8239th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Liberia

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19-Apr-2018 01:55:01
As mission in Liberia closes, Security Council intends to consider best practices in ongoing efforts to enhance effectiveness of peacekeeping at 8239th meeting.

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Following the completion of the 14‑year‑long mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on 30 March, the Security Council stressed today that the Organization would remain an important partner for the West African nation as it continued to consolidate peace and stability in the future.

By the terms of presidential statement S/PRST/2018/8 — presented by Gustavo Meza‑Cuadra (Peru), Council President for April — the Council commended the achievements and progress made by the people and Government of Liberia since UNMIL had been initially deployed in 2003. Those included significant improvements in social cohesion, the overall security situation, progress on respect for human rights and the preparation and execution of legislative and presidential elections. It also expressed appreciation to UNMIL personnel, especially those who gave their lives in its service, and commended their steadfastness during such particularly challenging periods as the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak.

Also by its terms, the Council requested the Secretary‑General to undertake within one year a study of the role of UNMIL in the resolution of conflicts and challenges in Liberia, which had allowed for the successful completion of its mandate and transition to the United Nations country team. It expressed its intention to consider options to take the best practices and lessons learned from the Mission’s experience into account in ongoing efforts to enhance the overall effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping.

Following the statement’s adoption, the Council heard briefings by top peacekeeping and peacebuilding officials, as well as an entrepreneur with personal and business ties to Liberia, who provided a civil society perspective. It also considered the Secretary‑General’s final UNMIL progress report (document S/2018/344), which addressed Liberia’s recent political, security, human rights and economic developments, among others.

Alexander Zouev, Assistant Secretary‑General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said today marked a historic milestone for Liberia. For nearly 25 years, the country’s situation had required a constant presence on the Council’s agenda, but it had now turned an important corner.

“It would be no exaggeration to characterize the Liberia of 2003 as a country in ruins, with a traumatized population and a predatory State,” he said. Spotlighting some elements of the Secretary‑General’s report, he said that while national institutions had demonstrated their ability to plan, organize and secure sensitive political events such as elections, the Government would still face the challenge of ensuring that those institutions received the necessary financial and other investments.

Irina Schoulgin Nyoni (Sweden), delivering remarks on behalf of Olof Skoog, Chair of the Liberia configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said the Council had accompanied Liberia through the painful years of its civil war, challenging years of peacebuilding that followed and the trying times of the Ebola pandemic. UNMIL had been at the forefront of efforts to lay the critical foundation for peace in Liberia, having disarmed more than 100,000 combatants, protected millions of civilians, assisted in rebuilding the police, justice and security institutions, facilitated the provision of humanitarian aid and helped to promote and protect human rights. The Peacebuilding Commission would continue to push for renewed and sustained political leadership regarding key structural reforms that would help to address some of the root causes of conflict in the country.

Chid Liberty, Chief Executive Officer of the fair trade company Liberty & Justice, said his family had sought refuge from Liberia’s escalating civil conflict when he was 5 years old. Today, however, Liberia was once again a truly peaceful country. Having returned to Liberia in 2009 to find an 80 per cent poverty rate, he and his business partners had decided to open a factory to provide formal jobs for women, eventually developing their own clothing brand. Security guards at the factory were all former child soldiers, now protecting the very women they had once victimized. “I am here to mostly say thank you,” he told the Council, stressing that the financial and other investments made in Liberia had not been easy, but they had not been made in vain.

Council members also took the floor, with many expressing gratitude to the Mission’s dedicated personnel. Some underscored the significant strides achieved since the time when UNMIL was the largest of the United Nations peacekeeping operations, citing its close relationship with the Liberian authorities as a major source of success. Others, however, said the United Nations could learn much from UNMIL about what to avoid in its future peace operations.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, noting that the conclusion of UNMIL operations marked the third United Nations mission closure in West Africa, following those in Sierra Leone and his own country, said today Liberia enjoyed positive relationships with other countries of the region. Describing strong political will on the part of the newly elected Government, he also warned the international community to continue its support and invest in Liberia’s future in order to prevent any backsliding. The United Nations country team and local actors must also work closely together, he said, pledging to share Côte d’Ivoire’s own post‑conflict experience with Liberia.

Highlighting lessons learned throughout the Mission’s decade and a half of work, the United Kingdom’s delegate said UNMIL had encouraged national ownership and supported local capacity, both key conditions for sustaining peace. While it had clear priorities, it had also stayed in Liberia for too long, creating a burden on the United Nations as well as funding gaps. Its mandate should have included benchmarks and timelines to better track its progress, he said, adding that the Council could have ensured a more realistic mandate with better clarity on what an end State looked like.

Liberia’s representative, also addressing the Council, said today’s meeting marked not only a historic moment, but one of pride and joy for Liberians. Expressing gratitude to the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union, European Union and other partners, he said to the people of Liberia that “your resilience has been a beacon of hope”. While his country was not entering its new chapter without challenges — namely, decentralization, land ownership and disputes, corruption, violence against women and girls, a struggling economy and poor infrastructure — he pledged that his Government would keep those issues at the forefront of its work and called on all partners to continue to provide their unflinching support.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Russian Federation, Poland, Ethiopia, Sweden, France, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Netherlands and Peru.

The meeting began at 4:06 p.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m.
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