28 September 2012

Liberia: President Sirleaf Endorses 'New Deal' as Effective Means for Aid Delivery to Fragile and Conflict-Affected States

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf discusses the progress she has made as head of state and the challenges facing her country. ( Resource: A Conversation with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Video) )

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says that as fragile and conflict-affected States stand at the crossroads of international development planning, the "New Deal," developed by the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding as an effective means to deliver aid, affords them ample opportunity to foster effective and efficient local and country-led ownership of economic development.

She said Heads of State from fragile and conflict-affected nations are particularly challenged to provide exemplary leadership in rolling out the New Deal and to demonstrate outstanding commitment to its principles. In that instrument, she added, donors and development partners also have an effective means to deliver aid and engender a transformative outcome. "We strongly believe that the New Deal and the post-MDG development framework are, indeed, inseparable!" President Sirleaf said.

The New Deal,  which builds on the vision and principles articulated from the Millennium Declaration to the Monrovia Roadmap, proposes key Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals, focuses on new ways of engaging, and identifies commitments to build mutual trust and achieve better results in fragile States.

According to an Executive Mansion Dispatch from New York, President Sirleaf made the statement when she served as co-chair, along with the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, at a High-Level Forum of the g7+ group of fragile and conflict-affected States, titled "The New Deal: g7+ Perspectives and Experiences," hosted by the Governments of Liberia, Afghanistan and Timor-Leste on the fringes of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The High-Level Forum was intended to assess and report on approaches to rolling out the New Deal, as a major framework in international development assistance.  It also aimed at recognizing the New Deal as a competitive model for development assistance; mobilizing international will and consensus around it; and situating the New Deal at the center of approaches to constitute the post-MDG international development order.

Other panelists included President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia; Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão of Timor-Leste; Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia; Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe of Haiti; Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo of Solomon Islands; Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul of Afghanistan; and the Minister of Development Cooperation of Denmark, Mr. Christian Friis Bach.

In her statement, President Sirleaf stressed that although there are still three years to the end of the Millennium Development Framework, the international community has already begun discussions of a post-2015 development paradigm, drawing on the lessons from the past 12 years of development efforts, under the aegis of the Millennium Declaration.

She noted worthy MDG successes of sustained growth in developing countries, especially in Asia, which places the world on track to meet the poverty reduction target, also noting that sub-Saharan Africa has registered the best record for improvements in primary school enrolment.

Despite these successes, challenges remain, she said, judging from the realization that no fragile or conflict-affected country is on track to meet the eight Millennium Development Goals. "This is particularly unsettling when you consider that a quarter of the world's seven billion people live in countries characterized as fragile or conflict-affected." She added, "The people in these countries too have dreams and visions: for an end to disparities between their sons and daughters in education, income, power and opportunities, ushering in a more equitable economic and political landscape."

President Sirleaf said the New Deal could not have come at a better time, as the conversation on structuring the post-MDG development framework gains momentum. "The High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Framework, which I co-Chair, has commenced its work. The g7+ countries believe that the principles of the New Deal must inform the design of the post-2015 development framework," the Liberian President said, adding, "The fact that many countries in this category are not expected to meet any of the MDG targets by 2015 is a compelling argument to incorporate New Deal principles into its successor regime."

Highlighting some of the advantages for making the New Deal an integral part of the post-2015 development order, President Sirleaf said the attempt to provide aid or development assistance, without first understanding the fundamental factors affecting fragility, or removing the causes which lead to conflict, may waste scarce development and aid resources. Secondly, New Deal principles provide a far better platform for aid alignment and harmonization as contained in the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action.

"A stable, sustainably peaceful and predictable governance environment provides a solid basis for designing policies and programs that promote human development," she emphasized, adding further, "In focusing on the factors that impinge upon fragility and conflict, the New Deal corrects a recognized flaw of the MDG framework, namely, the overwhelming focus on ends, to a very conspicuous exclusion of means."

President Sirleaf disclosed that a number of g7+ countries – Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Liberia – are volunteers to pilot the New Deal.

In Liberia, she continued, the pilot process has been initiated with two partner countries, the United States and Sweden, piloting transparency and use of country systems.  President Sirleaf indicated that Liberia's many dimensions of fragility have been mapped into a fragility spectrum, and corresponding indicators have been developed to measure progress on the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals.
"We have decided to pilot PSG No. 5, which focuses on managing revenue and building capacity for accountable and fair service delivery," she told the audience.

Under the New Deal Trust principle, the Liberian Government has committed itself to improving the financial systems in key ministries, namely, Finance, Health and Education; while the United States and Sweden, in turn, have committed to increase the use of and support our local country systems. "The use of country systems by development partners would accelerate Liberia's institutional service delivery capabilities. Our budget, audit and procurement systems, which have made dramatic improvements, are critical to delivering development impact and fostering transparency and accountability," she said, noting that given the volume of aid expected to flow to Liberia, the use of these systems would put Liberia on a more resilient path to national development, minimizing shocks and vulnerabilities to procurement, audit and national budget systems.

She emphasized that Liberia is testing commitment from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Fixed Account Reimbursement Agreement (FARA), which would fund expenditure under the Ministry of Health's budget. Sweden has, since 2008, been providing direct coordination support to the implementation of Liberia's Poverty Reduction Strategy and will now support the new implementation structure for the Agenda for Transformation.

The g7+ countries include: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Togo.

It was formed to work in concert with international actors, the private sector, civil society, the media and the people across countries, borders and regions to reform and reinvent a new paradigm for international engagement. The group is working to shape the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda to ensure it adequately addresses the unique needs of fragile and conflict-affected States.

The next major meeting of this group will be the second g7+ Ministerial Retreat, to be held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in mid-November 2012.

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