The New Dawn (Monrovia)

Liberia: Sweden 'A Good Friend' - Pres. Sirleaf

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has praised Sweden for its financial support to the Liberia National Secretariat for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, describing Sweden as "a good friend."

An Executive Mansion release said President Sirleaf made the assertion last Thursday in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium, when she witnessed the signing of an Agreement between the Governments of the Kingdom of Sweden and the Republic of Liberia.

As per the agreement, Sweden provided 4.3 million Swedish crowns (approximately US$650,000) in financial support to the Liberia National Secretariat for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Edward B. McClain, Jr., signed on behalf of the Liberian Government, while the Counselor and Head of Development Cooperation of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Ms. Gisela Strand, who's also Acting Head of Mission, signed on behalf of the Swedish Government.

In her remarks, President Sirleaf pointed that being the one African leader invited to serve as one of three co-Chairs of the High-Level Panel came as a surprise, and that funds for such an undertaking were not included in the country's 2012/2013 National Budget.

As such, she said, Sweden's support to this effort is recognition, not only of their support to Liberia, but also their support to Africa in all of its efforts.

"I just want to say to all of you how thankful we are," President Sirleaf said, adding, "I assure you that our team, and the work through me that will be brought to the formulation of the global agenda, will reflect those ideals and principles which we share and which you have supported through all these years."

The High-Level Panel was set up in July 2012 by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Its members are to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for the end of the Millennium Development Goals. The Panel is co-chaired by: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia; and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom.

Others include eminent persons from around the world, among them, Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation, Ms. Gunilla Carlsson. To assist her in her task, the Liberian President appointed a Secretariat headed by Dr. Abdoulaye Dukulé, with consultations provided by Mr. Samuel P. Jackson as senior economist.

The Liberian Secretariat will be supported by Dr. Alioune Sall, a renowned development expert; Dr. Garry Conille, former Prime Minister of Haiti, as adviser to the President; and others.

Speaking earlier, the Acting Head of Mission of Sweden, Ms. Strand, said the nearly US$650,000 provided to the Liberia Secretariat will enable it to create a strong link with the global discussions on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. "It should enable active dialogue with stakeholders, including civil society, the private sector and the Government of Liberia," she said.

As both Sweden and Liberia have been selected to serve on the High-Level Panel, to advise on a new and reinvigorated development agenda, where mutual responsibility forms the basis for the fight against poverty and the realization of sustainable long-term development, Ms. Strand emphasized that Sweden is proud to be a close partner to Liberia in the process.

Because the world is a very different place than when the Millennium Development Goals were created - more complex and rapidly changing - she said the Panel needs to be bold and inspirational, as well as practical and visualize as to where we want to be in 15 to 30 years.

Besides their mutual interest in the Post-2015 Agenda, Ms. Strand pointed out that Sweden and Liberia are close partners in pioneering the innovative New Deal process, whose thinking and basic principles will surely play a substantial role in the work on a Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Ms. Strand sees a clear link between the New Deal and the post-2015 discussions. "The experiences we gain from the implementation of the New Deal will help formulate the goals for the future," she noted, insisting that discussions about the future framework must have a clear relevance for situations on the ground, like in Liberia. The New Deal's five peace and state-building goals are critical elements that will need to be further incorporated in a successor development framework, she said.

Sweden - Liberia bilateral relations date back to 1962 when a Technical Cooperation Agreement was signed between the two countries facilitating the establishment of a vocational training institute at Yekepa, Nimba County, where the Swedish private sector was an important partner to Liberia in promoting the mining sector.

Following the country's civil war, in 2003, Sweden provided humanitarian assistance and later supported the country's transitional government in the demobilization and reintegration program; provided troops to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL); supported the now defunct Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and supported the Senior Executive Service Program, intended to improve national capacity. Since 2008, Sweden's support to Liberia has totaled about US$30 million.

The Sweden-Liberia cooperation program focuses on two main areas: agricultural, market development and trade; and democratic governance and human rights. Sweden is the leading donor in support of gender, with a focus on sexual and gender-based violence.

Sweden has also taken the lead in supporting public financial management reforms; and with its strong commitment to electoral processes, in 2011 Sweden provided a substantial amount to support the National Elections Commission. Sweden has also provided strong support to market development and inclusive growth by assisting in the construction of roads and improving business climate and market value chain, as well as support to generate a strong vibrant civil society.

Beginning in January 2013, Sweden will provide expertise and financing for business for development, partnering with the private sector in order to jointly pursue development projects with shared goals and values.

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