SRSG Karin Landgren’s Remarks at the Partners’ Roundtable Discussion on Corruption
Thank you very much.
This is a remarkable event and I want to begin, Madam President, Dr. Sawyer; Cllr. Verdier, Madam Intelmann, my colleagues, members of the LACC, by congratulating you on hosting this event and on it being public.
That this dialogue be public is extremely important and this is a further indication of the strong political will to go after corruption in all its forms. Going after corruption is important in its own right, as we have heard, but it is also important because this impoverishes Liberia.
Corruption keeps Liberia poor; and it fractures Liberians. It creates and deepens divisions among Liberians, and the country can’t afford that either. If Ebola taught us one thing, it taught us about the risks of mistrust; and the mistrust that it showed among people but also in public institutions and I think of this now in particular in the context of UNMIL drawdown. Public confidence in national institutions is the number one need as UNMIL draws down and prepares to close. Yes, it is important to strengthen the LNP. It’s absolutely critical that they perform their functions, but we know that the police are not standing at everyone’s right shoulder, looking over it and keeping them doing the right thing. The police are what you reach for when public order is not being maintained. The police are not our conscience. The police are not going to keep our public institutions functioning as they must.
When the UN Security Council met in December and adopted a resolution on Liberia and on UNMIL, they encouraged the Government of Liberia to prioritize combating corruption, promoting efficiency and good governance. The Security Council is also saying how central this is to Liberia’s future stability. The rule of law is central to stability, and it is the opposite of corruption. It is the opposite to the abuse of power. I think Dr. Sawyer’s point on building citizenship is absolutely spot on. This is what will sustain Liberia over time. So as Liberia continues to strengthen its national integrity institutions, one thing I would like to put on the table for consideration is the possibility of encouraging discussion and development of specific integrity indicators. Many partners here in this room are one hundred percent supportive of your efforts. You know that. But what are the indicators we should all be looking at, in particular, to measure and assess your success in these endeavors?
What will success look like one year from now, two years from now? We know and I hear this from Liberians all the time, that there are a hundred things that to be done, a thousand things to be done. They won’t all happen in a year. Where do you want to be one year from now? What can we support you in most strongly and one question there is whether corruption has yet become socially unacceptable as many speakers have noted. The law is one thing, but people’s own behavior is another. Where are expectations? When is society going to push against corruption?
The education system was alluded to – we know from Liberia’s own reports that a high number of students are asked to give money for grades. Or they’re asked to give sex for grades. Is this what we want children to learn in school, that the shadow system, the parallel system is more powerful than the formal system and than the law? That the content of education, the content of their own study, what their investing time in, means so little and above all that these demands by their teachers, by their role models can be made with complete impunity. That is not a good start in life for children.
So, again I encourage the active and public pursuit of accountability initiatives especially around enforcement. I absolutely salute and congratulate the work done to date by the LACC and the Government of Liberia’s determination to see this carry on. And let me conclude by saying that the United Nations is fully with you in this effort.