Aftermath of Ambassador McNee’s recent visit : A review of PBC engagement in Sierra Leone

Published on January 25, 2011 

By Michael Massaquoi,  Coordinator, PBC Secretariat, Freetown.

 The Peacebuilding Commission has had an uninterrupted engagement with the Government of Sierra Leone for the last five years and the impact cannot be over-emphasised. Along with Burundi, Sierra Leone has been in the Agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) since 2006. Analysis of how the PBC has fared in the first two countries on its agenda is numerous and conclusions similar: the engagement has been incrementally beneficial, although several challenges remain.

 The Overarching objective of the PBC is to provide sustained international attention to countries on its agenda. Actions by the PBC to give practical effect to sustained attention for countries on its agenda can be classified into three categories-political accompaniment and support, resource mobilisation; and fostering coordination action among various key stakeholders in support of peacebuilding in the country.

 The PBC’s engagement with countries on its agenda-such as Sierra Leone- is both the vehicle through which these actions are undertaken and its value added assessed. The PBC has provided the main forum for the Government to present, discuss and monitor Sierra Leone’s peace and development strategy, the Agenda for Change; the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General (ERSG) to exchange views and gain strength from member states support of his integrated strategy for the UN family, the Joint Vision; and discussions on the major political and development issues essential to enhance the country’s peace consolidation process.

 Concrete and specific examples of political accompaniment and support include: in the aftermath of the political violence that erupted in March 2009, which is considered the most serious threat to peace and security since the end of the conflict, the engagement of the PBC provided parties political umbrella to the ERSG to lead negotiations between the two main political parties that resulted in the Joint Communiqué of 2 April 2009, to date the most notable example of ability of the country to resolve the differences in a peaceful way. The PBF also provided financial resources to support implementation of aspects of the Joint Communiqué.

 The inclusion of the energy as a peacebuilding priority in the Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework underlined the PBC’s commitment to addressing economic dimension of peacebuilding-which at the time was an innovation. It was one of the early expressions of the PBC political support for the Government and people of Sierra Leone on a priority to which the Government attached great importance. I was an early example of the nexus of peace and development that has now become fully recognised and internalised in the support of the international community to countries undergoing peace consolidation processes.

The PBC engagement has resulted in sustained and heightened international attention on Sierra Leone and has helped in coordinating donor support. Several traditional donors as well as non-traditional donors have renewed or displayed an interest in Sierra Leone. Favourable consideration for the Peacebuilding Funding is given to countries on the Agenda of the PBC-Sierra Leone has thus received close to $37m. Nevertheless, the PBC itself recognizes this to be an area requiring further development.

The PBC has been instrumental in helping focus international assistance around one national strategy, the Agenda for Change; supporting greater national ownership by approving peacebuilding elements of the Agenda for Change as the peacebuilding  strategy; and creating a focused monitoring and reporting system by accepting a single integrated progress report for the implementation of the Agenda for Change. It is thanks to the PBC engagement that for the very first time the Government of Sierra Leone in collaboration with its international partners, and with civil society has put together a comprehensive progress report of the Agenda for Change that clearly underscores progress made and challenges ahead.

The PBC has advocated for a sustained partnership and an enhanced dialogues between the Government of Sierra Leone and its implementation partners. It has done this by appealing to the governing bodies of international institutions as well as by directly approaching individual countries and regional and international institutions.

By adopting the peacebuilding elements of the Agenda for Change as the basis of its engagement through the Outcome Document of the High Level Special Session of the PBC Sierra Leone Configuration of June 2009, the PBC has led the way for whole international community to coverage around the Agenda for Change as the only planning instruments for peace consolidation and development in Sierra Leone. In the Outcome Document the PBC agreed to support three peacebuilding priorities: youth employment; combating drug trafficking; and strengthening governance.

The PBC has been instrumental in fostering greater UN integration on the ground by supporting the integration of the political mandates of the UN agencies; strengthening the role of the ERSG; by approving the Joint Vision of the UN family in Sierra Leone; by supporting greater programmatic and operational integration; and by approving the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) for Sierra Leone.

Indeed, the ERSG points to the engagement of the PBC with Sierra Leone, coupled with his double mandate, on political and development matters, as essential factors that have strengthened his authority both with the Government and with the development partners thus enabling him to function effectively as the leader of the international community on the ground. These factors have allowed him to enter into a compact with the rest of the UN system; the UN Joint Vision, which is the contribution of the UN family to the implementation of the Agenda for Change. In the ERSG’s words; ‘’there would not be a UN Joint Vision without the PBC’’

Similarly, in response to encouragement by the PBC to both the Government and the international community to do more in the area of youth employment and empowerment, the main partners operating in this area, including the Government, UN, World Bank and GTZ, have joined forces and produced a Joint Response to Youth Employment in Sierra Leone with a three years duration (2010-2012) that would result in 106,000 youth employed on a sustainable basis.

-ENDS-

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