On November 29, 2012 the Deputy Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations, Mr. Osman Keh Kamara, delivered a statement at the Peacebuilding Fund Annual High-Level Stakeholders Meeting , held at the UN Headquarters in New York. READ THE FULL STATEMENT :
Allow me first to thank you for convening this Annual High-level Stakeholders Meeting, and to also thank the Secretary General, the PBC, members of the Advisory Group, and all stakeholders for their support to building a peaceful and safer world.
We are particularly pleased to participate in this pledging and partnership session of the PBF and would at the outset add our voice to encourage all partners and donors to continue investing in peace.
Sierra Leone was one of the first countries to be on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission. In the bid to address critical threats to the peace then, the country also benefited from the PBF in March 2007. This was at a time when we were faced with challenges to rebuild and create peace building structures in the aftermath of an eleven years conflict. The country was saddled with critical issues around corruption, the upcoming elections in 2007, rights issues including women’s rights, a key TRC recommendation on reparations to war victims; equally a threat to peace were issues around addressing backlog cases in the judiciary, capacity gaps in the judiciary, youth unemployment, and capacity of parliament. These issues were further compounded by a sharp fall both in local revenue generation and donor support including budgetary support. All of these were heightened by approaching Presidential and Parliamentary elections which then was seen as a test of our fledgling democracy. An announcement on 1st March 2007 by the Secretary General of a thirty five million dollar envelope under the Peacebuilding Fund for the country could thus not have come at a better time. This initial allocation proved to be a worthwhile investment with key outcomes secured in supporting our peacebuilding priorities at the time including an exemplary election in 2007; a mechanism to reinforce respect for human rights at the national level; reparation for war victims; establishing an independent nationwide radio/TV station; creation of mechanisms for political dialogue and conflict resolution; a pilot youth employment exercise that is attracting external funding; an effective mechanism to combat corruption, and a national security office that is fully operational. We have as a result been able to establish a functional Human Rights Commission that has produced the first and second state of Human Rights Reports for Sierra Leone, a commitment we hitherto could not meet. We have increased access to justice which enabled us to clear substantial backlog cases some of which go back fifteen years. We have also created employment for some 6,000 youths, popularized the Gender Act in communities, supported the Anti-Corruption Commission in its fight against graft, and supported the reparation of war victims, the list goes on.
These projects were right from their inception nationally owned and led. Through this support, the PBF contributed to creating a sense of partnership between the government and the United Nations, the international donor community and civil society. These priority areas were to subsequently form the basis of the UN Joint Vision for Sierra Leone. This Joint Vision which is well articulated in our Agenda for Change, identified Youth Empowerment and employment, Democracy and Good Governance, Justice and Security, Capacity building for the Public Administration, and Energy as key peacebuilding elements that requires sustained international and national support measures. .
More recently, the PBC invested in empowering some independent institutions that form the backbone of Sierra Leone democracy: the political parties, traditional and religious leaders, women and youth, civil society and the media. Through PBF support, these non-state actors were able to organize themselves and engage in civic and electoral education of their constituencies ahead of the elections and when required in conflict prevention and mediation.
The PBF thus made an important contribution to the elections that Sierra Leone just held. The elections were remarkably peaceful. Importantly, through its investment, the PBF left behind independent structures that will ensure that the next electoral cycle will be even more successful.
As we celebrate another milestone in the consolidation of peace and security in Sierra Leone through the conduct of successful, violence free and credible elections, my delegation would use this opportunity to stress its appreciation to the Secretary General and the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, member states and donors for the immense contribution the Fund has made towards laying the building blocks for sustainable peace. With your support, we are determined to do everything we can to seize the moment to build a safer and more prosperous Sierra Leone.
Throughout this period of our work, the UN in Sierra Leone led by the ERSG provided immense technical support whilst allowing us to take the lead in project selection, approval and monitoring.
Sierra Leone continues to work with the UN and other development partners in pursuit of its development agenda. The PBC, the UN and other development partners in response to the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness have realigned their strategies with that of our second generation PRSP-“The Agenda for Change”. With the current global economic climate, the country has, like many others, been affected in its quest to attract substantial donor support for its development projects. Whilst some success have been made, there is need to address persistent critical issues relating to youth unemployment, judicial reforms, capacity for non state actors, capacity of Public Administration, transnational organized crime, and reparations to war victims. These challenges have been jointly identified along with our partners in development as being critical to sustainable peace for the country. These issues also continue to threaten regional peace in the Mano River Countries (the sister Republics of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire).
To date, the PBF has invested more than $ 47 million in Sierra Leone. The first instalment of $ 35 million came jointly with the PBC – it was an important contribution that signalled to Sierra Leoneans that dividends were coming with peace. Indeed, the end of hostilities comes with expectations which can be categorized into short, medium and long term. The probability of easily relapsing into conflict depends upon how adequately these expectations are addressed in a timely fashion. To consolidate the gains made so far, we should pay greater attention to how to sustain projects that are generally long term in nature as well as focusing more and more on building a strong and resilient society where citizens are free from want and fear.
Resource mobilization is therefore an essential and useful tool to peacebuilding. Yet this is where the PBC has failed in mobilizing resources to match funding needs of peacebuilding activities. There are important lessons to be learned from this experience, ranging from the challenges in securing the funds to operational mechanisms in disbursing and implementing projects.
Sierra Leone commends the renewed commitment of member states to Peacebuilding as articulated by distinguished representatives during the Special High-level event of the PBC held on 25 September this year. Similar commitments are amply demonstrated by the Chair and membership of the Sierra Leone Country Specific Configuration. It is only through such sustained commitment and tireless efforts that we can all be sure of building sustainable peace in countries where the PBF is currently engaged.
Let me conclude on the note that being one of the first beneficiaries of the Peacebuilding Fund has put us in a vantage position in sharing lessons learnt. The UN’s model of support to post war Sierra Leone is over the years moving us towards a success story example. Whilst we strive not to be carried all the way in this drive to improve the lives of our populations, we recognize that the critical issues which continue to threaten our peace must be addressed if we are to avoid a relapse and, if all of us are to walk tall with a success story to share. To this end, we urge all partners to fully support our transition into a more development phase by supporting us as pilot country of the “New Deal” in moving from an “Agenda for Change” to an “Agenda for Prosperity”.
Madam Chair, distinguished representatives, ladies and gentlemen, the world needs peace, Africa needs peace and Sierra Leone needs to sustain its hard won peace. Subscribing to the PBF can make this happen.
I thank you all.