A top United Nations official today assured the Liberian people that the world body is not preparing to leave the country but seeking to reconfigure its presence after assessing the ability of national institutions to maintain peace and security.
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet led a 23-member UN technical assessment mission to Liberia that wrapped up today after engaging for the past two weeks with a range of actors on the way forward for the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
“Based on those consultations, we will be formulating some recommendations towards the strategic, very gradual, very careful handing over of security responsibilities from UNMIL to national authorities,” he told a press conference in the capital, Monrovia.
“However, this does not mean that UNMIL is leaving Liberia,” he pointed out. “It means that the Mission is focusing on a gradual, as I said, and responsible transition process and the United Nations will continue to be involved in building the capacity of the Liberian security agencies to really ensure that they continue to prepare themselves to take over security responsibilities…
“And we will continue to support the Government and other Liberian stakeholders in addressing other critical challenges. So in that sense, we are seeking to reconfigure UNMIL,” he stated.
The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force in Liberia since 2003 to bolster a ceasefire agreement ending a decade of war that killed nearly 150,000 people, mostly civilians. UNMIL’s mandate includes helping to restore the rule of law and democratic processes as well as facilitating humanitarian assistance.
Last November Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, stated that the UN will continue to play a crucial role in the country, with development support becoming the main focus of the Organization’s programmes as the need for humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping recedes.
“UN agencies will play a very important role in all the different spheres of operation that will add to our capacity, that will supplement our resources, so we can scale up the development work we are doing to be able to respond to the basic needs of the people,” she said.
Mr. Mulet noted that there are still challenges and risks present in Liberia, adding that some indicators regarding human development, economic development and job creation are of concern.
“But if you compare the picture of Liberia today with a picture of Liberia of two years ago, or if compare the picture of Liberia today with the one of five years ago and certainly of 10 years ago, we can all agree that there has been a very positive and constructive evolution.”
Mr. Mulet voiced confidence in the will and the determination of the Liberian people to move forward in a constructive way, adding that they have the potential to have a brilliant future.
“I can assure you that UNMIL and the United Nations will be there with you on that path toward full recovery and full development.”
The assessment mission will submit a report of its findings and recommendations to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council by 30 April 2012.