pursuing the country’s development was of the utmost importance for political stability, he said.  He commended President Koroma for formulating the Agenda for Change in that spirit and he expressed hope that the priority objectives would be effectively met, in particular in the area of youth employment, so that the younger generations would have hope for the future.  Japan had focused its assistance in agricultural development and infrastructure, in line with the President’s initiative.

Strongly supporting the role of the Peacebuilding Commission in Sierra Leone, he said that he was pleased that the integrated strategy included energy as one of its five priorities.  He also strongly supported cooperation with regional organizations, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and pledged Japan’s commitment to playing a constructive role for the stability and prosperity of the region.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria) said that the “One UN” approach positively contributed to the determined manner with which Sierra Leone was attempting to overcome the recent crisis.  Sharing the positive assessment of the responses by political leaders, he expressed hope that dialogue between the parties would continue and that the recent Government reshuffle would enhance credibility and the quality of governance.  Closer cooperation between the Peacebuilding Commission and UNIPSIL could help restore stability, but local authorities must make the ultimate difference.

In that context, he welcomed the implementation of the reparations programme as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  The completion of the Special Court’s prosecution of individuals would also be a milestone in that regard, and the preservation of the Court’s legacy, domestically and through the Human Rights Commission, would be of the utmost importance.  In the area of human rights, he said that many challenges remain, including widespread female genital mutilation and other forms of violence against women.  The justice system needed to be strengthened and made accessible to reduce that scourge.

In addition, he said, continued efforts to integrate young people in the workforce should be strengthened and cross-border organized crime should be fought through regional approaches, within a framework provided by ECOWAS and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

KONSTANTIN DOLGOV (Russian Federation) said Sierra Leone was making steady progress and, notwithstanding the political crisis in March, the country’s leadership had managed to move the country in the direction of political stability.  He also noted the constructive approach of the opposition leaders and the mediating role played by UNIPSIL.  He called on all political forces in Sierra Leone to maintain a spirit of dialogue and consensus in the interest of resolving the complex present tasks.  The parties should implement the Joint Communiqué.  Among the most important tasks in that regard was strengthening State institutions.  First and foremost was strengthening the security sector and integrating former combatants.  The main responsibility for Sierra Leone’s fate rested, above all, with the leaders themselves.  The priorities contained in the Joint Vision were tried and tested, and outlined clear-cut goals, the achievement of which must be UNIPSIL’s focus.

He highly commended the activities of the Peacebuilding Commission and hoped the forthcoming session would be productive.  He discussed implementation of the Peacebuilding Fund’s allocation of monies for 14 projects, stressing the importance of those dealing with corruption, illicit drug trafficking and youth unemployment, among others.  He expected those endeavours to continue, with an emphasis on tackling transborder security threats.  He also urged that close coordination be maintained between UNIPSIL and neighbouring countries.  He was ready to take a most active part in the peacebuilding process in Sierra Leone and would continue to support all necessary efforts to consolidate peace there.

JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) recognized the strides made towards reconciliation and national unity, as well as the “very unfortunate” incidents in March.  But, he admired the mature attitude of the leaders of the two majority parties to contain the violence and bring about national unity.  A constructive dialogue had begun to make further progress towards democratization, which he hoped would be accompanied by independent measures to investigate the political, as well as sexual violence, which might have occurred during those events.  He recognized the Government’s initiatives to fight corruption, as well as those adopted against members of the international drug trafficking network, and called on the Government to continue working on those and other cross-border problems by following an integrated approach with regional bodies and the United Nations system.

He welcomed progress made in the realm of human rights and called on the Government to strengthen and protect human rights, especially for women and girls.  He recognized the brave efforts of UNIPSIL to complete the United Nations Joint Vision and hoped the reference criteria for policy and development would underpin the country’s peacebuilding process, particularly with respect to implementing the Agenda for Change.  He agreed with the need to support the Government and the people to use their natural resources leading to a sustainable economy.  The constitutional revision process remained an important aspect, and he was grateful for the information provided in that regard by the Foreign Affairs Minister.

DU XIAOCONG (China) said he appreciated the actions taken by the parties in Sierra Leone to stem the recent violence, and expressed hope that the commitments made in the Joint Communiqué would be implemented.  He expected consensus would continue to support the priorities outlined by the Government for the development of Sierra Leone.  He called on all stakeholders to continue to support those efforts and the integrated approaches outlined by UNIPSIL and the Peacebuilding Commission.

IBRAHIM DABBASHI (Libya) expressed hope that Sierra Leone would never be involved in conflict again.  For that reason, it was important that past achievements be built upon.  Noting that party-controlled media, unfortunately, played a role in fanning the flames of the recent crisis, he hoped that the parties would abide by the recent Joint Communiqué.

Living conditions in Sierra Leone were another great concern, he said.  Prices and unemployment were high.  For those reasons, support for local food production by the African Development Bank and donors were welcomed, as was further support for the agenda of President Koroma.  He stressed that the effective implementation of the joint vision of the United Nations family should also help to mitigate some of the factors that led to the recent violence.  He called on all States to support the upcoming session of the Peacebuilding Commission on Sierra Leone.

LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam) expressed concern about the recent outbreak of political tensions, which underscored the still-fragile security situation.  That required continued and urgent attention.   Apart from divisions along regional lines, Sierra Leone was still dealing with an emerging piracy threat, illicit drug trafficking, uncontrolled migration to urban centres, reduction in remittances, and high youth unemployment, among other challenges.  All of that had the potential to upset the current relative calm.  In that context, he welcomed the signing of the Joint Communiqué.  He also noted the strong cooperation between Sierra Leone and the United Nations strategic actors, which joined in sustained engagement in the peacebuilding strategy designed for the country.

He said he was further encouraged by the Government’s efforts to translate its Agenda for Change into further concrete results in such areas as jobs, drug trafficking and organized crime, and the security sector.  He commended UNIPSIL’s efforts and insisted that integrated cooperation among United Nations agencies, regional organizations and international donors remained essential.  He reaffirmed Viet Nam’s continued support to sustain peace and stability, address the root causes of conflict, promote reconciliation and unity and strengthen the democratic process in Sierra Leone.  He called on the United Nations and regional actors to assist the Government in that effort.

PATRICK MUGOYA (Uganda) commended UNIPSIL, the United Nations country team and the Peacebuilding Commission for supporting implementation of the peacebuilding strategy.  He was particularly pleased at its finalization and the full financing of all projects by the Peacebuilding Fund, amounting to $35 million by the end of this year.  He commended the establishment of two regional offices and the planned creation of six additional field offices, as an integral part of the Joint Vision strategy.  Also welcome had been the tremendous progress made by the Government in the political, economic and social spheres during the period under review.  Of particular note was the relative calm of the overall security situation.  Following the signing of the Joint Communiqué in April, he called on all political leaders to resolve any misunderstanding through dialogue and to desist from all acts of violence or incitement to violence.  The Communiqué should be expeditiously implemented, as it laid the foundation for reconciliation and the entrenchment of important national policies and institutions.

He commended the Government for making agriculture and national food production a national priority, particularly its programme of food and cash for work.  That focus was good for the country’s economic growth, security, and employment for the growing number of unemployed youth.  The country’s partners should support those great initiatives, and he urged support for the relevant non-governmental organizations.  He called on the Government, UNIPSIL and the Peacebuilding Commission and all other partners to intensify efforts to mobilize additional funding for development.  He welcomed ongoing plans to harness the country’s natural resources, and he supported the proposed launch of a United Nations trust fund, at the forthcoming special session of the Commission.  The Government still faced several challenges to peace and development.  He commended it for the steps it had taken to combat drug trafficking.

VICE SKRAČIĆ (Croatia) strongly condemned any attempt to resolve political “divergencies” by resorting to violence.  At the same time, he noted that the recent disturbances had been swiftly and determinedly terminated.  That had testified to the political wisdom and courage of both the leadership and opposition of Sierra Leone.  He welcomed the signing of the Joint Communiqué in the presence of all political stakeholders, which had cemented the nation’s return to democracy and peace.  He also welcomed the “anticipated intention” of the third largest political party to adhere to the Communiqué and of youth groups to work towards political stability and lasting peace.  Particularly important had been the agreements reached by the major political parties on bipartisan consensus on issues concerning the police and judiciary, the electoral commission, and former combatants, among others.  He commended the concrete steps by the Government to combat illicit drug trafficking, and he encouraged it to fight corruption.  Hailing the economic and structural reforms, he urged the Government to continue to seriously tackle the many “burning” economic and social issues before it.

He condemned the practice of female genital mutilation and expressed concern about ongoing sexual violence in the country.  The Government had finally put in place the machinery needed to implement the reparations programme recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Benchmarks to further implement the United Nations Joint Vision strategy and the creation of another six field offices had also been welcome developments.

BAKI İLKIN (Turkey) applauded both the Government and the opposition in Sierra Leone for their actions in the face of the recent crisis and in formulating a coherent strategy for the way ahead.  He also welcomed the unified strategy of the United Nations in the country.  At the upcoming session of the Peacebuilding Commission, he called on the international community to keep supporting Sierra Leone as it met the many challenges ahead, including fighting corruption, crime and unemployment.

Mr. VON DER SCHULENBURG said that the reasons for the delays in recruitment included the fact that the budget had been approved only in December and the Office was looking for experts in the particular areas in which Sierra Leone faced challenges.  He commented that the cooperative spirit in Sierra Leone was among the best he’d ever seen.  Of course, he said, donors could promote other priorities outside of the Joint Vision, so he appealed to the international community to work within the strategy.  He said that clarity concerning the time span of efforts in Sierra Leone would be helpful, in order to further improve coordination.

Ms. BANGURA said her Government had taken full note of the comments made regarding the constitutional review and sexual violence, and it was committed to implementing the Joint Communiqué.  On behalf of Sierra Leone’s President, she thanked Security Council members, bilateral and multilateral donors and the broader international community for their continuous engagement and support.  She reassured all of the commitment and cooperation of the Government and of all Sierra Leoneans in ensuring against a relapse into conflict.

She said her Government was determined to keep up the momentum towards a free, prosperous and peaceful Sierra Leone.  The President believed that failure was not an option and he understood that, to whom much was given much was expected.  Sierra Leone was well aware of how much the international community had ‑‑ and continued ‑‑ to invest in it, and realized that the best form of gratitude was to succeed.  With the international community’s continued support and engagement, Sierra Leone would arrive at its final destination.  She supported the upcoming high-level session and its support of the trust fund.

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*     The 6136th Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.