Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Executive Representative and head of United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL)
National Council of Paramount Chiefs – Sierra Leone (NCPC-SL)
National Meeting of Chiefs on the Constitutional Review Process
28 – 30 January 2014; Kenema
Hon Minister of Local Government and Rural Development,
Ministers of Government, Members of Parliament
Constitutional Review Commission Chair,
National Council of Paramount Chiefs Chair,
Honourable Paramount Chiefs and other Chiefs,
Host Paramount Chief,
His Worship the Mayor of Kenema city,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Justice and Peace Commission (organisers);
I am honoured to address the Paramount Chiefs today. The last such impressive gathering of traditional leaders was in 2011; before I came to Sierra Leone. I thank the national executive of the National Council of Paramount Chiefs (NCPC), the Constitutional Review Committee and the organizers for inviting me to this important conference.
First, I would also like to thank our Paramount Chiefs for their productive partnership with the United Nations throughout the years. The UN recognizes the important role you played as leaders during the war, and especially for your work in helping to lay the foundations for the peace Sierra Leone enjoys today.
The President has encouraged participation in this national Constitutional Review process, and emphasized the importance of inclusiveness at every step, and at all levels. The Constitution is owned by and applies to allcitizens of Sierra Leone, equally. This needs to be understood by everyone to whom the constitution applies.
As Paramount Chiefs, your influence for the promotion of social justice, especially in peace and conflict prevention is unquestioned. The constitutional review process offers a perfect opportunity to consolidate and safeguard Sierra Leone’s hard-won gains over the years. Therefore, the Constitutional Review process itself, if managed well, will strengthen the culture of democracy, and help to develop a tradition of the rule of law and meaningful participation in decision-making
The Constitutional Review Process is a unique opportunity for voices to be heard. As such, stakeholders are being engaged and mobilized to take part. However, it is also recognized that, for the participation of groups of stakeholders to be effective, it needs to be well-informed and coordinated.
This means that when the dialogue on the Constitutional Review starts in earnest, stakeholders will have to understand how the process works. Participating groups will have to have already consolidated their positions to reflect their respective group’s own unique perspective.
These workshops are precursors to the actual substantive consultations of the Constitutional Review Process. (We will hear more about this from the Constitutional Review Committee and Chief Technical Adviser later.)
I am informed that you have already had one meeting at the level of regional heads, district heads and district chairmen. You are now reporting back as part of that structured participation. This gets you off to a good start. UNIPSIL has been supportive in these efforts to date including by supporting the organisation of today’s event.
Today’s sessions represent a chance for you to talk about your shared concerns, and present them in a unified way. It is also an opportunity for you to gain insights into how the process works and to have your consolidated views reflected when the actual CRC led consultation begins.
This is the essence of the informed and inclusive participation, a principle the United Nations supports fully. In the coming months, support to the Constitutional Review Process will continue through a Government of Sierra Leone Project with UNDP and the Ministry of Justice. This project will continue well after UNIPSIL has disappeared from the arena.
In that context, I want to take this opportunity to begin to say farewell, as it is not every day that I have the opportunity to address so many of our closest partners in one place. As instructed by the Security Council, the mission closes on 31March 2014. Because UNIPSIL is closing, it does not mean the United Nations is disappearing. Other members of the UN Country Team will continue to carry out programmes to provide services and support across the country.
The closure of UNIPSIL after fifteen years of peace missions in Sierra Leone is recognition of how far the country has come, and what has been accomplished. It is the beginning of a new phase in which the UN supports Sierra Leone as the country moves farther away from a troubled past and closer to a prosperous future.
UNIPSIL’s closure should therefore be seen as a necessary and timely adjustment in the UN’s footprint in country – an adjustment that better address the present day reality and aspirations of Sierra Leone as it progresses along the path of development in pursuit of becoming a middle income country by 2035.
There is still much work to be done, but I want to assure you that the 14 UN Agencies comprising the United Nations Country Team will remain here to support you in this new phase of the long and close partnership, between the United Nations, and Sierra Leone.