With Liberia having turned a corner from its unprecedented Ebola health emergency, the people and Government now had the important work of continuing to build a unified and reconciled nation fully responsible for its own destiny, the top United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council today.
“The people of Liberia endured the trauma of Ebola with resilience, dignity and a profound determination to overcome,” said Hervé Ladsous, briefing the 15-member Council on the Secretary-General’s latest progress report on the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) (document S/2015/620).
Their efforts were rewarded on 3 September when the World Health Organization (WHO) again declared Liberia Ebola-free, he said at a meeting that was also addressed by Olof Skoog (Sweden), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and its country-specific configuration, and Benedict F. Sannoh, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia.
The decision taken by the Council to set 30 June 2016 as the date for the full assumption of security responsibilities by national authorities was a remarkable demonstration of confidence that the country had overcome the instability and dependency of the past, Mr. Ladsous said. The country was making progress on a number of fronts, including important momentum on essential political reforms.
The Government had launched a deconcentration programme empowering local officials and citizens and the constitutional review process had also progressed. The 2014 electoral process demonstrated many encouraging elements about the independence and maturity of Liberia’s democracy, he said, adding that the security situation remained generally stable. Although public order was still a source of concern, there had been no major security incidents since the Secretary-General’s report was issued on 13 August.
Liberia was working hard to build institutions, pass legislation and put in place mechanism that would enable it to maintain stability without the presence of peacekeeping force. The Government remained committed to making every effort to mobilize the resources needed to develop, independent of UNMIL, its capacity to maintain stability and protect its population. The joint implementation had brought together the Government and its key partners, including UNMIL, and was overseeing the security transition, agreeing to reprioritize tasks and associated costs to ensure the effective achievement of key milestones in the process.
The legislature had postponed its recess in order to review essential texts, but important legislation remained pending, including a firearms control bill, which the Secretary-General recently flagged as critical in the context of the current sanctions regime.
Since the adoption of resolution 2215 (2015), resuming the progressive drawdown of UNMIL, the Mission had been reduced by 1,221 troops, reaching this month its new military strength of 3,590 personnel. The authorized strength of UNMIL’s police component now reflected its actual deployment of 1,515 personnel, including eight formed police units and individual police and immigration advisers.
The Secretary-General had recommended further reductions to the Mission’s military police and civilian components. By the conclusion of the security transition, UNMIL force would be reduced to 1,240 personnel, including one battalion with support and enabling units, primarily aviation. The political component would be reduced to 606 personnel, including three formed police units, in addition to police, immigration and corrections advisers. It would be important for UNMIL to retain the capacity to provide such support for some months after the conclusion of the security transition to test the capability of Liberian security personnel to protect civilians and respond to security incidents in order to mitigate any risk of reversal.
In his briefing, Mr. Skoog said that, while the drawdown of the Mission would be an important milestone, it was important to focus beyond June 2016 and concentrate on what needed to follow. Early and proper planning was needed and the Peacebuilding Commission would continue to stress the imperative for greater focus on institutional reforms and capacity-building, socio-economic development, and strengthening the justice sector in the context of consolidating Liberia’s peace efforts.
“There are no excuses for not learning from past successes, as well as failures,” he said. The Commission would continue to act as a convener and to advise and help mobilize resources for Liberia’s longer-term peacebuilding priorities. The Liberia configuration would soon host a meeting with all relevant stakeholders involved in peacebuilding efforts, with the aim of identifying those peacebuilding needs, identify capacity and potential gaps, and look at where funding was falling short and where donors could do more.
Liberia was also grappling with a number of other reforms that had a bearing on peace consolidation, he added. The preparations for the 2017 elections and the current constitutional review, as well as the process of decentralization, would remain on the Commission’s agenda as those processes would affect fundamental aspects of State- and nation-building. Further, land issues and natural resource management would also be highlighted by the Commission, not only to ensure reduced tensions between affected communities and concessionaires, but also to help Liberia develop a sustainable source of domestic revenue. Finally, tackling corruption was key to increasing public trust.
Addressing the Council, Mr. Sannoh said the steep decline in the Liberian economy due to the Ebola crisis remained the greatest challenge, with reverberations continuing to affect all sectors of the Government. Agreeing with the Secretary-General that the assumption of security responsibility from UNMIL would mark a historic moment for post-conflict Liberia, he said the Government was doing everything possible to make this a reality through a clear road map.
Against the total budget of $38.8 million for the transition plan, the Government had apportioned $20 million in its 2015-2016 budget. Half of that amount would be deposited in a dedicated trust account to enhance timely disbursement and rapid implementation. The legislature had been moving forward on devising the legal framework and the Government had made progress in the area of training.
Turning to the concern expressed by the Secretary-General over the surge in public violence, he said those incidents had been isolated and needed to be taken in context. No Government could tolerate lawlessness and criminality, he continued, adding that the Government was addressing public discontent and alienation through appropriate policies and programmes.
Thanking Mr. Ladsous and Mr. Skoog for sharing their perspectives, he said significant developments had not been fully covered. The reaction to the proposal to declare Liberia a Christian nation had calmed once it had been recognized that it was only a proposal. The Constitution review commission had made key recommendations which, if approved by the legislature, would be put to a referendum concurrently with elections in 2017.
While corruption posed a challenge, the Government was working to address it through legal, institutional and policy measures. On human rights, the country had intensified efforts to address sexual and gender-based violence, rape and pre-trial detentions and had complied with its reporting obligations under several human rights conventions.
The Government and people of Liberia called upon the Council to leverage its position to mobilize international support for the implementation of the transition plan and to facilitate the country’s emergence from conflict to a future of sustained peace, he said.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m.
* The 7518th Meeting was closed.