Sierra Leone has made considerable progress in its efforts to combat the problems of illicit drug trafficking and corruption, but little has been done to implement programmes to create employment for the youth in the West African country, a senior United Nations official said today.
The establishment by the Sierra Leonean Government of the Joint Drug Interdiction Taskforce with support from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other partners was a significant achievement, Michael von der Schulenburg, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative to Sierra Leone told a Security Council meeting in New York. The taskforce will now be upgraded to a transitional crime unit, he added.
Mr. Schulenburg also noted the “bold steps” taken by Sierra Leone in the fight against corruption, citing a string of recent arrests and convictions of both low-ranking and senior officials on charges related to corruption.
Efforts to create employment opportunities for the youth have, however, not been as successful, said Mr. Schulenburg, who is also the head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL).
“Over the last two years, there have been many plans and assessments but they have resulted in relatively few tangible programmes that would significantly impact the lives of a sizeable number of the youth,” Mr. Schulenburg said when introducing the Secretary-General’s fourth report on UNIPSIL to the Council. “I believe the responsibility for this must be equally shared by the Government and its international development partners,” he added.
Commenting on Sierra Leone’s presidential, parliamentary and local elections scheduled for 2012, Mr. Schulenburg said the polls will pose significant challenges for the country, not least because of the increasingly ethnic-based politics that have created north-south divisions based on ethno-politico loyalties.
He expressed concern that UNIPSIL was having difficulties raising the US$200 million it has requested to implement its peacebuilding strategy in Sierra Leone.
“This poses fundamental credibility issues for us; ultimately, the lack of funding could even jeopardize our approach to peacebuilding,” he said.
UNIPSIL was established by the Security Council in 2008 to continue UN efforts to augment peace in Sierra Leone following the end of the country’s civil war in 2002. It has the mandate of providing political advice to foster peace and political consolidation, offering support and training to the national police and security forces and strengthening democratic institutions.