A senior United Nations official today called on all Sierra Leoneans to set aside their differences and work together to advance economic development and democracy, as the world body prepares to wrap up its mission there next year.
The UN has been supporting the West African nation since the end of its civil war in 2002. In light of the significant advances that have been made over the past decade, the current mission – the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) – is set to fully draw down and transfer its responsibilities to the UN country team by 31 March 2014.
Briefing the Security Council today, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative and head of UNIPSIL, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, reported that the implementation of the mission’s transition and exit strategy is on course.
“We are firmly set to complete a full drawdown on 31 March 2014,” he stated. “At the same time, Sierra Leone has embarked on major undertakings: the launching of the country’s development agenda, or ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, and a constitutional review exercise.”
Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen noted that these undertakings are “ambitious, but essential” for the country’s economic development and democratic transformation, and in addressing the root causes of the conflict.
“There are already high expectations,” he said. “Success in meeting these expectations and building a prosperous, democratic and peaceful country is not only the responsibility of the Government or a particular group, but a shared responsibility of all Sierra Leoneans, including the country’s political parties, civil society, traditional leaders and others.
“I therefore call on all Sierra Leoneans to set aside their political differences and group interests, and work together in a spirit of national unity to promote the development and democratization agenda of their country.”
Sierra Leone, the envoy added, has made significant progress over the past decade in the consolidation of its hard-won peace and democratic transformation with the support of the UN and the international community.
“Sustaining these gains and achieving the country’s ambitious development aspirations would, however, require continued efforts and commitment at strengthening and empowering [its] democratic institutions and promoting the rule of law and democratic governance,” he said.
“In that respect, attention and priority should be given, among others, to combating corruption, ensuring the professionalism and independence of the security and justice sectors, and building the capacity of national institutions, including Parliament, to effectively play their role.”
Guillermo E. Rishchynski, Chair of the Sierra Leone configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, told the Council that while the country has made significant progress in recent years, some challenges will linger. “UN planning reflects these needs, with continued investment in conflict prevention, security sector reform, and human rights required,” he noted.
“If managed successfully and inclusively, the forthcoming constitutional review also has the potential to be a transformative process, especially if it advances equality between women and men and provides a new basis for mitigating Sierra Leone’s ‘winner-takes-all’ politics.”
Recalling that the Council has requested that the Peacebuilding Commission review its engagement in Sierra Leone with a view to scaling down its role, Mr. Rishchynski said that an initial review of peacebuilding in the country will be conducted in October.
“This exercise will examine progress to date, evaluate outstanding challenges, and assess areas potentially requiring additional support,” he stated. “These findings will inform a technical mission to Sierra Leone later in the fall, which will begin to establish the parameters of the Commission’s own transition process.”
Mr. Rishchynski said he then plans to conduct a Chair’s visit in late 2013 which will provide an opportunity to discuss progress on the UN transition and the Agenda for Prosperity, as well as to finalize agreement with the Government on the nature and duration of the Commission’s support.