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Despite progress, Liberia still grappling with post-conflict tasks, Security Council told

11 September 2012 – Liberia has made remarkable progress in rebuilding its institutions, economic recovery and consolidating its democratic processes since the end of its civil war, but it needs to focus on remaining challenges such as strengthening the rule of law, security sector reform and national reconciliation, the Security Council heard today.

“Since 2003, Liberia has transformed itself from a failed State to one well along the path to democracy and lasting peace,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Karin Landgren, said in her briefing to the 15-member body.

“The presidential and legislative elections of 2011 showed the capacity to manage a politically and logistically complex event. The subsequent peaceful formation of a new government signalled the country’s increased stability,” she stated.

Ms. Landgren said that with Liberia “on the verge of becoming a true success story, the UN Mission must walk a delicate balance: applauding successes and pulling back our support, while continuing to accompany Liberia in areas crucial to lasting peace.”

At the Council meeting, the envoy presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNMIL, in which he highlights the country’s achievements in its post-conflict recovery.

“Much remains to be done, however, to address the historical injustices that persist, so that all Liberians feel that they are benefiting from the country’s progress in stability, democracy and development,” he writes.

“It will therefore be crucial to pursue reforms aimed at enlarging the political space and enhancing inclusiveness, accountability, transparency and fairness, which would give all citizens a meaningful stake in the future of Liberia.”

The UN continues to provide security support to Liberia on a significant scale, noted Ms. Landgren. “But as the Secretary-General noted in this report, security measures alone will not create lasting stability in Liberia,” she said.

“Reinforcement of the national security sector should go hand in hand with national reconciliation and structural changes to address the underlying causes of past conflict,” Ms. Landgren added. “Achieving this, however, will take both political commitment and financial resources.”

Strengthened security capacity and regulation will need to be matched with a stronger justice system, for the public to have confidence in the State’s capacity to protect and provide justice, she stated, adding that constitutional reform and national reconciliation will also be essential to peace consolidation.

“UNMIL is able to begin a transition because of the progress Liberia has made since 2003. The Mission represents nearly a decade of major investment by the international community,” the envoy said. “This investment has paid handsome dividends, supporting Liberians with a time and space free of war, which has permitted two democratic elections and steps towards national reforms on a large scale.”

The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force in Liberia since 2003 to bolster a ceasefire agreement ending a decade of war that killed nearly 150,000 people, mostly civilians. UNMIL’s mandate includes helping to restore the rule of law and democratic processes as well as facilitating humanitarian assistance.

Addressing the Council meeting, Ambassador Staffan Tillander of Sweden, the chair of the Liberia configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, said that “coherent and inclusive” national reconciliation should be at the centre of the Liberian peace process.

“Part of this process entails mending relations between the State and society, between communities, and between individuals. This includes reformulating the Liberian historical narrative including giving recognition to past persecution, discrimination and marginalization,” he told the Council.

He added, “Reconciliation is also linked to processes of constitutional review, decentralization and electoral reform, all essential parts of the broader peacebuilding process in Liberia.”

Liberia is one of six countries – along with Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone – currently on the agenda of the Commission, which was set up in 2005 to help countries emerging from conflict make an irreversible transition from war to sustainable peace.

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