With more than 15 years of United Nations peace operations in Sierra Leone set to wrap up at the end of this month, the top UN official there said that while the West African nation has gained solid footing on the path to recovery, it will still require sustained international attention and support to address the lingering challenges from a brutal civil war in the 1990s.
“The general atmosphere of peace that now prevails is the culmination of more than 15 years of successive Security Council-mandated peace operations in the country,” said Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, delivering his final briefing to the Council on the work of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), which he heads.
He also praised the determination of the people and Government to break with the past and work towards a peaceful, democratic and prosperous nation.
Sierra Leone had also benefited from “a remarkable level of steady engagement of the UN and international partners, demonstrating that concerted international action can yield positive results,” he said, noting that UNIPSIL was created in 2008, succeeding a peacekeeping mission that opened in 1999.
Yet, though the country is continuing on the right path, it still faces a number of challenges linked to the root causes of its decade-long civil war that require sustained attention and support, Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen said, emphasizing the work ahead for Sierra Leone in addressing pervasive poverty and unemployment, especially among the youth, as well as endemic corruption, in addition to upholding the rule of law and widening the political space.
“Addressing the remaining challenges requires the joint efforts of all Sierra Leoneans to work together and to place the national interest above all other interests,” he said, noting that during Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Sierra Leone earlier this month for a special ceremony to honour the country and UNIPSIL, it had been heartening to hear all the major political parties speaking with one voice in a joint statement in which they committed to work towards a peaceful future for Sierra Leone.
As for the road ahead, he explained that UNIPSIL would transfer its responsibilities to the UN Country Team, which consists of 19 agencies, funds and programmes based on the UN Development Assistance Framework, known as UNDAF, and in support of the Government’s “Agenda for Prosperity,” a social and economic development strategy for 2013-2018.