Supporting Liberia’s rebuilding and new President’s priorities | Alan Doss, Under-Secretary-General, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (2005-2007)
The second Special Representative of the Secretary-General to lead UNMIL, Alan Doss of the United Kingdom arrived in Monrovia only weeks before the historic October 2005 elections which led to the installation of Africa’s first woman president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Of Liberia’s population of 4 million, almost one third had registered to vote. UNMIL provided political and security support to the elections that helped to ensure that they were peaceful and did not trigger a relapse into widespread violence.
With the kudos to Liberians and to UNMIL for maintaining peaceful and democratic polls came the realization of the work to be done. While continuing to provide security for the country, UNMIL, under SRSG Doss, began the work of supporting President Sirleaf’s agenda and immediate priorities. These included rebuilding infrastructure and the justice system, tackling corruption, restructuring the police and armed forces and reducing poverty. While Liberia received substantial aid, it faced an external debt of US$3.7 billion and a domestic debt of US$754 million. Per capita income was a mere US$163; and 80 per cent of the people were unemployed. The UN Country Team deployed mini-teams to the counties to support the Liberians.
SRSG Doss had extensive UN development, humanitarian and peacekeeping experience before he arrived in Liberia, having worked in Benin, Congo, Vietnam, Thailand, China and as the deputy head of the peacekeeping missions in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire.
Doss was a proponent of the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP), launched by the Government and International Contact Group on Liberia in September 2005 to help repair and reform the country’s economic and financial management. The project succeeded in increasing revenues to the Government and was credited with strengthening accountability. Although GEMAP did not resolve all of the most intractable governance problems facing the country, including corruption, it did aid Liberia to successfully complete the requirements for international debt relief.
Doss also engaged the UN in support of a major programme of security sector reform. Working with the Ministries of Justice and Defense and bilateral donors, in particular the United States and the European Union, the programme focused on the police and the institutions of justice as well as the design of a national security policy for Liberia. This included a major effort to deal with rampant sexual violence.
Upon his departure from Liberia in December 2007, President Sirleaf noted that SRSG Doss has resisted international pressure to reduce the number of UN troops during his tenure, arguing that the country still required a robust and sizeable short-term presence of peacekeepers at the outset of her presidency to ensure stability. She credited him with UNMIL’s completion of the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration of more than 100,000 ex-combatants and with overseeing the country’s first truly free and fair democratic elections. She announced the Government would establish the Alan Doss Peace Park across from city hall in Paynesville.