An 18-man delegation is in Liberia on a ‘strategic assessment mission’ from the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The delegation was sent by the UN Security Council to develop recommendations on the possible withdrawal of UNMIL’s force and its transition into a future UN presence that would assist the Liberian government consolidates peace and stability.
UNMIL’s mandate expires on September 30 and the Council is expected to adopt a resolution later this month renewing the mission’s mandate in its current configuration for a period of three months pending the recommendations of this assessment mission, due in November.
The UN team, which is headed by Mr. El Ghassim Wane, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, paid a courtesy call on Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. B. Elias Shoniyin,
The visitors were led to see Mr. Shoniyin by Mr. Farid Zarif, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG). Mr. Zarif heads the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Mr. Shoniyin expressed how grateful Liberians are for the level of UN support, particularly in 2003 when UNMIL was formed and for the very meaningful role it has played in restoring peace to Liberia.
“UNMIL has not only been with us in the security sector, but also greatly in civil affairs. They have helped us to restore some of our civil institutions and also the private sector,” he stated.
According to the release, the Deputy Minister told the UN Team that the Liberian government would appreciate the current configuration of UNMIL until after 2017.
“For us, 2017 is going to be a very critical period and a test of how consolidated and firm our peace and stability is. It will also give us a sense of how strong and firm the ‘shock absorber’ is to respond to potential issues of pre or post-election crisis. We are anticipating that the election will go on without any crisis. However, it is also important that we leave room for the unlikely event of any such thing. With that in mind, we believe that the maintenance of the current configuration will be extremely important at this time and the end of 2017.”
Responding, SRSG Zarif spoke of how the UN values the quality of its relationship with the Liberian Government. “It’s based on mutual respect and understanding. This has enabled us to be very frank and candid with each other and to discuss issues relating to peace and stability for the government and people of Liberia and the international community,” he stated.
He told Minister Shoniyin that the composition of the UN assessment team shows the importance the UN attaches to its relationship with Liberia.
The team included UN personnel from the UN Secretariat as well as other levels of that body.
“The reason for this composition is that the UN wants to develop a very comprehensive understanding of the situation in Liberia and make recommendations for the future,” Mr. Zarif added.
According to him, since the team’s arrival on August 29, they have been talking to a lot of people on the ground, including government officials and representatives of CSOs.
He hoped that when the team has finished talking with those they have targeted, they will feel confident that they have gathered all the relevant materials for their works, which will lead to recommendations of future engagement between the Liberian government and the UN.
Also making remarks, Assistant Secretary-General Wane buttressed what Mr. Zarif had said earlier that the composition of the delegation is a further indication of the strong partnership between the Liberian government and the UN.
“We have been requested to work in partnership with the UN Mission here to come up with recommendations on what the future should be in our relationships. Our assessment is based on what has been outlined by the UN Secretary Council, including assessing the security situations on the ground and extent to which Liberian institutions have catalogued the achievements that have been made on the ground,” he added.
He further stated that in designing this new partnership, they are happy that they were able to achieve one milestone of security transition from UNMIL to the Liberian government back in June 2016.
Despite this, the UN Assessment Team is cognizant of the fact that other things might have been missed and that they would tackle what needs to be done to consolidate peace and security in Liberia, according to him.
Assistant Secretary-General Wane further said his team is aware that there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed and they are keen to listen to every Liberian stakeholder in order for them to understand what remains to be done about the challenges on the ground and what they (stakeholders) think should be the role of the UN and other external partners in helping Liberia to move forward.
“We are mindful of the fact that we have key elections taking place next year. Of course this is very important in terms of democratic transition, in terms of peace consolidation and stability and we are working to make the elections a peaceful and transparent one. We have the responsibilities to make sure that what has been achieved peaceably is maintained based on the perimeter of the new partnership more adjusted to the current reality in the Liberia of today, which is different from the Liberia of the past,” he added.
Assistant Secretary-General Wane further maintained that his team will do all to get the relevant information they can collect so that they can proffer best recommendations that would form the bases for future engagement between the Liberian government and the UN.