The Liberian Government has bestowed upon outgoing European Union Ambassador, Attilio Pacifici, one of the nation’s highest distinctions for his numerous contributions and services to Liberia.
Amb. Pacifici, who has served in the country since 2009 and has, in collaboration with government entities, overseen several development initiatives, was conferred upon by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the distinction of Grand Commander in the Order of the Star of Africa.
The ceremony took place at a farewell reception held in his honor in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
As EU Ambassador to Liberia, Mr. Pacifici’s first engagement was to spearhead the restoration of Liberia’s ownership of EU development interventions through the re-opening of the National Authorizing Office (NAO). The NAO powers had been revoked during the crisis in the country. He met an NAO that fell short of the standard of a full Embassy in terms of staffing and capacity.
His first milestone was the signing of a Financing Agreement that would inject EUR 20 million into Liberia’s National Budget as a grant for macroeconomic stability.
President Sirleaf, in her remarks before conferring the distinction, described the Italian-born EU diplomat as a great man who had accomplished a lot for Liberia and its people.
She said during Amb. Pacifici’s tenure, the EU was transformed into a full-fledged diplomatic mission and from a humanitarian institution to a development oriented body. It was also during his tenure that the Liberia-EU dialogue and many other initiatives were realized.
She regretted that the astute Ambassador was leaving at a time when the country was still facing the onslaught of the Ebola virus disease thereby resulting in an atmosphere of a low key celebration.
Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh, too, described the outgoing EU diplomat as not just a partner, but a dependable friend and a true advocate for Liberia.
Min. Konneh noted that through the Ambassador’s advocacy and commitment to Liberia, the country has witnessed a gradual increase in direct budget support amounting to EUR 40 million and EUR 35 million in budget support for the health sector from the European Union.
“This EUR 75 million constitutes support provided through our budget, and is only part of the total EUR 161 million we have received through the 10th EDF as support to the health, education, agriculture, infrastructure, fisheries and forestry sectors; and to capacity building for the General Auditing Commission and the Bureau of Customs and Excise,” Min. Konneh said.
He indicated that upon Amb. Pacifici’s arrival in 2009, the country’s engagements with the EC were limited because there was not a full EU Delegation in Liberia; and more importantly, the EU Delegation in La Côte D’Ivoire was performing the duties of the NAO for Liberia, in managing the European Development Fund (EDF) allocation for the country because our NAO powers were revoked.
“We met, and decided that our first goal as counterparts was to restore country ownership of EU development interventions, so that Liberia could optimally benefit from EU’s support to our national recovery and development agenda,” the Minister said.
He recalled that in 2013, Liberia and the EU signed the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) allowing Liberia to export its forestry materials to EU at no cost. “This agreement has a six-year life span 2014-2020, during which we expect substantial revenue and job creation as we gain access to international markets for our natural resources.”
He noted that with Amb. Pacifici’s leadership, Liberians are assured of the strong continuity of this level of support from the EU, as substantive investments were made in terms of financial and technical support to build the capacity of the NAO which manages the EDF and ensures transparency, mutual accountability and optimal allocation toward viable, impactful projects and programs.
“Having supported us in building a credible and competent NAO, we can now look forward to the next envelope of EU support in the amount of EUR 279 million, which constitutes the 11th EDF, set for implementation from early next year up to 2020. This represents a 73 percent increase in the EDF allocation for Liberia.”
Another immense contribution of the outgoing diplomat was what Minister Konneh termed, as the swiftness and impact of the EU’s support to Liberia at a time “when we needed all of our friends the most – when the Ebola Virus invaded our country.”
“The Ambassador responded quickly,” he said, “by advocating strongly with the EU Headquarters for increased budget support for Liberia. As a result, we have received more than US $35 million as grant directly into our budget, since the beginning of the crisis.
The EU Ambassador thanked the government for the honor and said that it has always been part of his nature to serve humanity, noting that when one wants to be a good diplomat, he/she should try to understand the culture and makeup of the people whom one works with.
The Outgoing EU boss noted that most of his interactions with the government have culminated in actions that are critical for the future of the nation.
He noted that he has always stood out as a diplomat because he likes what he does, interacting and knowing the needs of people. “There is nothing worse in life than doing something you don’t like.”
He praised the Liberian people for the level of impression they had on him during his tour of duty in the country.
Meanwhile, the traditional people of Liberia, through the Ministry of Internal Affairs, gowned the outgoing EU Ambassador and gave him the title of Paramount Chief of the newly created Tehr district in Bomi County. The district was recently created by the Johnson Sirleaf administration. The word “Tehr” is a Gola name meaning “Center.”
The ceremony was attended by an array of high profile government officials, especially from the Executive branch including the conferrer, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Internal Affairs, Agriculture and many others.
The Doyen and several members of the Diplomatic Corps were also in attendance. The Chairman of the Governance Commission, Amos C. Sawyer, and several other eminent Liberians were also present.