Greater Investment in Security, Justice, Correction Sectors Key to Liberia’s Stability, Peacekeeping Chief Tells Security Council

Root Causes of Conflict, Ebola Aftermath Cited as Civil Society Speaker Highlights Threat of Sexual, Gender-based Violence

Liberia remained stable, but sustaining the progress it had made would require greater investment in the country’s security services as well as commensurate improvements in the justice and correction sectors, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council today as it considered the situation in that country and the future of the mission deployed there.

Herve Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations said that since the security transition in June, there had been no serious incident warranting intervention by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The political environment had been dominated by preparations for presidential and legislative elections in October 2017, and the next President’s inauguration in January 2018 would mark a historic milestone for Liberia’s democracy. Peaceful and successful elections as well as a post-election leadership transition would be the key to ensuring Liberia’s stability, he said.

He said the Secretary-General had outlined three possible options for UNMIL’s future: withdrawing and establishing a successor mission; maintaining the status quo; or continuing the Mission’s drawdown. Emphasizing that Liberia should remain on the Council’s agenda through the installation of the next administration, he said it was essential to retain some capacity to respond should stability deteriorate. UNMIL was now in the last stretch of its life-cycle, after which Liberia would take up its responsibility as a sovereign State, he added.

Sweden’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Vice-Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, noted that the root causes of Liberia’s conflict remained unresolved and that further implementation of the roadmap for national reconciliation was needed. That would require strong political leadership, he emphasized, pointed out that the large population of disenfranchised youth constituted a real risk factor. Engaging them would be important in the run-up to the 2017 elections.

The aftermath of the Ebola outbreak was one of the factors that had put the Liberian economy under stress, he said, citing a negative?0.5 per cent economic growth projected for 2016 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Noting also that 63 per cent of Liberian children were not attending school, he said those and other factors should be borne in mind when considering the future of the United Nations presence in Liberia. Preserving the Organization’s “good offices” function would be useful during the heightened tension in the lead-up to elections. The Peacebuilding Commission encouraged the United Nations system to intensify collaborative, strategic planning, and stood ready to continue its political accompaniment, he said.

Liberia’s representative emphasized that determining how a transition from a full peacekeeping operation could occur without undermining the progress achieved was the defining question of the Security Council’s current engagement with his country. While noting that the Government proposed an extension of UNMIL’s mandate for a “definitive” period of one year, he acknowledged concerns associated with the request for an extension, and outlined ways in which Liberia intended to meet development and security targets. They included deploying 8,000 police across the country and completing training facilities for thousands of immigration officers. Liberia could not afford another shock to its recovery, he stressed, adding that another year of UNMIL was needed to deter that looming risk.

Also addressing the Council was Victoria Wollie, National Coordinator for the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding-Women in Peacebuilding Network in Liberia, who said many young people were involved in sexual and gender?based violence, which remained the number-one crime reported to police. More than 1,500 cases of rape had been registered in 2014 and 2015, but less than 4 per cent of the alleged perpetrators had been convicted. Women and girls were also victims of harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, abductions and forcible initiations into secret societies. Liberian women needed the Peacebuilding Commission to fill any gaps left by UNMIL’s departure, she said.

Uruguay’s representative said it was necessary to maintain the presence of UNMIL at least until the elections, adding that he favoured the third option outlined by the Secretary-General: the Mission’s continued drawdown.

The meeting began at 11:03 a.m. and ended at 11:52 a.m.

Briefings

HERVA� LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the political environment in Liberia had been dominated by preparations for the presidential and legislative election to be held in October 2017. The inauguration of the next President in January 2018 would mark a historic milestone for Liberia’s democracy, and the post-election leadership transition would be the key to ensuring the country’s stability. It was incumbent upon the people and Government of Liberia to deliver free, fair, transparent and credible elections, the outcome of which would be accepted by all, he emphasized.

Reporting some promising developments on the political front, he said a new Speaker of the House of Representatives had been elected and the legislature had passed the Land Authority Act. It had also considered constitutional amendments, legislation on land reform, economic and financial frameworks as well as counter?terrorism. Liberia remained stable and since the conclusion of the security transition in June, there had been no serious incident warranting intervention by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Despite serious financial, logistical and basic equipment constraints, national security personnel had demonstrated the resolve to perform their sovereign responsibilities of protecting the population and ensuring the security of the State.

He went on to caution, however, that sustaining those gains would require continuing and greater investment in the security services as well as commensurate improvements in the justice and correction sectors. The Government had many priorities to address, including political and institutional reforms, the development of security and defence institutions as well as a human rights entity. Those priorities must be taken forward in very limited fiscal space with negligible growth projections, he stressed. Recalling that the Council had set a deadline in December 2014 for national institutions to assume UNMIL’s security responsibilities in full, he said the Secretary-General had outlined three possible options regarding the Mission’s future: withdrawing and establishing a successor mission, maintaining the status quo, or continuing UNMIL’s drawdown.

It would be important, however, that Liberia remain on the Council’s agenda through the establishment of the next administration, he said, underlining that it was essential to retain some capacity to respond, in extremis, should there be a deterioration of stability. One crucial aspect of contingency planning was the quick reaction force presently in the United Nations Operation in CAte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). Noting that Liberia had demonstrated a remarkable resilience throughout its history, he said its people had endured more than a century of systematic exclusion, decades of dysfunction and 14 years of brutal civil war, as well as the Ebola medical emergency. And yet, the country continued to transcend adversity on its path of positive transformation. “We were now in the last stretch of the life cycle of UNMIL.” Liberians and partners would gain by closing the cycle so that the country could take up its responsibility as a sovereign State, he said, underlining, however, that the end of that cycle must be handled with delicacy.

PER THORESSON (Sweden), representing the Vice-Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, presented conclusions and recommendations from a recent visit to Liberia and from a multi-stakeholder forum on “Sustaining Peace through Transition in Liberia” hosted jointly with the Government of Liberia. Two questions had guided deliberations in Monrovia: what must be done to address remaining root causes of conflict, and what international support should look like after UNMIL’s eventual drawdown.

Noting that the root causes of Liberia’s conflict remained unresolved, he emphasized the need to return to implementation of the roadmap for national reconciliation. Strong political leadership would be needed to address that and other issues, he said, stressing that the large disenfranchised youth population constituted a real risk factor. Engaging them would be important in the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections, he noted, adding that several interlocutors in Monrovia had said it would be premature to withdraw the Mission before the elections.

The aftermath of the Ebola outbreak was one of the factors stressing the economy, he said, pointing out that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projection for 2016 predicted negative?0.5 per cent growth, adding that 63 per cent of Liberian children were not attending school. Furthermore, there would be residual peacebuilding tasks in 2017, requiring sustained international support. Those factors should be borne in mind when designing the future of the United Nations presence beyond 2016, he said, stressing that preserving the “good offices” function of the United Nations leadership in Monrovia would be useful during the heightened tension in the lead-up to elections. The Peacebuilding Commission encouraged the United Nations system to intensify collaborative, strategic planning, and stood ready to continue its political accompaniment, he said.

Statements

VICTORIA WOLLIE, National coordinator, West Africa Network for Peacebuilding-Women in Peacebuilding Network in Liberia, said a major security concern for women and girls was the proliferation of illicit drugs in the country, which especially affected young people and former combatants. Many young people were also involved in crimes such as sexual and gender?based violence, armed robbery and mob violence. That security threat required support for an effective national response, including the enhancement of law?enforcement capacity, she emphasized.

Noting the extremely low representation of women in the national legislature and in local districts, she said that sexual and gender?based violence also remained the number-one crime reported to police. More than 1,500 cases of rape had been registered in 2014 and 2015, while less than 4 per cent of the alleged perpetrators had been convicted. Women and girls were also victims of harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, abduction and forcible initiation into secret societies. Less than 9 per cent of Liberian girls completed secondary education, which was part of the reason why they were exposed to alarming levels of violence, abuse and exploitation in schools, she said.

Liberian women needed the Peacebuilding Commission to fill any gaps left by UNMIL’s departure, she said. With the Peacebuilding Fund’s support, women?led “peace huts” had served as safe spaces for women and contributed to resolving local conflicts. Hopefully, that type of support would be scaled up. Increased funding for women and women civil society organizations would maximize the potential of Liberian women as well as efforts by the Government and the international community to consolidate peace. Noting that the most effective way to reduce violence against women was to strengthen women’s organizations, she underlined that there was no more meaningful tribute to Liberian women than the long-lasting and sustained partnership of the international community.

CRISTINA CARRIA�N (Uruguay) emphasized the necessity of maintaining UNMIL’s presence at least until the elections, adding that Uruguay was inclined towards the third option: continuing the Mission’s drawdown. It was important that the Security Council continue working with the Peacebuilding Commission to ensure implementation of resolutions on the peacebuilding architecture, she said.

LEWIS GARSEEDAH BROWN II (Liberia) said the defining question for the Security Council’s current engagement with his country was how a transition from a full peacekeeping operation could occur without undermining progress. Noting that the Secretary-General had recommended a number of measures, he said they were favourable, while calling for careful analysis of lessons to be learned. The Government of Liberia was proposing an extension of UNMIL’s mandate for a “definitive” period of one year. Acknowledging concerns associated with the request for an extension, he outlined ways in which Liberia intended to meet development and security targets, such as deploying 8,000 police across the country and completing training facilities for thousands of immigration officers. Liberia could not afford another shock to its recovery, and one more year of UNMIL would be needed to deter that looming risk, he stressed.

Source: United Nations

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