Economic and social progress must be priorities in Sierra Leone, official tells UN
The recent successful staging of elections in Sierra Leone will be worth little to its people unless the country can quickly post economic and social gains as well, the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations told the General Assembly today.
Joe R. Pemagbi said that while Sierra Leoneans deserved commendation for the way that presidential and parliamentary polls were held earlier this year, it was important to remember that peace is “a process that must be consolidated, maintained and sustained.”
The polls were the first in the West African nation since UN peacekeepers left in 2005 after helping to bring peace and stability to the country which was torn apart by a brutal 10-year civil war. Since then the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) has been engaged in assisting the fledgling democracy.
“We must not forget that the people also have a right to economic and social development,” he told the annual high-level debate. “The right to vote is inextricably linked to the right to food, the right to clean and portable water, the right to basic social services and of course the right to development.”
Mr. Pemagbi stressed that all the praise over Sierra Leoneans’ conduct during the election process “will be meaningless unless we create and intensify our collective effort to ensure that they see and enjoy the dividends of that process. Periodic elections are important, but they are not a panacea for all their needs.”
He said his Government would continue to have high expectations about the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, set up last year to help countries emerging from conflict avoid sliding back into chaos or war. Sierra Leone – along with Burundi – was selected as one of the first two countries on the agenda of the Commission, and it has begun received money already from the related Peacebuilding Fund.