Excellency President Koroma,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to take part in this High-Level Special Session on Sierra Leone.
I salute His Excellency President Koroma on his personal leadership and commitment, as well as his engagement with the Peacebuilding Commission at this critical moment for Sierra Leone. We have just listened to President Koroma's inspiring vision Agenda for Change and I wish him every success. The United Nations and the Peacebuilding Commission will stand behind his noble efforts.
I also warmly welcome the delegation of the Government of Sierra Leone, led by Her Excellency the Foreign Minister. I note that the delegation includes representatives of political parties, civil society and beyond. This is a true reflection of national unity.
And I congratulate the people and the Government of Sierra Leone and the Peacebuilding Commission on your impressive partnership over the past three years.
Since the end of its civil war, Sierra Leone has made remarkable progress.
The state has restored its authority throughout the country.
National security institutions have been reformed and restructured.
75,000 ex-combatants have been disarmed and demobilized.
More than half a million refugees and internally displaced persons have returned voluntarily.
And the country has held peaceful and democratic national and local elections.
The United Nations has played an important role in supporting Sierra Leone's efforts at making, keeping and building peace. We draw a sense of pride from Sierra Leone's achievements.
However, despite impressive gains, the situation remains fragile.
The outbreak of political violence in March of this year was a wake-up call on challenges that require urgent and continued attention. It also reminded us of the importance of sustained global support.
I commend President Koroma, government and opposition leaders and ordinary Sierra Leoneans for rising above differences and overcoming the recent crisis.
The adoption of the Political Parties' Joint Communiqué has renewed hope in Sierra Leone's journey toward peace and prosperity.
It has also set an example for other countries in the sub-region experiencing similar political disturbances.
International partners provided critical and timely support in this effort, including the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone.
The United Nations stands ready to continue to help in implementing the Communiqué, including through emergency resources from the Peacebuilding Fund. The Fund recently approved $1.8 million to support inter-party dialogue and strengthen the capacity of Sierra Leone's police.
Seven years after the end of the civil war, the people of Sierra Leone expect to see tangible improvements in their lives and in their country's welfare. They want peace, prosperity and a brighter future for their children.
In short, they want to see and feel the dividends of peace.
The Government of Sierra Leone has made a clear commitment to deliver.
The Agenda for Change before you today represents an ambitious blueprint for reform, progress and development.
Fulfilling its commitments requires teamwork and a sense of national cohesion and unity.
It also requires continued support from the international community, including the United Nations.
Together, we must make further progress in addressing the root causes of conflict, strengthening democratic institutions and promoting economic and social development.
The Peacebuilding Commission was created specifically to help meet such challenges.
I look forward to Sierra Leone's continued cooperation with the Commission.
I also welcome the development of the United Nations Joint Vision in support of the Agenda for Change, and encourage all members of the Peacebuilding Commission to provide the necessary resources and support for its implementation. The development of the Vision, as well as the design and mandate of UNIPSIL as the first ever integrated peacebuilding office, are important innovations in the way the United Nations supports national peacebuilding efforts.
In conclusion, I reaffirm the support of the United Nations for peace, stability, and social progress in Sierra Leone.
We recognize that these challenges are closely linked to developments in the sub-region. As such, we will also continue to support the strengthening of sub-regional cooperation and institutions such as ECOWAS and the Mano River Union.
I wish you much success in your deliberations and look forward to the outcomes of this important event.