President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has received several visiting dignitaries and expressed appreciation for their presence ahead of the third High Level Panel Meeting on the Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) scheduled to take place in Monrovia from January 30 to February 2, 2013.
In the country for preparatory meetings are the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Professor Dr. Horst Köhler; Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, Madam Gunilla Carlsson; Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, Madam Amina J. Mohammed (ex officio); Head of High Level Panel- London Secretariat and Envoy of Prime Minister David Cameron; among others.
The Panel is comprised of 27 members, including Heads of State, Ministers, former Ministers and independent experts. It is co-chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, host of the upcoming meeting; Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom; and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia.
The Monrovia meeting will seek, among other priorities, to discuss, debate and refine a narrative document which will set out a vision for the future of development based on the Panel's responses to the framing questions, including the co-chairs' paper; identify the key challenges facing economic growth and transformation and the national-level building blocks required to achieve sustained prosperity; share evidence and consultation findings from various constituencies with Panel members; clarify and confirm key agreements made at the London meeting, so that Monrovia builds on this groundwork, and identify how the outcomes of Monrovia will feed into the fourth HLP meeting in Bali, Indonesia in March 2013 and into the final HLP report.
Making remarks at a reception hosted by the German and Swedish embassies in honor of these eminent personalities Thursday evening at the German Ambassador's residence, President Sirleaf, host of the upcoming meeting said, "To all of you who have made the meeting in Liberia possible, I express appreciation on behalf of the Liberian people," adding that holding this very important meeting here brings Liberia back into focus and enables the world to see not only its progress but the many challenges.
President Sirleaf praised the special guests and eminent persons for the partnership and support provided the country that is gradually recovering noting that this meeting will put Liberia again on the world stage. She also thanked the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, for selecting her as one of three co-chairs. "Big thank you to all of you; the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban, for this initiative; and to all of his associates and the High Level Panel for the work they will do to develop the new global development agenda," President Sirleaf said.
Earlier, German Ambassador, Dr. Bodo Schaff welcomed the high ranking visitors who are actively involved in preparation for the HLP meeting expected to be a huge event bringing Monrovia back to being a recognized world player.
Ambassador Schaff noted that as the meeting expects to tackle among other issues youth empowerment and employment theme, Monrovia seems a very appropriate place to deal with this issue. "We are aware that youth unemployment is not only a humanitarian issue but may also become the core of civil unrest," he said adding that its conflict potential has been seen in several cases as Liberia's youth accounts for more than 65 percent of its population, most of them living and surviving outside the formal sector which shows the urgency of getting involved and trying to promote international multilateral and bilateral cooperation.
Also speaking, the Swedish Ambassador to Liberia, Per Carlson, welcomed the presence of the high ranking visitors, and noted that the work of the High Level Panel promoting the Development Agenda 2015+ is now at a decisive point and the upcoming meeting in Monrovia later this month will be of greatest importance. "I think the presence of distinguished and high ranking guests show us how strong the support for Liberia is," he said; adding that Liberia is an important partner and can count on Swedish support.
Former German President, Professor Dr. Horst Köhler, in brief remarks, said he was delighted to be Liberia for the first time. He said his appointment to the Panel was a good opportunity to come to Liberia after he had heard that President Sirleaf had been appointed one of three co-chairs of the High Level Panel.
He indicated that he has had discussions with some members of civil society, business community and the youth of Liberia and is very optimistic about the future of Liberia and Africa on the whole. "There was commitment, lot of intelligent comments, and they wholeheartedly supported my priorities for the Panel which include education, job creation for the youth, improved economy which I'm sure will not only pay off for Liberia if we tackle these objectives," Dr. Köhler said.
German Ambassador Schaff used the occasion on behalf of Federal German President Joachim Gauck to confer on the outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission at the German Embassy, Mr. Christoph Höpfner, the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany as a token of Germany's high respect and gratitude to him for his work as a diplomat and his dedication duty.
Mr. Höpfner, who reached the official retirement age in 2008 at the age of 65 but recalled to service, has served in demanding and difficult places mostly in Africa including N'Djamena, Chad; Luanda, Angola; and more recently in Bengasi and Tripoli, Libya.
Reading the citation on behalf of German President Gauck, Ambassador Schaff said, "You have shown an impressive sense of duty, an exemplary engagement for common causes of the Federal Republic of Germany and host countries, and you do that again in Liberia," he said.
The outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Höpfner, termed the decoration as an emotional moment especially being conferred on him in the presence of such honored guests, including President Sirleaf and former German President. Dr. Köhler. "I am extremely privileged to be a part of that small energetic team committed under Ambassador Schaff's guidance to support Liberia and its welcoming and warm people on the way to prosperity, peace and harmony," he said; adding that he felt honored being awarded the Cross of Merit for the services rendered his country specially when he reflects on his period in Libya. He said the day was a day of looking back with continuous feeling of concern but also of deep gratitude to the many positive and rewarding experiences he has had serving his country.