Successful Security Transition and Reforms Critical for Lasting Peace in Liberia
Briefing the United Nations Security Council today, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Co-ordinator of UN Operations in Liberia, Ms. Karin Landgren, lauded Liberia's commitments in maintaining peace, while underlining the need for the country to progress on critical reform processes and steadily strengthen its justice and security sectors in preparation to take on increasing security responsibilities.
"Liberia deserves praise and, more importantly continued support. A decade is a long time to keep the peace, [but a short time] to reverse the effects of a war that left a country shattered, and to overturn a century of social and political exclusion, and poor governance."
The SRSG underlined that "many potential drivers of conflict remain to be addressed, through long term reforms coupled with inclusive development," noting that the country is sufficiently stable to provide an environment conducive to the critical reforms the Government is undertaking in the justice and security sectors, towards decentralization and more transparent and accountable institutions.
SRSG Landgren highlighted the important role of the Constitutional Review Committee in leading a comprehensive, inclusive and participatory review process with intensive civic education efforts about to start under a tight timeline. She reiterated the United Nations' support to the Committee and the process as a whole. She welcomed efforts in implementing the National Reconciliation Roadmap, which she noted will require clear leadership for well-coordinated implementation; along with progress in decentralization, which is expected to promote more inclusive and accountable governance.
Turning to the issue of good governance, the UN envoy said "corruption in general remains a very significant handicap, impeding the functioning of national institutions, public confidence in those institutions, and the pace of economic growth." She stated that land and the exploitation of Liberia's abundant natural resources remain cornerstones of the Liberia's economic development, but that they also can be powerful sources of conflict. In this regard, she recognized that the Government and many other partners acknowledged the need for transparent and responsible management of concession agreements, particularly when it concerns those who should be benefiting from development. "The lack of adequate consultation with affected communities remains an issue'¦it will be important to institutionalize mechanisms for consistent dialogue between concessions and communities," she said. She noted that some progress has been made on the issue of land with five Land Coordination Centres having recently been made operational.
The SRSG also briefed on implementation of the three-phased military drawdown endorsed by the Security Council last September. "The Mission has focused on executing a steady, well-planned, and responsible military drawdown, and completed the first phase on 30 June , with all designated personnel and equipment repatriated in good order and on schedule." With the first phase of drawdown, UNMIL no longer maintains a fixed military presence in four of Liberia's counties, and the Mission is expected to vacate a further three counties by April 2014. While UNMIL has deployed formed police unit personnel to areas considered potential security hotspots and to serve as a backup to the Liberia National Police, more demands on the Government are expected as this transition progresses. SRSG Landgren noted that the phased approach has permitted the Government and UNMIL to develop close, routine and effective mechanisms; however, greater efforts need to be made to strengthen security institutions for a successful transition. "'¦the Liberian security forces have not been able to scale up their presence and operational effectiveness to assume the increased security responsibilities, and they remain severely constrained by weak mobility, resources, and administration." The SRSG called on the Government and partners to redouble efforts to develop capable and accountable justice and security sectors.
Referring to regional stability, the SRSG welcomed preparations for the first ever cross-border meeting of chiefs and elders from Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, being planned for October, and the joint security operations that have been planned for the coming months. Both of these are outcomes of Quadripartite engagement between the two countries and two peacekeeping missions. She underlined that Liberia's security is intertwined with that of its neighbours, and that strengthening regional approaches remains imperative, to security as well as to development.
The Special Representative concluded her remarks by encouraging Liberia to stay its course, pledging support for the Government, development partners and civil society in Liberia to maintain Liberia's hard won peace.