Remarks by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Farid Zarif at the “Ceremonial Handover of Security by the United Nations Mission in Liberia to the Government of Liberia”

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Your Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia
Honorable Vice President, Mr. Joseph Boakai
Honorable members of the Cabinet
Your Honor the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court
Honorable Speaker, President Pro Tempore and members of the Legislature
Heads of agencies
Representatives of political parties, civil society and religious groups
Dean and members of the Diplomatic Corps
Members of the media
Members of the UN family
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, 1 July 2016, is indeed a historic day – the day Liberia reassumes full responsibility for its own security.

In his statement of yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has paid tribute to the people and Government of Liberia for this historic milestone.

This achievement is testament to the progress Liberia has made, together with its international partners, during 13 years of peace.

It is a culmination of the step-by-step rebuilding of Liberia’s security institutions almost from scratch, following the long years of civil war.

Over several years of the deployment of UNMIL, Liberia’s security institutions took on ever more responsibilities as the Mission drew down from its peak of more than 16,000 uniformed personnel in 2007 to the 1,240 military and 606 police personnel that remain here today.

All of us in the United Nations family join the Secretary-General in commending Liberia and its leaders for its accomplishment today.

We should all applaud the men and women representing Liberia’s security institutions, which have worked so hard on the security transition.

All ten of the residual security responsibilities that were still being performed by UNMIL have been successfully handed over to the Liberian security institutions, who are executing their duties in an exemplary manner.

Allow me to recognize the commitment and leadership demonstrated by the Government over the past 18 months in implementing its security transition plan. Madam President, kudos to you!

In particular, I would like to recognize those who served on the Joint Implementation Group, Transition Taskforce and the Transition Finance Committee, as well as the Project Implementation Unit, which led the efforts of the national agencies and institutions to ensure implementation of the plan. I commend the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frederick Cherue, and his predecessor, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, for efficiently coordinating the overall transition of the security sector.

I reiterate the Secretary-General’s recognition of international partners’ important contributions to the transition process. Today is a day which both Liberians and their international partners should be proud of.

The collaboration over many years has forged a strong partnership between national and international actors. This provides a solid basis for sustaining progress in the post-security transition period.

More personnel than ever before have been deployed outside of the capital Monrovia, especially to the border counties.

Liberia’s leaders recognize the importance of sustaining these deployments, including by ensuring that the associated recurrent costs are included in the national budget going forward.

Major steps have been taken forward in professionalizing the security institutions, and in strengthening their organizational and management capacities, which remains a key priority area for support from the international partners.

Liberians have made strides in providing the necessary legislative framework for a fully functioning rule of law sector.

Perhaps most importantly, security agencies have become markedly more visible, accountable and engaged with the communities that they serve.

Now, sustained political commitment is needed to both build on the gains made in the security sector and to create the conditions for long lasting stability and peace in Liberia.

Priority areas related to the security sector include the enactment of key legislation, follow through on organizational reform of the security institutions, and effective control of Government and privately-owned weapons.

There is a need to enhance national early warning systems, including through the County and District Security Councils and an effective intelligence coordination mechanism. These are the means that will help Liberians to defuse conflicts before they turn violent – with unpredictable consequences.

Effective community engagement and civilian oversight are cornerstones of building trust between communities and security institutions – which is critical to the long-term success of the security transition.

The plans for an accountable and democratic security architecture that will be trusted by the population are included in the President’s Agenda for Transformation and National Security Strategy; they must be implemented.

For these priorities to be fully achieved, a continued robust engagement and support of the international community will remain vital.

Madam President, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests,
UNMIL is not leaving Liberia with the completion of the security transition. In September, a high-powered multi-disciplinary team from the UN headquarters will carry out a comprehensive assessment of the situation in Liberia.

Based on this assessment, the Secretary-General will provide recommendations to the Security Council by 15 November, on which basis the Council will determine the Mission’s future in the month of December.

In the meantime, we will continue to support the Government to strengthen its security capacities and to advance reform processes that are essential for long-term peace and stability in Liberia.

Regardless of when the Mission eventually closes, the United Nations will remain in Liberia to support its government and people in close collaboration with other international partners.

Liberia’s long-term peace and security, however, will hinge not only on critical security sector reforms, but also on a broader range of transformative processes that promote reconciliation and “human security”, and address sources of conflict.

I am confident that the people and leadership of the Republic of Liberia will build on the success of the security transition in order to more confidently take on longstanding challenges, such as reconciliation that engages all stakeholders in Liberia.

In closing, Madame, President, Liberians will succeed in strengthening the peace and taking their country to its deserved prosperous future.

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