Liberia: Stressing importance of elections, Security Council extends life of UN force

8 Dec 2011

Liberia: Stressing importance of elections, Security Council extends life of UN force

16 September 2011 - The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL) by another year, stressing the supporting role it will play when the West African country holds presidential and legislative elections next month - only the second such polls since the end of a brutal civil war almost a decade ago.

In a unanimous resolution, Council members authorized the extension of UNMIL's mandate through 30 September 2012 and underlined the importance of its work in helping Liberian authorities organize the polls, which are scheduled to take place on 11 October.

UNMIL is tasked with "providing logistical support, particularly to facilitate access to remote areas, coordinating international electoral assistance, and supporting Liberian institutions and political parties in creating an atmosphere conducive to the conduct of peaceful elections."

Liberians themselves will remain primarily responsible for ensuring the success of the elections, and were urged to work towards "an environment conducive to a timely, credible, inclusive and peaceful electoral process, which includes free and constructive political debate."

Free, fair and peaceful elections will represent "a core benchmark" for determining the future drawdown in size and scope of the peacekeeping mission, according to the resolution.

Earlier this week, in an address to a Council meeting, UNMIL's head Ellen Margrethe Løj warned that even if the elections are successfully staged, "it does not mean the work is finished. Liberians will still require considerable assistance and support in rebuilding their lives and the country."

Council members today called on both UNMIL and the Liberian Government to make progress in the process of transition-planning and to develop detailed proposals for the next stages of the drawdown of UNMIL, which has been in place since 2003, when the civil war ended.

The resolution also emphasized the need for UNMIL to coordinate closely with the UN peacekeeping force in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) to ensure common strategies and activities near the Liberian-Ivorian border, where armed groups have often operated in the past.