Sierra Leone: UN Peacebuilding Commission ends maiden field trip with new insights

Sierra Leone: UN Peacebuilding Commission ends maiden field trip with new insights

Frank Majoor of the Netherlands briefs journalists
The first-ever field mission from the new United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, set up to prevent countries emerging from civil war and other conflicts from slipping back into bloodshed, has returned from Sierra Leone with a clearer idea of the challenges now facing the once strife-torn state, the delegation leader said today.

“We left with a greater understanding and also with a great commitment from the Government on the next steps forward,” Ambassador Frank Majoor, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York, noting that justice and security reform are among the key priorities. “The country needs capacity building in almost every area.”

Mr. Majoor headed the 12-member delegation in his capacity as chair of the Commission’s Country Specific Meetings on Sierra Leone, which after 11 years of civil war has now entered a peace consolidation phase.

The mission met with met with the small West African country’s Government officials, political parties, international organizations and civil society representatives “to obtain this first-hand information… to discuss with the Government and other stakeholders the remaining gaps within the priority areas for peace-building and the development of an integrated framework,” Mr. Majoor said.

The delegation communicated the main principles and purposes of the Peacebuilding Commission to stakeholders. “That was also still necessary since we’re the new kid on the block… We still have to explain what the Peacebuilding Commission is all about,” he noted, detailing its relationship UN agencies and other organizations already on the ground.

“We’re an advisory body that is supposed to intensify dialogue with the Government and all stakeholders which are represented in the Peacebuilding Commission and also galvanize support with an emphasis on the priority areas which we find important for peacebuilding,” he added.

“So it is in that intensive dialogue with the Government, the United Nations, the international financial institutions, the bilateral donors, some of them very big donors, and civil society that we’re trying to develop our common approach.”

Sierra Leone and another formerly war-torn African country, Burundi, are the first nations to be referred to the Commission. Although they have made much progress in emerging from their devastating civil conflicts, they continue to face great political and economic challenges, the Commission said. Earlier this month, Sierra Leone received $35 million from the UN Peacebuilding Fund, established from voluntary contributions to aid countries which have recently emerged from war from slipping back into conflict.