United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL)
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Madam President.
I welcome His Excellency Foreign Minister Kamara to the Council on what is an important day for Sierra Leone, and for its partners and the UN. I thank Executive Representative Jens Toyberg-Frandzen for his briefing, and for his work and that of the entire UNIPSIL team. I also thank Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski for his leadership of the PBC’s Sierra Leone country configuration, and for his briefing this morning.
The closure of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone in five days’ time will mark an important transition for both Sierra Leone and for the UN system. Sierra Leone has made extraordinary progress since the end of the civil war in consolidating peace and democracy. As Sierra Leone’s focus turns from consolidating peace to spurring economic development, it is appropriate that we acknowledge achievements and look at challenges ahead.
After more than fifteen years of successive UN peace operations, Sierra Leone now has stronger institutions, an entrenched democratic culture with regular elections, and a vigorous civil society. It is actively fighting corruption and strengthening accountability. It is a successful model of how post-conflict countries can address transitional justice in a way that holds perpetrators of past crimes to account, while promoting national reconciliation at the same time. Australia commends the people and government of Sierra Leone for this remarkable progress.
UNIPSIL has been central to this success. As the Secretary-General’s final report makes clear, by integrating its political mandate together with the development and humanitarian mandates of UN agencies, UNIPSIL was instrumental to the UN system’s efforts in Sierra Leone to ‘deliver as one’. It continuously led efforts to promote political dialogue, manage electoral-related disputes and strengthen the vital role of civil society. And it provided crucial support to strengthen the capacity and independence of key institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission, the Political Parties Registration Commission, and the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Australia welcomes the withdrawal of UNIPSIL as a good model for the conclusion of a successful UN Peacebuilding mission. Executive Representative Toyberg-Frandzen’s strong leadership of the mission during this critical time has contributed to a seamless transition. We would encourage the Secretariat to draw on the lessons that have been captured from the transition process to consider how they could be applied elsewhere.
None of this, however, is to underestimate the challenges that lie ahead. The constitutional review process holds great potential for reducing political polarisation in Sierra Leone and fostering a culture of political inclusivity. Youth unemployment and corruption will remain major challenges for the government, as will addressing transnational threats such as drug trafficking and maritime piracy. Continuing to strengthen Sierra Leone’s institutions, particularly the security sector and the judiciary, will be important in tackling these challenges.
We are particularly encouraged by the development and recent launch of a security sector reform program, with support from UNDP and the Peacebuilding Fund, to assist in strengthening the police and other institutions. While the Sierra Leone Police has come a long way over the past twelve years, a number of challenges remain, including accountability, governance, oversight and corruption.
As investment in Sierra Leone’s extractives industries increases, it will be particularly important to strengthen transparency and accountability in the natural resources sector, and to establish robust dispute resolution mechanisms. Then Sierra Leone can ensure all its people benefit from the boom, and the dividends of peace.
The withdrawal of UNIPSIL does not mean that Sierra Leone is alone in addressing these challenges. The UN Country Team continues to impress with its high level of integration and the seamless manner in which its agencies took over responsibility for many of UNIPSIL’s functions. The PBC will continue to be engaged in supporting the UN transition process, and we fully support the Sierra Leone configuration’s proposed modalities for a lighter and more responsive approach.
Many of Sierra Leone’s challenges are shared by other countries in West Africa, so increased cooperation with them will be essential for Sierra Leone to tackle common threats. Australia sees great potential in a reinvigorated Mano River Union, which is strengthening sub-regional security, including through the establishment of cross-border security units along the common borders of its members. Similarly, ECOWAS’s effort to address maritime piracy, which threatens regional prosperity, will be important for all the countries of the region. It will also be important for the UN Office for West Africa to continue to provide a good offices and preventative diplomacy role following UNIPSIL’s departure.
To conclude, Madam President, I’d like to echo Mr Toyberg-Frandzen’s comment that Sierra Leone’s remarkable progress is due first and foremost to the determination of its people to forge a clear path to peace. But UNIPSIL and the UN more broadly has been its steadfast partner, and the results of this partnership are clear for all to see. We wish the people of Sierra Leone every success for the future.