23 March 2018

Deputy Secretary-General's Address to the ‘Liberia Moment’ [as prepared for delivery]

Your Excellency President George Weah,
Dear Development Partners,
Dear Colleagues, 
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
I am very happy and proud to be here with you to mark this turning point in Liberia’s journey.

I celebrate with and congratulate all Liberians for the hard-won peace during 15 years of conflict and challenging postwar recovery.
We now look ahead together to a peaceful and prosperous and sustainable future for Liberia. 
At yesterday’s National Reconciliation Conference, Liberians from all over the country renewed their commitment to sustaining peace. They expressed their strong support fora new and powerful vision for the development of their country. 
This commitment to reconciliation and social cohesion is the basis for the New Development Agenda – the focus of our meeting today. 
We will only build peace by addressing the root causes of conflict: poverty, inequality, exclusion and discrimination, and by creating an economic, political, social, cultural and legal environment that enables people to achieve inclusive sustainable development. 
Liberia has come a long way. But let us be clear-sighted: we still have very serious challenges to surmount. 
Economic constraints are severe, including capital flight, high inflation, high poverty and unemployment, particularly among young people who account for almost two-thirds of the population. When I look at your young women and men, and the initiatives for peace that they have courageously carried forward, sometimes even risking their lives, I am filled with pride and hope but also with fear. 
We cannot fail them. We must listen to our young people and empower them by including them in political decision-making and peace processes. We must meet their needs and expectations, and help them to fulfil their dreams.
Discrimination and marginalization mean that women are also often denied a place at the table, in spite of incontrovertible evidence that women’s participation is crucial to strengthening community resilience, economic growth and sustaining peace. High levels of violence against women and girls remains a frightening reality, impacting individuals, families and communities.
Just 11 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women in this country. This needs to change.  
I look to the President and parliament to improve gender equality more widely and to create opportunities for the women and girls of your country. Liberia cannot afford to deprive itself of the abilities of half its population.
And I call on Liberian women and girls to follow in the footsteps of the courageous, dedicated and resilient women leaders who made this moment possible! 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I commend the Government’s leadership in formulating its ambitious pro-poor vision, in which all Liberians have access to basic goods and services, and resources are carefully managed to contribute to the development of people, infrastructure and institutions.  
To achieve this, I believe there are five key principles that must underpin Liberia’s new National Development Plan. 
First, inclusive national ownership. The launch of this extensive consultation process is a very promising start. I call upon all the people of Liberia to seize this opportunity to express their needs and voice their views and concerns. Participation will be critical to create a sense of belonging and ownership by all Liberians. We must bring everyone along into this more prosperous and sustainable future.  We can leave no one behind.
The Government and development partners need to formulate clear and concrete strategies, policies and programmes through inclusive processes, including consultation with the different branches of government, civil society, local communities, political parties, women’s representatives, young people, and other actors. 
Second, eliminating poverty is essential. This will require investment in strengthening capacity to eradicate hunger and poverty, reduce inequalities, invest in young people, and create jobs and opportunities for all. Everyone in every part of the country has a right to development.  
Third, the Government and the international community must take action to end dependency on aid, by improving tax and revenue collection, strengthening good governance and the rule of law, and establishing an environment that is conducive to foreign investment and economic growth. Investment in jobs will increase tax revenue so that the Government can provide basic services and reduce dependency on aid. 
Fourth, partnerships based on transparency and mutual respect will be essential to achieve sustainable development. The UN stands ready to mobilize support to trigger investment for the development of Liberia and foster partnership with key actors.
I urge donor countries to continue to invest in Liberia and to stand by this country as it lifts itself out of conflict and poverty into a brighter day. The international community must continue to demonstrate its commitment to Liberians who have done so much to help themselves over the past fifteen years. 
Fifth and finally, development financing needs to be predictable and sustainable. Diverse sources should be identified to achieve this, including blended financing and new financial instruments, investment options, technology and knowledge-sharing, and public-private partnerships. 
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
The United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, is closing, but the United Nations is not leaving Liberia. 
On the contrary, we will continue to provide assistance to overcome the challenges ahead. 
In this spirit, we have been working with the Government and international partners over the past 12 months on a smooth and efficient transition towards sustainable development. We are adapting the UN presence in Liberia to facilitate this.
The consolidation of peace is part of a larger strategy for Liberia to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Prevention is key to avert a relapse into conflict; education and dialogue are essential to achieving this. The Sustainable Development Goals are the best tools we have to prevent conflict and we should make every effort to achieve them without delay. 
We stand ready to provide the Government with the advice, expertise and support needed.  That includes political support to facilitate partnerships with the international community, and technical and programmatic expertise to help with development planning and programming. 
From the National Youth Empowerment Programme, to strategies that provide livelihood opportunities for the most vulnerable, and the Spotlight Initiative with the European Union to end violence against women and girls, we are ready to work closely with you to achieve your development goals.  
The coming year of transition will be challenging. Both Liberians and the international community have high expectations of the new Government.
We will be with you every step of the way. This is our commitment. 
Together, we can overcome these challenges and make the development of Liberia another common success.
I wish Liberians all the best as you embark on this new phase. 
God bless the people and Government of Liberia.