The top United Nations official in Liberia today lauded Liberia’s commitments in maintaining peace, while underlining the need for the country to strengthen its justice and security sectors in preparation for taking on increasing security responsibilities.
Briefing the Security Council in New York, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Karin Landgren said that Liberia deserves praise and continued support.
“Many potential drivers of conflict remain to be addressed, through long term reforms coupled with inclusive development,” Ms. Landgren told the 15-member Council, adding that a decade is a short time to reverse the effects of war that left the country shattered, and to overturn over a century of social and political exclusion, and poor governance.
Liberia’s civil war lasted 14 years before it ended in 2003. Some 150,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed during the war, and some 750,000 became either internally displaced or fled the country amidst the violence and instability.
Since the war ended, the UN has had a peacekeeping presence in the country to bolster a ceasefire agreement and help restore the rule of law and democratic processes, as well as facilitate humanitarian assistance.
In her briefing, Ms. Landgren highlighted the important role of the Constitutional Review Committee in leading a comprehensive, inclusive and participatory review process with intensive civic education efforts about to start under a tight timeline.
She reiterated the UN’s support to the Committee and the process as a whole. She welcomed efforts in implementing the National Reconciliation Roadmap, which she noted will require clear leadership for well-coordinated implementation, along with progress in decentralization, which is expected to promote more inclusive and accountable governance.
Turning to the issue of good governance, the UN envoy said “corruption in general remains a very significant handicap, impeding the functioning of national institutions, public confidence in those institutions, and the pace of economic growth.”
She stated that land and the exploitation of Liberia’s abundant natural resources remain cornerstones of the Liberia’s economic development, but that they also can be powerful sources of conflict. In this regard, she recognized that the Government and many other partners acknowledged the need for transparent and responsible management of concession agreements, particularly when it concerns those who should be benefiting from development.
“The lack of adequate consultation with affected communities remains an issue…it will be important to institutionalize mechanisms for consistent dialogue between concessions and communities,” she said.
Ms. Landgren also briefed on implementation of the three-phased military drawdown endorsed by the Security Council last September.
“The Mission has focused on executing a steady, well-planned, and responsible military drawdown, and completed the first phase on 30 June , with all designated personnel and equipment repatriated in good order and on schedule,” Ms. Landgren said.
With the first phase of drawdown, UNMIL no longer maintains a fixed military presence in four of Liberia’s counties, and the Mission is expected to vacate a further three counties by April 2014.
Ms. Landgren, however, called on the Government and partners to redouble efforts to develop capable and accountable justice and security sectors.
“The Liberian security forces have not been able to scale up their presence and operational effectiveness to assume the increased security responsibilities, and they remain severely constrained by weak mobility, resources, and administration,” she noted.
Referring to regional stability, the Special Representative welcomed preparations for the first ever cross-border meeting of chiefs and elders from Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire scheduled for October, and the joint security operations that have been planned for the coming months.
She underlined that Liberia’s security is intertwined with that of its neighbours, and that strengthening regional approaches remains imperative, to security as well as to development.