Liberia Briefings by Special Representative, PBC Configuration Chair and ASG Mulet
Tomorrow morning (20 March), the Security Council will be briefed by Karin Landgren, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Liberia and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Liberia (S/2014/123). Ambassador Staffan Tillander (Sweden), chair of the Liberia configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, will also brief. In the consultations following the briefing, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet is expected to share preliminary findings from the strategic review conducted by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in February in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.
Council members appear concerned by the lack of progress in Liberia assuming security responsibilities as UNMIL draws down. The Secretary-General’s latest report noted that Liberia has only allocated $6 million in its 2014 budget for the security transition, and has reduced security sector reform spending overall, while training of police “is severely behind schedule,” in part due to budget constraints. The frailty of the security and justice sectors was demonstrated by 37 incidents of mob violence that often overwhelmed the national police and required UNMIL intervention, as well as 10 prison escapes during the reporting period. Additionally, the report highlighted slow progress in other areas deemed critical for consolidating the country’s long-term stability such as reconciliation, constitutional reform and natural resource management.
Some members perceive that UNMIL’s relationship with Liberia is at a crucial juncture. The security situation has been stable for some time, with the remaining security problems being largely of a law-and-order nature, rather than a military threat. However, with a UN peacekeeping mission having been in Liberia for over 10 years, there is concern about a dependency culture having developed. A common view appears to be that the Council needs to send a strong message to Liberia that the mission will not remain indefinitely and apply greater pressure on the government to improve progress in both the transition and political reform tracks. While no decisions are currently expectedpossible future options include sending a strong signal about the mission’s drawdown or even hastening this process. There is also talk of providing Landgren with a good offices mandate to give her more influence to push forward some of the stalled political reforms. Frustration on the part of Council members and DPKO with the government is heightened by the idea that some of the peacekeepers in Liberia could be used for more urgent peacekeeping needs in the Central African Republic, Mali or South Sudan.
In this regard, during consultations some members may inquire whether often cited budgetary problems are a consequence of financial constraints or a matter of government priorities and the absence of political will to generate revenue. Some members have suggested that UNMIL could provide more support to develop Liberia’s administrative and management capacity, which is cited as another cause for problems in the security sector. Council members will be particularly looking forward to further details on the initial findings from DPKO’s strategic review, including on the development of a quick reaction force within the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire that could also support UNMIL,as well as Mulet’s ideas and options on the future of UNMIL. These options are expected to be more fully developed as part of the recommendations to be contained in the next Secretary-General’s report before UNMIL’s mandate renewal in September.
In consultations tomorrow, members are also likely to highlight other issues such as sexual violence, and latent risks represented by Liberia’s poor natural resource management and tensions over concessions, corruption, youth unemployment, and organised crime and drug trafficking. Some members may want more information on developments that would allow further scaling back or lifting of sanctions ahead of a review of the Liberia sanctions regime as mandated by resolution 2128, which is expected to take place in May.
There have been several Liberia-related meetings in recent days. On 14 March, the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee had a briefing from Dmitry Titov, the head of the DPKO Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions. The meeting was organised as a follow-up to some of the recommendations from the 21 November 2013 final report (S/2013/683) by the Panel of Experts assisting the 1521 Committee. Following the precedent of Australia during its Council presidency last September, Luxembourg organised a meeting for Council experts on 17 March with Tillander and the deputy head of the Peacebuilding Support Office, Kenneth Gluck, to discuss the report of their recent mission to Liberia and to prepare for tomorrow’s Council meeting. Their briefing echoed much of the Secretary-General’s critique, describing slow progress in national reconciliation, government efforts to improve natural resource management and in establishing the justice and security hubs. Tillander additionally suggested that the funding for hubs (intended to expand access to justice and security services outside of Monrovia), much of which comes from the UN, may not be sustainable.