UN Peacebuilding Commission unveils plans for first grants to Burundi, Sierra Leone

UN Peacebuilding Commission unveils plans for first grants to Burundi, Sierra Leone

The recently created United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, set up to help post-conflict countries avoid a relapse into bloodshed, has announced it expects to give $25 million each to Burundi and Sierra Leone as part of its first round of contributions.

During two days of country-specific meetings at UN Headquarters in New York, the Commission’s members examined the progress made so far by the two African countries in identifying the gaps and priority areas for international support, and in determining how best to marshal and distribute resources.

Meeting today on Sierra Leone, which is trying to recover from a decade-long civil war that only ended five years ago, the Commission heard how vital it is that its work bring concrete results to help establish the kind of environment that generates confidence and encourages economic recovery.

The West African nation has identified tackling massive youth unemployment, offering support to justice and security sector reform and strengthening the democratic process as some of the priority areas where it can be helped by the Peacebuilding Commission.

Victor Angelo, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for Sierra Leone, said preparations for national elections next year were under way and the Government was working with international partners to review its anti-corruption strategy. But he added that youth unemployment and marginalization remained the biggest threat to stability.

The Commission agreed that every effort should be made to deliver the initial contribution of $25 million by next month to ensure that Sierra Leone can begin tackling short-term priorities immediately. A follow-up Commission meeting will be held in March to chart the early progress.

During their meeting yesterday on Burundi, Commission members also agreed to give the Central African country about $25 million, with a final figure dependent on a review by the office of Carolyn McAskie, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support.

Promoting good governance, strengthening the rule of law and ensuring community recovery are priority areas for Burundi, which is suffering from a worrying budgetary shortfall that might mean it is unable to pay its civil servants or security force members.

Youssef Mahmoud, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Burundi, told the meeting there has been no progress in implementing the comprehensive ceasefire deal reached in September by the country’s Government and the armed group known as Forces Nationales de Libération (Palipehutu-FNL).

He added that disputes over land ownership, exacerbated by the return of thousands of former refugees, and a sense of impunity for those committing human rights abuses were also hurting the country. The next Commission meeting on Burundi is likely to be held in March.