The Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Karin Landgren, has told the Security Council that much progress has been made in Liberia over the past nine years since the war ended, but insists that much more needs to be done to consolidate that gains.
Addressing the Council Tuesday afternoon at the UN Headquarters in New York, Madam Landgren said "Liberia has made remarkable progress in rebuilding its institutions, economic recovery and consolidating its democratic processes... but it needs to focus on remaining challenges such as strengthening the rule of law, security sector reform and national reconciliation."
Briefing the Security Council on the 24th Progress Report of the Secretary-General on UNMIL, Madam Landgren stated that since 2003, Liberia has transformed itself from a failed State to one well along the path to democracy and lasting peace, adding that the presidential and legislative elections of 2011 showed the capacity to manage a politically and logistically complex event."
She told the 15-member Security Council that "the subsequent peaceful formation of a new government signaled the country's increased stability, but suggesting UNMIL's presence in the country to solidify security and justice institutions as well as reconciliation and other reforms.
Madam Landgren called for more resources to train and build a more viable security sector--to adequately man the country's porous border and to advert cross border attacks between both Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire, among others.
She indicated that time was not ripe for the international community to commend the progress of the country and turn its back, but should rather consider a more proactive transition.
The UN Envoy noted that the Liberian Government is firmly committed to taking on the security responsibilities now performed by the Mission, but faces both resource and capacity constraints. "Stemming from a recent Joint Transition Workshop held by the Government and UNMIL, we have updated our joint planning structures, and are reviewing the linkages between these, donor coordination mechanisms and Liberia's development frameworks for greater coherence. We have designed a graphic roadmap to help illustrate, phase by phase, the demands on the Liberian security sector, and to give the Government the necessary lead time to adjust its security posture," she said.
Ms. Landgren stressed the importance of strengthened security capacity and regulation to be matched with a stronger justice system, for the public to have confidence in the State's capacity to protect and provide justice.
The SRSG noted that the Liberian Government has continued its efforts to mitigate security threats at its border with Côte d'Ivoire, including closely engaging with the
Government of Côte d'Ivoire. She also noted that with continued reports of alleged training and recruitment of armed elements on Liberian soil, including reports that such activity has occurred in refugee camps within Liberia, a comprehensive national strategy to address the issue of mercenaries and foreign combatants is still needed.
The UN continues to provide security support to Liberia on a significant scale, noted Ms. Landgren. "But as the Secretary-General noted in this report, security measures alone will not create lasting stability in Liberia," she said.
"Reinforcement of the national security sector should go hand in hand with national reconciliation and structural changes to address the underlying causes of past conflict," Ms. Landgren added. "Achieving this, however, will take both political commitment and financial resources."
She stated that strengthened security capacity and regulation will need to be matched with a stronger justice system, for the public to have confidence in the State's capacity to protect and provide justice, adding that constitutional reform and national reconciliation will also be essential to peace consolidation.
"UNMIL is able to begin a transition because of the progress Liberia has made since 2003. The Mission represents nearly a decade of major investment by the international community," the envoy said. "This investment has paid handsome dividends, supporting Liberians with a time and space free of war, which has permitted two democratic elections and steps towards national reforms on a large scale."
The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force in Liberia since 2003 to bolster a ceasefire agreement ending a decade of war that killed nearly 150,000 people, mostly civilians. UNMIL's mandate includes helping to restore the rule of law and democratic processes as well as facilitating humanitarian assistance.
Meanwhile the Security Council went behind closed door to discuss Liberia's situation before it will decide on September 17 (Next Monday) whether UNMIL mandate will be extended beyond September 30, 2012.
In September 2003, the Security Council Resolution 1509 to establish UNMIL with up to 15,000 United Nations military personnel, including up to 250 military observers and 160 staff officers, and up to 1,115 civilian police officers, including uniformed units to assist in the maintenance of law and order throughout Liberia, and the appropriate civilian component. The number has since dwindled to at most 8,000.
In his report to the Security Council late August, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded the political and social progress in Liberia's post-conflict recovery, but cautioned that much still remains to be done to address the wrongs of the past.
"I welcome the important efforts being made to transform the country," Mr. Ban wrote in his latest progress report to the Security Council on UNMIL, adding that "Much remains to be done, however, to address the historical injustices that persist, so that all Liberians feel that they are benefitting from the country's progress in stability, democracy and development," he added.
"Coherent and genuine national reconciliation should be at the center of the Liberian peace process," Mr. Ban continued, noting that it was essential for all Liberians to have "an opportunity to express their views about how to best address all aspects of reconciliation."
Mr. Ban also reaffirmed his recommendation, made in his special report of 16 April, that UNMIL's presence in the country be gradually reduced by about 4,200 troops in three phases between this year and 2015, when it will have a residual presence of approximately 3,750 peacekeepers.
Additionally, the Secretary-General recommended that the Mission's police component maintain its current strength of 498 advisers and 845 officers in seven formed police units, and be authorized to add three formed units as needed over the next three years. UNMIL currently has a total of 9,195 uniformed personnel, which includes 1,279 police, including those serving in formed police units.
He also requested that the Security Council approve his recommendations and extend UNMIL's mandate by one year, until 30 September 2013.