It is an honour and a pleasure to be here with you in Liberia at this historic moment.
I thank our partners, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Peacebuilding Office, Search for Common Ground, the Liberia Peace Ambassador, the Independent Commission on Human Rights and Naymote for their continued commitment and efforts, and for bringing us together today.
I am told you have had rich discussions over the past two days, and I hope these will point the way toward solidifying reconciliation across the country.
I congratulate the government and people of Liberia for the country’s hard-won peace.
The country suffered so much, for so long, in so many ways.
But Liberians also persevered, and showed great determination across more than 15 difficult years of conflict and postwar recovery.
We are here today to honor these efforts, acknowledge the fruits of that commitment, and embrace a new future for Liberian people.
Liberia has conducted peaceful elections and made possible the first democratic transition in the country’s history.
A new Government is in place with ambitious plans for the people of Liberia. I congratulate President Weah for his electoral victory and reiterate the support of the United Nations on this new path towards sustaining peace and sustainable development.
The United Nations peacekeeping operation, which has supported you every step of the way, has successfully completed its mandate.
It is time for us now to look at the opportunities ahead.
Liberia is at a turning point.
Peace has been achieved, but it needs to be sustained through wide-ranging confidence-building measures that establish solid foundations for long-lasting peace.
This will only be possible if we ensure full and true reconciliation.
I commend the partnership between the Government and civil society that has made today’s gathering possible, and for the progress that has been made on reconciliation.
Dialogues at the county level, and the reconciliation plans for each county that are being developed, are enabling Liberians to forge a shared vision of a peaceful, inclusive society rooted in mutual understanding and respect for diversity.
The United Nations mission has provided continued support aimed at increasing community participation and deepening ownership.
UNMIL contributed to reconciliation efforts in eight counties -- Grand Gedeh, Margibi, Bong, Sinoe, Lofa, Rivercess, Nimba and Grand Cape Mounth.
At the same time, we know that more remains to be done.
The Social Cohesion and Reconciliation index for Liberia shows that we need to increase reconciliation efforts in Grand Cape Mount, Rivercess, Sinoe and elsewhere.
It is also critical to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and for the legislature to pass key bills that will support local inclusion and reconciliation. These would be timely measures that would assure Liberians that there is strong resolve to see a conclusion to this process.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To ensure reconciliation and secure a peaceful and prosperous future, it will be crucial to deepen efforts to address the underlying causes of conflict in Liberia.
Prevention is critical in averting a relapse into violence.
This is why we need to strengthen our efforts towards sustainable development.
Peace will remain fragile as long as people feel excluded from the economic and political life of the country, and as long as corruption undermines confidence in institutions.
Enabling all people to enjoy a stake in society means establishing a level playing field where all people have economic opportunities and access to basic services.
It means inclusive governance, democratic practices and bringing all voices – especially those of women, youth and others who tend to be marginalized -- into the discussions and decision-making processes that set the country’s path.
It must also mean ending violence against women and girls, which remains high and is an obstacle to the consolidation of peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Liberia’s progress has inspired the region, the continent and indeed the entire world. Despite challenges ahead, Liberians have reason to be hopeful for a future that will bring prosperity to all citizens.
The country is now well placed to focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s agreed blueprint for peace and prosperity for all on a healthy planet.
Liberia’s people have demonstrated their commitment to peace, their resilience to conflict and shocks, their ability to recover and their capacity for renewal.
The international community, including the United Nations, will continue to stand with you to achieve reconciliation and sustain peace, advance inclusive, sustainable development, and put the country on the road towards economic growth, stability and prosperity.