Aiming to foster stability in Liberia, which has emerged from civil war with a democratically elected Government but still faces an extremely high unemployment rate, the senior United Nations envoy there has committed $1million towards the creation of employment opportunities for the country’s youth.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Alan Doss, made the funds available through the Liberia Emergency Employment Programme, which was launched by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Monrovia yesterday.
Special Representative Doss characterized peace building in Liberia as “jobs, jobs and jobs.” Recounting the old proverb ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop,’ he stressed the importance of creating immediate employment opportunities for young people.
President Johnson-Sirleaf urged Liberian youth to use the temporary employment opportunities provided under the programme to sharpen their skills and learn about work discipline. “We must set a good example of performance so that our partners will see that Liberia is ready to work hard and take responsibility for its own development objectives,” she said.
The Liberia Emergency Employment Initiative is an 18-month programme aimed at creating labour-intensive job opportunities to address Liberia’s 85 per cent unemployment rate.
In another development, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), today announced that, working in partnership with Liberia’s Government, it will construct 10,000 three-seat benches for distribution to 100 government schools that will benefit some 30,000 students.
Government officials voiced gratitude for the donation, noting that schools in the country, which recently emerged from a civil war, desperately need furniture. “Our partners, especially in the donor community, need to know that Liberia’s schools were massively looted during the war and most of them remain without basic furniture,” observed Education Minister Joseph Korto. “So these benches are very helpful in addressing the seating problems facing many schools, as we strive to rebuild our educational system.”
Bjorn E. Forssen, the agency’s senior official in Liberia, said the benches will go to government schools which are offering an accelerated learning programme aimed at enabling children and youth make up for educational years lost during the conflict.
These facilities “serve an extremely useful function in the rehabilitation and reintegration of war-affected children, including returning refugees, demobilized children associated with fighting forces, and all those whose education has been repeatedly disrupted over the last 15 years,” he said.
The development challenges facing Liberia were one of the “Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About” released by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) earlier this year.