UN Intervention in Post-Conflict Situations Must Be Rapid, Smart and Sufficient, UNDP Administrator Says
February 6, 2004
United Nations intervention in post-conflict situations must be rapid, smart and on a sufficient scale to turn the tide towards a sustainable peace, Mark Malloch Brown, Chairman of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said at the opening of a two-day International Conference on the Reconstruction of Liberia, co-sponsored by the United States, the World Bank and the United Nations.
Urging participants in the high-level event not to miss a unique opportunity to help achieve a real and lasting peace dividend for the people of Liberia, he said that peace in that country remained fragile, requiring urgent action to help ensure that the gains made towards its recovery were not reversed. The Joint United Nations/World Bank Needs Assessment Report on Liberia focused on the highest priority requirements for the country’s transition from relief to recovery through elections by October 2005. The assessment mission, detailing Liberia’s requirements from security to basic services, had estimated a need of
$487.7 million for the two-year period.
The road to recovery would be long and arduous, warned Andrew Natsios, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Also, reconstruction would inevitably fail if the donor community and other external actors insisted on taking the lead role. Their role was to help the Liberian people to rebuild their country. Reconstruction efforts should be informed by successes in other parts of Africa and the world. In addition, Liberia was the key to the stable future of West Africa, and the reconstruction effort was, therefore, vital for the subregion.
Mats Karlsson, the World Bank’s Country Director for Liberia, stressed the urgency of maintaining the momentum of the process begun with the signing of the peace agreement in Accra, Ghana, last summer, even in the face of possible reversals. It was time to mobilize collective strengths and resources to keep that process moving forward. The framework set forth in the needs assessment was clear about the priorities and trade-offs, and provided an instrument of leadership and management around which Liberian leaders could rally their previously divided nation. It was an extraordinary instrument of communication.
Christian Herbert, Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs in Liberia’s National Transitional Government, said that domestic resources were woefully inadequate to meet the needs of post-conflict reconstruction. External assistance was imperative to ensure improved security; the success of the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and resettlement programme; good governance; democratic development and the rule of law; and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. Outside Monrovia, where security had improved, many rural areas remained inaccessible, and international support was critical for the provision of humanitarian assistance.
Addressing the humanitarian aspects of reconstruction, United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie noted that despite the strides made since the dark days of last summer, there were Liberians who had still not seen the benefits of the peace agreement. Many of them still lived under conditions of war, and there should be no false sense of normalcy. Humanitarian action was essential for the consolidation of peace.
Echoing similar sentiments, the representative of one of several non-governmental organizations participating in the Conference, said the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers was still incomplete five months after receiving a strong mandate from the Security Council. Civilian protection was haphazard at best and humanitarian access was far from assured.
Among other speakers this morning, the Conference also heard from Harry Greaves, Economic Advisor to the Chairman of Liberia’s National Transitional Government; Arnim Schwidrowski, of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); and Sipke Brouwer, of the European Commission.
Delegations taking part in the morning session included the representatives of South Africa, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and the United States. The Conference also heard from representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Development Bank.
Also speaking were the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Liberia and Country Team Leader, as well as senior United Nations officials representing the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The event resumes at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, 6 February, with a Ministerial-Level Pledging Conference.
Beginning this morning, a two-day International Conference on the Reconstruction of Liberia will bring together representatives of governments, international financial institutions and the United Nations system to address Liberia’s reconstruction needs following the civil war.
The Conference is co-sponsored by the United States, the World Bank and the United Nations. It was organized by the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), which was created by the Secretary-General in 1997 to improve the effectiveness of United Nations development at the country level. The first day will be devoted to technical discussions. The second will be a ministerial-level pledging event, at which senior officials are expected to make statements, as well as pledges of contributions.
Among the documents before the Conference is the Joint United Nations/World Bank Needs Assessment Report on Liberia. (It can be accessed at: http://www.undg.org.) According to its executive summary, the Needs Assessment exercise was designed to focus on the highest priority requirements during Liberia’s transition from relief to recovery, the latter to include national and local elections by October 2005.
The Needs Assessment exercise covered 13 priority sectors grouped into nine clusters: security; disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation; reintegration of internally displaced persons, returnees and refugees; governance and the rule of law; elections; basic services, including health, education, community water and sanitation; productive capacity and livelihoods; infrastructure; and economic policy and development strategy. Attention was also given to seven cross-cutting themes: gender; HIV/AIDS; environment; human rights; shelter; forestry; and media.
The executive summary also explains that, since the military coup in 1980, Liberia has experienced a period of intense yet sustained political, economic and social disruption. The conflict -– or more accurately, the series of conflicts -– has involved widespread violation and abuse of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties. Following a three-year period of relative calm, hostilities resumed in 2001 and culminated in violence throughout the country during the June-August 2003 period.
It was in the aftermath of this latest chapter in Liberia’s “grim history of civil conflict” that the warring sides agreed to a Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 18 August 2003, in Accra. The Agreement has provided the political and substantive road map guiding all international planning efforts to bolster Liberia’s post-conflict recovery. Planning for a United Nations mission to Liberia was completed in September 2003, when the Security Council established the United Nations Mission there (UNMIL).
It was in this atmosphere of renewed hope for the future of Liberia that the United Nations and the World Bank agreed to undertake a focused assessment of the country’s recovery and reconstruction needs for the 2004-2005 period. It was also during this period that the Consolidated Appeals Process for Liberia 2004 was prepared. It covers the vast array of humanitarian needs that continue to represent the “starkest reminder” of the excesses and abuses committed throughout the pre-peace era. The Appeal’s requirements continue to be “of the utmost importance and must be seen, for moral, as well as humanitarian, reasons, as first and foremost priority for donor funding”.
MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that the international Conference was a “critical milestone in Liberia’s journey from crisis to recovery”. The signing in August 2003 of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement had led to the establishment of the National Transitional Government of Liberia and a concerted international effort to help Liberians recover from the ruinous effects of conflict and rebuild their country. That also provided a crucial opportunity to help stabilize a region that had inevitably been affected by spillover.
He said the peace was fragile, and urgent action was now needed to help ensure that the gains that had been made towards Liberia’s recovery were not reversed. The main objective of today’s session was to focus on the needs now prevailing in Liberia, for which the framework was the Needs Assessment Synthesis Report. Indeed, the Needs Assessment exercise and its substantive core -– the Results-Focused Transitional Framework –- was a real testimony to the excellent level of cooperation between the organizations involved.
The Needs Assessment gave the total financial requirements for the two-year period at an estimated $487.7 million, divided between $243 million for 2004 and $244.7 million for 2005, he said. Those figures were in addition to the needs presented in the Consolidated Appeal for 2004, which amounted to $179.1 million. The amount of funding sought did not reflect the totality of needs likely to exist in the country today. Rather, the guiding principle in determining both the scope of the Transition Strategy and the costs of its implementation had been to tailor ambitions to what could realistically be achieved within the next two years, given the limitations of security and the time constraints in drawing up the assessment.
He said the assessment was a credible document, which set out in detail what was required, sector by sector, for Liberia’s recovery process. He hoped that, tomorrow, donors would contribute the necessary resources to achieve that. In that exercise, which had built on the experience of earlier country needs assessments in Afghanistan and Iraq, a methodology was being developed, which offered donors confidence to commit resources and the recipient country the opportunity to shape and own its priorities. The events in Liberia demonstrated just how fragile was the transition from relief to recovery. Clearly, the next time it was necessary to respond to emerging transition situations, resources needed to be delivered “much sooner”. External resources, made available as grants and soft loans, were an essential prerequisite for a successful transition.
In Liberia, he noted, the national revenue currently available was insufficient to provide essential equipment or permit the rehabilitation of basic services, like water and electricity. Lack of resources had also impeded efforts in such critical areas as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants. The greatest threat today to renewed conflict was young men with guns, who had not been quickly disarmed and given alternative economic livelihoods. Revitalized community structures, functioning basic services and a government that responded to the needs of all people would ultimately provide the kind of climate that encouraged both community stability and the prosperity. Underpinning that was the beginning of a viable economy that would sustain jobs and tax revenue.
Looking to the wider global context, he said that post-conflict intervention posed two clear needs. First, the response must be quick and sufficient, with people and resources ready. Opportunities for peace consolidation must be supported quickly, comprehensively and decisively. The young men rioting on the outskirts of Monrovia because resources were not there for the disarmament programme would not be placated with the line “wait for the donors meeting in New York”. Second, the parties needed to significantly increase their shared international efforts in the area of analysis, lessons learned and best practice. For the United Nations system, the intervention had to be “rapid, smart and on a sufficient scale to turn the tide towards a sustainable peace”, he stressed.
He said that the international Conference provided the opportunity for bilaterals, regional organizations and international development agencies to strengthen their partnership with Liberia. A strong and concerted effort by donors was needed to achieve that. “Let us not miss this unique opportunity to help achieve a real and lasting peace dividend for the people of Liberia”, he said.
ANDREW NATSIOS, Administrator of the United States Development Agency (USAID), said that the 18 August comprehensive peace agreement signed in Monrovia last year was an excellent reference point for today’s conference. All parties had committed to promoting full respect for good governance, as well as international humanitarian law and human rights.
He said that as a result of the country’s protracted civil war, Liberia, once classified as a middle-income country, was now regarded as a failed State known for abductions, torture, rapes and other humanitarian atrocities, as well as the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The road to recovery would be long and arduous, and the role of external actors was to help the Liberians rebuild their country. If the donors and other external players insisted on taking the lead, reconstruction would inevitably fail.
Stressing that disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and resettlement must be successful for the reconstruction to proceed, he said security was, therefore, essential. Reconstruction efforts in Liberia should be informed by successes in other parts of Africa and the world. In addition, disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and resettlement must happen early on and in a timely fashion. The present effort must prevent young soldiers from drifting back into war for lack of gainful employment after assistance ran out.
Underscoring that Liberia’s people were its real wealth, he said that for too long they had been denied the opportunity to make a difference. There was an urgent need for capacity-building in Liberia as the people deserved to enjoy normal public services. With an estimated population of only 3 million, concentrated external assistance could have a tremendous effect. Liberia was the key to the stable future of West Africa, and the present effort was, therefore, vital for the region.
MATS KARLSSON, Director for Liberia, World Bank, stressed the urgency of the process. There was momentum, and there had been realism about the risks and challenges ahead. Now, it was essential to mobilize the collective strengths and resources to ensure that the process that began in Accra kept its momentum; that step by step, even in the face of possible reversals, the process retained its momentum and moved forward. The Needs Assessment process started in November, and barely 10 weeks later, a framework had been provided. That was at the core of today’s Conference. The process took a one–team approach -- everyone had a role to play and was part of the solution.
He said that all post-conflict situations had lessons to tell, and each situation was unique and difficult. In Liberia, the innovation was to put the Needs Assessment on the table and look at the two-year period, while focusing on the results and drawing conclusions from them. The Framework offered three major wins. It was clear about the priorities, trade-offs, choices and monitoring; it provided an instrument of leadership and management, so that Liberian leaders could rally the previously divided nation around one set of results. And, by being brief and comprehensive, the Framework was an extraordinary instrument of communication.
The expectations of the Liberians were “huge”, and “we need to meet and manage those”, he said, through Liberian ownership and participation. Indeed, community-driven development needed to be at the core of the process. That was the essence of building the democracy, culminating in the elections in two years. Clear goals and flexibility had been built into the follow-up, he said.
Presentation of Results-Focused Transitional Framework
CHRISTIAN HERBERT, Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs in the National Transitional Government of Liberia, said that domestic resources were woefully inadequate to meet the needs of post-conflict reconstruction. External assistance was, therefore, imperative to ensure improved security; the success of the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and resettlement programme; good governance; democratic development and the rule of law; and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.
He said that the priorities contained in the Results-Focused Transitional Framework reflected the basic needs of the Liberian people. While the situation in Monrovia and its environs could be considered to have improved, most of the country’s rural areas were inaccessible, and international support was, therefore, critical in helping to provide humanitarian assistance to those who lived there. A mechanism was being finalized to monitor and evaluate the Results-Focused Transitional Framework.
HARRY GREAVES, Adviser to the Chairman on Economic Affairs, National Transitional Government of Liberia, reviewed the content of the Results-Focused Transitional Framework and detailed the requirements for its implementation.
DAVID NABARRO, United Nations Development Group, stressed some of the realities of the coming two-year transformation. First, Liberia had to transform itself from a culture of violence, fear and helplessness to one of protection. It had to reverse a situation in which thousands of armed “brigands” were dispensing rural terror, to one in which there were clusters of disarmed and active youth-promoting community development and stable societies. Liberia had to move away from 20 years of bitter warfare to the rule of law, and from an environment where women lived in fear to one in which they were truly empowered. It needed to leave behind a nation ruled by despots to one in which, by the end of 2005, a democratically elected government was in place.
He said that the lack of schools, health care, water supplies and electricity, and increasing levels of fatal disease had to be remedied. Capital flight had to be stemmed, and an environment that tempted financial investment, with transparent and audited financial governance, had to emerge. The Needs Assessment process sought to prioritize essential actions in the transition, and it tried to select priority outcomes and cluster them together into the different sectors. It also sought to indicate the expected results at six-month intervals. Among the overarching priority outcomes was the management of conflict in ways that contained violence and ensured security, through the combination of United Nations peacekeepers and internal capacity.
RICHARD VERSPYCK, World Bank, said he was convinced that the social economic clusters provided the framework to return the country to the right path. The Framework was about setting priorities and trade-offs. The formulation of the social and economic clusters had been dictated by the impact of economic recovery and the living conditions. The socio-economic path of the Framework’s matrix provided the guide for moving from emergency to recovery and development. The socio-economic objectives of the Framework also created strong incentives to a “change of culture”, including within the Government by setting milestones for better economic management. The objectives also paved the way for genuine community-based development.
ARNIM SCHWIDROWSKI, International Monetary Fund (IMF), said that after visiting Monrovia, an IMF mission had reviewed the Transitional Government’s initial measures to strengthen revenue collection and improve the budget. In a departure from the past, the new Government had largely cooperated with the mission. Agriculture had suffered the most from the hostilities, but commerce had recovered somewhat.
While falling revenue and lack of credit characterized the fiscal situation, the Government had made progress to strengthen revenue collection, he said. Average monthly collections had increased to about $5 million between October 2003 and January 2004. To strengthen governance, the Transitional Government had liberalized rice imports and would shortly conduct an exercise to purge “ghost workers” from the payroll.
Looking to the future, he said economic prospects for the first part of 2004 depended crucially on improved security in the countryside beyond Monrovia. Domestic funding sources were unavailable due to arrears owed to the Central Bank and commercial banks. The banking system had suffered from the siege of Monrovia and the decline of economic activity in 2003. The IMF understood that the Central Bank was among the institutions that would require a comprehensive audit.
SIPKE BROUWER, European Commission, said the Commission had firmly supported international efforts to bring the warring Liberian factions to the negotiating table, to provide funding for the peacekeeping troops of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and to stage the Ghana peace conference.
He said the population and fighters alike should be aware of the reconstruction programme and of what to expect in the long term. Reconstruction was an enormous task and, given the short timeframe within which the assessment had to be carried out, not all relevant information had been obtained. The programme would have to be adjusted accordingly as time passed. The European Union had been involved in political dialogue with Liberia, and the benchmarks that had been set out, as well as those laid out at the Accra peace agreement, should be met.
The representative of South Africa said he would have thought that, in trying to assist Liberia towards sustainable development, the issue of the environment would have been highlighted.
The representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) expressed the Community’s deep appreciation to its partners and to the United States, European Union and the UNDG for facilitating the convening of the Conference. Good progress was being made towards implementing the peace agreement, but everyone should be cognizant of fact that the ability to consolidate that peace depended on how quickly assistance was rendered to Liberia to redevelop and reconstruct the country and provide a “normal” life for its people. He hoped that the issue of Liberia’s debt would be considered, especially in light of the desire for long-term sustainable growth the development.
The representative of Guinea said that, among the conclusions of the Conference, he would highlight the commitments and responsibilities of the Liberian Government in the development process, with the support of the international community. He would also stress the need for the rapid mobilization of resources to implement disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as the need to reconcile the Security Council’s mandate in that region with the need to meet the very pressing resource requirements of Liberia.
The speaker from Sierra Leone said that, in many ways, “what Liberia was going through, we have gone through”. He, thus, expressed his country’s profound gratitude to the institutions represented here -- the United Nations and other organizers of the Conference. Without peace in Liberia, Sierra Leone would never enjoy peace or feel secure. He sincerely hoped that donors would “give their best” to the people of Liberia, so that, together, it would be possible to move forward the Mano River Union basin in terms of development, peace and security.
Response to Delegations
Mr. GREAVES, Adviser to the Chairman on Economic Affairs, National Transitional Government of Liberia, said that the question of environment was treated as a cross-cutting issue and handled in a number of different dimensions, including those relating to human health and environmental danger zones. Regarding environmental governance, an environmental protection and management law had not yet been fully enacted.
On debt, he said the Transitional Government had deliberately decided not to treat the matter at the present conference, which might not be the right forum to handle such a complicated issue. Per capita debt was running at about $1,000 while per capita income was only about $100. The debt issue would be raised in discussions with the World Bank and the United States Treasury.
He said the Transitional Government was attempting to find a comprehensive solution to the debt issue that would take into account its bilateral, as well as multilateral, components. It was important that the Transitional Government deal with the debt issue because, during and after the country’s reconstruction, it would still need to borrow externally.
Mr. NABARRO, United Nations Development Group (UNDG), added that a comprehensive United Nations environmental study had recently been completed in Liberia. That would be discussed in a session this afternoon.
CAROLYN MCASKIE, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), noted that while great strides had been made since the dark days of last summer, there were Liberians who had still not seen the benefits of the peace agreement. Urgent humanitarian assistance was needed now so that people could return to their homes knowing that basic services were available for themselves, as well as their children. A lot of people still lived under conditions of war, and there should be no false sense that everything was normal. Humanitarian action was essential for the consolidation of peace.
ABOU MOUSSA, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and United Nations Country Team Leader, said that the peacekeeping forces in the country, standing at more than 11,000 troops, had gradually spread outside Monrovia and were carrying out regular patrols throughout the countryside. Humanitarian activities by United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were also spreading. However, more than 50 joint assessments by NGOs had revealed persistent suffering and the need for continuing humanitarian assistance.
Lasting peace could not be achieved without disarmament and demobilization, as well as long-term reintegration, he said. In Liberia, more than 12,000 combatants had been disarmed, but the process had been suspended and would resume in March pending the full deployment of peacekeepers and the fulfilment of other conditions. A massive back-to-school campaign had been launched for 750,000 children; trade and commerce were blossoming; and electricity and water supplies had been restored to some parts of Monrovia. In order to build community confidence, it was essential to revitalize community structures and restore services.
Sister BARBARA BRILLIANT, FMM Catholic Mission, appealed for security, first and foremost; Liberians knew about the running and the hiding. She spoke on behalf, not only of faith-based institutions, but also of local NGOs, which were willing and able to get back to work and do what they did best. Thought should be given, not only to rehabilitating structures, but also to rehabilitating the people. Many organizations present had policies which seemed to be good on the outside, but tore down the NGOs and did not allow the Government to survive. Everyone should look at their policies, with a view towards better coordination and collaboration.
She said she had been working in the health field in Liberia for 17 years. The policy-makers must consider how their policies could be sustained. With 146 NGOs now registered in Liberia, their capacities needed to be built so that they could continue their work. Last, but not least, was the great need for evaluation and monitoring. Liberians were capable of doing the necessary work. They just need more training and some uplifting of their psyches and souls. It seemed that no one fully understood the impact of HIV/AIDS on the country. That was the utmost emergency and would be the next disaster in Liberia, she warned.
NICOLA REINDORP, Oxfam International, said it was an awesome responsibility to urge everyone here to act on behalf of the Liberian people. Oxfam was now involved in the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene, girls’ education, adult literacy and so forth. Only 25 per cent of the population had access to safe water, and less than one third had access to sanitation. She wondered what could be said here to turn Liberia from a “neglected crisis” to an opportunity to be seized now. She also wondered what was the magic formula needed to turn donor neglect into engagement in the urgent humanitarian needs.
Highlighting some key points, she said that security was still the “foundation for everything”. The United Nations’ deployment was still incomplete, some five months after receiving a strong mandate from the Security Council. Civilian protection was haphazard, at best, and humanitarian access was far from being assured. Ensuring that UNMIL was up to full strength by the end of March was a fundamental challenge. Also challenging, but critical, was the coordination and integration of the “DDRR” programme. Indeed, the reintegration of some 40,000 former fighters had gotten off to a shaky start.
She said that well equipped demobilization camps were needed, including special provisions for women and children. Just as important as gathering guns was giving former combatants a real chance for integration. Focusing on the two “d’s” -– disarmament and demobilization, while leaving for later the “r’s” -– reintegration and resettlement –- could defeat the success of the programme. Sound sensitization strategies were also critical, especially since a major reason for the breakdown of peace last time had been unrealistic expectations on the part of the combatants. At the same time, all Liberians must be considered in the reconstruction process.
Another area of focus should be justice and the rule of law, she said. It was important to involve Liberians in the decision-making and to develop mechanisms for setting up and achieving both short- and long-term goals and capacity-building. Critically important was to recognize the particular needs of Liberian women, who had borne so much of the brunt of the country’s conflict. In responding to the humanitarian needs, it was imperative to formulate a regional approach. One example was the flows of small arms, which required technical and financial support. Support should be given to a national commission on small arms. Also, the ECOWAS moratorium on small arms, due to expire in November, should be made legally binding, and its enforcement mechanism should be seriously strengthened. Hopefully, now would be the moment to “buck the trend” of Liberia being a neglected crisis, she said.
JULIUS COLES, Africare, said that both American and international NGOs had played a prominent role in Liberia in the past 14 years of difficulty and destruction. When so many had abandoned Liberia, Africare had stayed the course, even losing some staff members’ lives along the way. Its work in Liberia had been extensive, with its thousands of staff members addressing a wide range of humanitarian needs throughout the country, including in places still not reached by United Nations’ peacekeepers, delivering critical food, water, sanitation, shelter, education, and community-development assistance.
He said he had just returned from Liberia, where he had observed the massive destruction, including of hospitals and clinics, first-hand. Also, as others had stated, delayed “DDR” and inadequate security had resulted in thousands more killings, rapes and pillaging of defenceless civilians. He had been impressed with UNMIL’s establishment of security zones, but those were still very dangerous places at night. The establishment of sub-offices of UNMIL, as envisaged, should occur without delay, and containment centres must be set up to retrain ex-combatants, with greater attention paid to female ex-combatants.
The provision of basic services to the thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons remained unmet, he said. Donors, therefore, should pay more attention to the needs of the most vulnerable, with clear protective measures to ensure non-discriminatory access to services, including for the women victims of war. He also strongly urged the integration of child protection services into all relevant activities. There was a certain need for an “economic jumpstart” in Liberia. The planting season had arrived; farming tools must be delivered without delay, and income-generating programmes must come on line. He urged the quickest possible means to make resources available to farmers for the planting of rice and other crops. He agreed with previous speakers that more attention should be given to the regional aspects of the problems, particularly the regional arms flows, timber exploitation and the movement of gangs across borders.
RIMA SALA, Regional Director for West and Central Africa of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said Liberia had one of the world’s five highest child-mortality rates. More than 20,000 of the country’s children had experienced conflict, as well as the wholesale dismantling of the education and health systems. Despite recent process towards peace and reconciliation, and the concrete gains made since last summer for children in areas where UNICEF had access, much remained outstanding.
Children’s access to education was a moral and ethical consideration, she said, pointing out that a child who went to school was a child who did not go to war. The challenge was to ensure that the children of Liberia had something better to do other than fighting. An immediate challenge was the opportunity brought about by disarmament, demobilization reintegration and resettlement. There must be a focus on reintegration, particularly of child combatants. Just as reconstruction was the best chance for Liberia, its children were the best chance for Liberia’s future.
GEMMO LADESANI, Regional Coordinator for West Africa of the World Food Programme (WFP), said that despite progress made in reaching the most vulnerable people, several challenges remained, the most critical of which was security. Throughout the year, humanitarian needs would remain enormous with food needs constituting a high priority for most of the population. WFP’s ability to target the food aid was hindered in part by the significant logistical and operational difficulties relating to having most of the country under security phase 5.
With the stabilization of peace, WFP interventions were progressively shifting from emergency to recovery activities, he said. In that context, the WFP would retain the capacity to respond concurrently to emergency needs and to opportunities for rehabilitation throughout 2004. That would include timely support for agricultural campaigns and for the resettlement of displaced populations.
With its high-potential agricultural areas and sufficient arable land, Liberia should gradually achieve self-sufficiency in several crops, including cereals, should security continue to improve, he said. That would reduce significantly the number of people who would otherwise depend on food aid. As WFP’s operations shifted in scope, its response would also focus on addressing the humanitarian needs of vulnerable persons in locations bordering Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Failure to address their food needs could lead to population movements with significant implications for the safety of civilians and relief workers.
ZOBAIDA HASSIM-ASHAGRIE, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that after years of civil war, most Liberians, including those who had never left their homeland, were suffering from malnutrition and other ills. Women and children required special attention. Already, the deployment of peacekeepers to counties outside Monrovia had improved security, and once the situation was brought under control, it was expected that most refugees and internally displaced persons would return to their communities.
She called for the launching of community-empowerment projects aimed at revitalizing traditional agricultural and other practices. A regional multiyear plan was under preparation whereby reconstruction efforts would be inextricably linked to a reintegration component. The success of the peace process would depend in part on how those implementing it dealt with refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as those who had never left the country.
The representative of ECOWAS paid tribute to the agencies and NGOs that had remained and responded to the pressing needs of the Liberians. A department of humanitarian affairs had been established in the ECOWAS secretariat, and he was looking forward to the signing, this afternoon, of a memorandum of understanding with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and to extending that type of cooperation to NGOs and other humanitarian agencies.
A representative of the National Transitional Government of Liberia thanked the international community for convening the special humanitarian forum. The whole question of humanitarian issues must be attacked concurrently with issues of development and reconstruction. Most speakers had highlighted the challenges and the way forward. The situation in Monrovia was deplorable, and leaving Monrovia for other parts of the country was even worse. The basic needs of people everywhere simply were not being met. All of that pointed to the need for UNMIL to deploy throughout the country, as quickly as possible, so as to lessen the humanitarian needs. She added that she had been “a bit disappointed” at the low response to the Consolidated Appeal for 2004.
The speaker from Côte d’Ivoire warmly thanked the initiators of the Conference and the international community for everything it had done thus far for Liberia. The people of the subregion were closely linked, and armed conflict in one country had repercussions in all of the others. Peace in Liberia could only have positive effects on the entire subregion, particularly in Côte d’Ivoire, where isolated combatants in the west of the country were harassing the local population. He would follow with interest the results of the “DDR” programme, on which the return to sustainable peace largely depended. He asked for more details about problems encountered in implementing “DDR”, as well as what solutions were envisaged.
A representative of the African Development Bank said the regional perspective to the HIV/AIDS problem was critical. He especially highlighted the population in the border areas of the Mano River countries, which was experiencing a rapid spiking of the illness because the various national programmes had been unable to capture that population group. The Bank was very ready to work with any organizations, particularly UNAIDS, to address that population group.
The European Commission’s speaker stressed the need to implement “DDR” simultaneously with the provision of humanitarian assistance, in order to avoid the impression that only former combatants would benefit from that assistance. He looked forward to the permanent presence in the country of United Nations agencies. Of particular concern had been the reports of abuse and harassment of civilians by former combatants to the extent that some communities had even requested that food aid or seeds not be delivered, in order to avoid such harassment.
He cited as one important challenge the coordination and coherence between the political, military and humanitarian components of assistance. The Commission would continue to adopt a regional approach in its provision of humanitarian and relief programmes. He welcomed the appointment of a leading agency to consider the needs of the internally displaced in Liberia.
A speaker from the United States stressed the importance of there being no dividing line between providing and addressing the humanitarian needs and recovery and development. Everyone was saying that, but it was time to move from words to having that happen. Everyone who had suffered should receive comparable assistance. All groups were vulnerable and deserved comparable care and assistance. There were several reports and assessments, but the effort must be coordinated.
She said that resources would be wasted if they were applied with a “silo effect”. Avoiding that meant a great deal of communication and a willingness to give up some autonomy. It also meant that, from time to time, the monitoring and evaluation effort might push some back, but everyone should be willing to push back if resources were being wasted. Also extremely important was the provision of support for the refugees and internally displaced persons, as that was key to giving real meaning to the words of concern for all the persons affected by the tragedy.
Summary of Breakout Group Discussions
Mr. HERBERT, Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, National Transitional Government of Liberia, said, when the meeting resumed, that the discussions held in the five preceding breakout group sessions had been frank and fruitful. Regarding security, participants had agreed unanimously on the need for a rapid restructuring of the armed forces with civilian oversight. Police and correctional institutions must be professionalized and made more responsive to the democratic process. Discussants had also stressed the importance of the subregional dimension of disarmament, otherwise sustainable peace in Liberia would be difficult. Developments in neighbouring countries could have an impact on Liberia and vice versa.
He said discussants had also highlighted the urgent need to address human rights violations with a particular focus on women and children. The need to tackle gender-based violence, rape as a weapon of war and the recruitment of children as combatants was very important.
Participants had also been urged to focus on the importance of food security and the need to jump-start Liberia’s agricultural sector, he said. It had been agreed that agriculture was the key to reviving Liberia’s entire economy and creating employment for demobilized former combatants. The reconstruction programme must be people-centred and place an emphasis on internally displaced persons and returnees electing their own leaders.
Regarding the Consolidated Appeal Programme, he said it had been agreed that there should be a clear link between reconstruction goals and humanitarian needs. Also emphasized had been the need to ensure that those who contributed to reconstruction would be guaranteed access to information on how resources had been utilized.
The discussants had also agreed that HIV/AIDS would perhaps be the next great catastrophe in Liberia if it were not addressed rapidly, he said. There was a need for added emphasis on education to reduce the level of HIV prevalence, as well as to increase the level of information on HIV/AIDS disseminated throughout the country.
Mr. NATSIOS, USAID Administrator, added one last idea, which was about integrating, as much as possible, developmental programming into the immediate
relief interventions under way right now. A study completed last year found that 20 per cent of improved varieties of seed from agriculture research stations around the world had been introduced into Africa through the emergency development relief programme. So, it was possible to incorporate such things into a relief programme very early on, thereby operationalizing speed and quick response with the longer-term impact programmes.
Mr. MALLOCH BROWN, UNDP Administrator and UNDG Chair, said he had been very encouraged by the energy and the discussion today. That had showed it was possible to keep up the momentum, which was key to keeping all the players in the peace agreement on board. “That was the game in town”, he said. Regarding sustainability, there was a risk that the methods used left NGOs stranded after their period of finance; donors did not build their capacity as things went along. The way to create sustainability in the future, therefore, was to find ways to get the urgent support in there and build capacity at the same time.
He said he knew the legacy of the past and the mismanagement of resources, but sustainable structures should be built as things went forward. He had been very encouraged today by the technical discussion. Tomorrow was the opportunity to pledge the resources needed to play that “urgent game”. What had been so striking was that, contrary to those who viewed the world as suffering from aid fatigue and neglectful of crises in Africa, 110 countries had voted with their feet, and tomorrow he would try to make as many as possible vote with their checkbooks. He hoped and prayed for a hugely successful day.