Liberia’s Future as Stable Democracy Hinges upon Successful Elections, Smooth Transfer of Power, Special Representative Tells Security Council

SC/12887
27 June 2017
7984th Meeting (PM)

Liberia’s Future as Stable Democracy Hinges upon Successful Elections, Smooth Transfer of Power, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Permanent Representative Vows to Deepen Public Trust Ahead of 2018 Drawdown, Voices Concern over Funding Gap for Elections Commission

While Liberia had made remarkable strides since signing the Accra Peace Agreement in 2003, current challenges posed a risk of reversing that positive trend, the head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) told the Security Council today.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General Farid Zarif, briefing the Council on the latest Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2017/510), said that amid a stable security situation ahead of presidential and legislative elections in October, progress was needed in areas such as law enforcement and legislative reform.  Underlining the an important need for social and economic interventions to address key conflict drivers, he pointed out that the most recent draft national budget had allocated only $27.3 million for its the public sector investment plan.  Steady budget shortfalls in national resources to support Liberia’s transition and consolidate peace would be felt even more acutely as international donor assistance declined.

He went on to say that the Independent National Commission on Human Rights must intensify efforts to address serious violations and the Government must urgently implement recommendations of the UNMIL-Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Report on Addressing Impunity for Rape in Liberia.  Increased efforts were also needed to be done to bring more security to women, including through the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill.

To overcome those and other challenges, he said, Liberiathe Government of Liberia, the United Nations system and the international community must continue to reinforce gains made and to consolidate support through the Liberia’s transition to a new Government and beyond.  UNMIL activities to address such those and related issues spanned from supporting the Liberian National Police ion shaping an election security plan to collaborating with the Government and local actors on awareness-raising campaigns to mitigate the risk of mob justice and encourage adherence to the rule of law.

However, he said, the Mission’s response to such risks would be restricted to its reduced capacity.  It now maintained two field offices, severely limiting the capacity to intervene if needed, he said, emphasizing that any substantial reduction in itsthe current modest budget would significantly affect its ability to deliver on its mandate.

Liberia’s future as a stable democracy , he stressed, hinged on successful elections and a smooth transition of power, he stressed.  The Liberia Peacebuilding Plan, which the Secretary-General had sent to the Council in April, had identified key actions to take before March 2018, when UNMIL’s substantive mandate ended.  It also was the basis for the United Nations system integrated transition plan, which was currently being finalized in consultation with the Government and civil society actors.

“Sustaining peace in Liberia must look at horizons beyond the immediate needs of the transition process,” he said, “requiring long-term investment in national institutions that are inclusive, accountable and responsive.”  To that end, UNMIL was working with the Government on that process.  Efforts were also being made to ensure a smooth transition from the Mission to the United Nations cCountry tTeam, which had indicated a need for significant assistance to increase its capacity, resources and expertise.

Olof Skoog (Sweden), speaking in his capacity as the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Liberia configuration, updated on outlined some of the results of his recent visit to the country, whose objective had been to follow up on progress made in the implementation of the peacebuilding plan; discuss preparations for the upcoming elections; consult with stakeholders on key reforms related to land rights and decentralization; and identify ways in which the Commission could best offer support during the upcoming transitions.  Describing meetings with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, representatives of the political parties and other stakeholders, he said that while no one had indicated an imminent risk of relapse into conflict, the main roots of Liberia’s past conflict would need to be continuously addressed.

“Limited fiscal space to take forward reforms under the current Administration can itself lead to increased grievances,” he cautioned, adding that diversification and revitalization of the economy was urgently needed.  The country’s overall security situation remained stable and Liberians were preparing to head to the polls in just a few months.  Recalling that many had described those elections as a “defining moment” for Liberia, he said the National Elections Commission was currently undertaking working to address irregularities in the registration process.  The cRemaining challenges ahead also included a funding gap for that commission’s activities and controversies around surrounding the application of the Code of Conduct.

Spotlighting a broad sense of national ownership over the Liberia Peacebuilding Plan — which laid out a clear road map for addressing the country’s remaining peacebuilding challenges — he described consultations in Monrovia about how the United Nations could best provide support in taking those commitments forward.  While there was a clear picture about what would be required in that regard, it was worrying to note that the United Nations would face a “cliff” in terms of resources, capacities and expertise to support peacebuilding.  Noting that several Peacebuilding Commission members had flagged concerns about UNMIL’s transition to the country team, he said both the Commission and the Council could help to identify ways to responsibly manage the transition and ensure predictable financing going forward.

Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay) agreed that Liberia was at a “crucial moment” on the eve of its upcoming elections and less than a year ahead of UNMIL’s closure.  While the upcoming elections and transfer of power would be important milestones, he said Liberia still faced challenges in addressing the root causes of past conflict.  Expressing particular concern about the country’s human rights situation — especially reports of sexual and gender-based violence, accusations of witchcraft and the continuation of harmful traditional practices — he urged the Government to step up efforts to prevent and respond to such crimes while holding perpetrators accountable.  He also echoed the Secretary-General’s calls for the establishment of an office for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Liberia, stressing that  and called for UNMIL’s drawdown should to take place within the established time frame.   

Fodé Seck (Senegal), underscoring the “very long way” that Liberia had come, said the country was enjoying relative stability and security while preparing for the upcoming elections.  While Senegalese troops stationed in Liberia would soon be redeployed to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), he noted that they could be returned to Liberia if needed.  Calling on the Government to conduct free and fair elections and to peacefully resolve any differences that might arise, he urged international partners to support such critical activities, pointing out that the sub-region — including Liberia — continued to be affected by a drop in commodity prices and the after-effects of the Ebola crisis. 

Lewis Garseedah Brown III (Liberia) declared:  “Nearly 14 years since the first peacekeeping boots landed on the bloody soil of my country, there is today no doubt that [UNMIL] is credited for enabling and catalyssing Liberia’s ongoing political and economic transformation.”  Noting that the inauguration of a new administration in January 2018 would mark the second time since Liberia’s independence that one living president had democratically transferred power to another, he recalleddrew attention to a number of other examples of West Africa’s expanding democratic space, adding that Liberia’s election would continue to pave the way for the consolidatingon of  the sub-region’s peace and security in the subregion.

While many in Liberia wished the election was about a “choice of the best ideas”, rather than the quantity of political parties, he said Liberia was nevertheless improving with each attempt at institutionalizing the process of democratic change.  Pointing out that the successful conduct of elections would contribute to deepening the new culture of peace and lend itself to democratic governance and expression, he said added that it would also empower ordinary citizens and keep elected leaders duly accountable.  Vowing to resolve irregularities in the electoral process, improve on imperfections and deepen public confidence, he assured the Council that “there is no lack of political will” on the part of the Government.

Expressing concern about the $17.5 million funding gap for the the National Elections Commission’s’s activities, he underscored went on to underline the Government’s awareness of the need to manage Liberia’s resources transparently and reform its institutions.  Unfortunately, as the fiscal space had been constricted, so too had been the pace of those reforms.  “We still have a long way to go to be the society that we know we can be,” he said, urging the international community to continue its partnership with Liberia in order to help it sustain peace.

The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 3:59 p.m.The meeting began at 3:07

 

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For information media. Not an official record.