Presidential Statement and Final Briefing on UN Mission in Sierra Leone
Tomorrow (26 March), the Security Council will be briefed by Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General to Sierra Leone, and Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) Sierra Leone country-configuration at a meeting which will mark the end of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), whose mandate formally concludes on 31 March. It is also expected to adopt a presidential statement welcoming the successful completion of the political mission and the milestone this represents for the consolidation of peace in Sierra Leone following the civil war that ended in 2002. The draft presidential statement was circulated by the UK, the penholder on Sierra Leone, and put under silence this afternoon.
Last year, when the Council adopted resolution 2097, it decided that this would be the final mandate renewal of UNIPSIL, determining that peace and stability had become sufficiently consolidated. This was reflected in large part by the successful presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in November 2012, the third general elections held in Sierra Leone since the end of the civil war. The conclusion of UNIPSIL brings to an end the Security Council authorised missions to Sierra Leone which began in 1998, when 70 UN military observers were first deployed to the country during its decade-long civil war (1991-2002), followed by the establishment of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone in 1999, which eventually totaled more than 17,400 peacekeepers, and remains one of the largest ever UN peacekeeping operations.
According to the Secretary-General’s 14 March report (S/2014/192), the drawdown has progressed on schedule and conditions are set to officially close UNIPSIL at the end of the month. Its remaining tasks-support to the constitutional review and political dialgoue, security sector reform and human rights—are to be taken over as part of the work of the UN Country Team.
Council members are expected to make positive remarks at tomorrow’s meeting and to focus on the successes and the symbolism that Sierra Leone’s progress represents for post-conflict stabilisation and peacebuillding. Earlier this month, the Secretary-General was in Sierra Leone to attend a ceremony on the mission’s closure. Council members may also point to the lessons of UNIPSIL as a good model for future transitions as well as reflect on the positive work carried out by the PBC in Sierra Leone.
At the same time, some members are likely to reinforce that despite its progress Sierra Leone will continue to face challenges, and that the international community must maintain support. Some of these challenges are linked to the underlying causes of the civil war, and were highlighted in the recent Secretary-General’s report and in recent reports of the PBC configuration. These include corruption, tensions between and within the main political parties, natural resource management, land rights, youth unemployment, and increasingly, transnational organised crime.
In this regard, the Council will look forward to hearing from Ambassador Rishchynski, who is expected to brief members on the Sierra Leone configuration’s new streamlined plan of engagement. The PBC developed this plan following a request in resolution 2097 of March 2013 for the PBC to “review its engagement, with a view to scaling down its role.” A PBC assessment mission which visited Sierra Leone on 18-22 November recommended a scaled-back, more reactive role focused on monitoring developments while assisting when requested by the government or as needed. This will involve establishing a new smaller steering group of member states and fewer meetings. Rishchynski visited Sierra Leone from 25 February to 2 March to get the buy-in of the authorities for the changes, which he describes in a new report that further elaborates on the future PBC role. In the first quarter of 2015, the PBC plans to again review its engagement, and will either make any necessary adjustments or graduate Sierra Leone from the PBC’s agenda.
Negotiations on the draft text were not controversial with just the paragraph on extractive industries requiring some negotiations. It seems Russia made a request to use previously agreed language on the country’s extractive industries from resolution 2097 in place of a sentence in the initial draft about the importance of transparent management and regulation of this sector. In response to the Russian proposal, the US suggested using the entire paragraph from resolution 2097 on this issue, which was incorporated in the final version. The paragraph on extractive industries therefore highlights its potential role in economic development and covers workers’ rights, transparent regulation and the need to address the issue of land ownership.
In addition to welcoming the closure of UNIPSIL and commending Sierra Leone, tomorrow’s presidential statement will likely note the importance of continued international support to Sierra Leone, recognising the challenges the country still faces in embedding its peace and improving the wellbeing of its population. In this regard, the statement is expected to welcome the government’s current five year development Agenda for Prosperity, note that the UN Office in West Africa’s good offices will be available to Sierra Leone and the UN Country Team’s Resident Coordinator, and endorse the PBC’s new lighter form of engagement.