Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative, on the Situation in Sierra Leone, in the Security Council

Susan E. Rice
United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
February 9, 2009




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thank you Mr. President, and congratulations formally on assuming leadership of the Council
We’d also like to again thank our colleagues from France for their very able leadership of the Council last month.
The United States welcomes the appointment of Michael von der Schulenburg as the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and we thank you for your briefing on the new Integrated Peace Building Office in Sierra Leone. We also wish to thank Ambassador Frank Majoor for his update and leadership of the Peacebuilding Commission and Ambassador Touray, Permanent Representative of the Government of Sierra Leone, for his very comprehensive and helpful presentation.

We commend UNIPSIL for the support it has provided the government and people of Sierra Leone in making their transition from conflict to durable peace.

We further applaud President Koroma for his effective leadership and for his agenda for change and for his actions including appointing a new, strong head of the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission and for undertaking reform of the justice system, enhancing respect for human rights, and strengthening the rule of law.

We note the important role UNIPSIL will play in supporting these promising developments and helping Sierra Leone to tackle the underlying causes of instability.

Mr. President, we’ve come a long way in the United Nations’ ability to help countries and regions resolve, recover from, and rebuild after conflict. The type of office that UNIPSIL represents is a new instrument for the United Nations to assist post-conflict countries as they make the critical transition from insecurity and violence to lasting peace. It’s an innovation that we have added to the “toolkit” of mechanisms we can deploy in post-conflict situations. We will need to follow its progress, both to ensure that as Member States we give the necessary support to help its efforts succeed, and to ensure that this new office has the impact that we all seek.

We are encouraged by the progress that has been made in Sierra Leone. We see real potential “value-added” from an integrated office such as UNIPSIL, and we hope UNIPSIL will quickly validate the worth of this integrated approach to peacebuilding. In this regard, we welcome the United Nation’s “Joint Vision” initiative as an important further step in seeing the UN family pull together on behalf of a common strategy to assist Sierra Leone’s post-conflict transition.

We are concerned, however, that UNIPSIL is not yet at full strength due to staffing shortages. This underscores the importance that there be a smooth transition when UN missions hand over so that we don’t risk losing critical momentum.

As a supporter of the Peacebuilding Commission, the United States is encouraged to see that the PBC has facilitated national dialogue on important issues. We also note the contribution that Peacebuilding Fund-supported projects are making to tackle the peacebuilding priorities outlined by the government of Sierra Leone in conjunction with the PBC.

The U.S. applauds also the work of UN Radio- which has reached out to the people of Sierra Leone from Freetown to rural communities across the country, to provide vital information about elections, women’s rights, health concerns and many other crucial issues. We support transfer of this service to the Sierra Leone Broadcast Corporation, as well as the use of unallocated peacebuilding funds for the further development of the national public broadcasting service.

Mr. President, we continue to be concerned about the increased use of Sierra Leone as a trans-shipment point for drugs trafficked from South America to Europe. We welcome UNIPSIL’s collaboration with the Sierra Leone Drug Interdiction Task Force, and will continue to offer our assistance in addressing this threat to Sierra Leone’s national security and indeed to the security of the region. At the same time, we encourage a regional approach to addressing these issues, in particular narco-trafficking and piracy.

That Sierra Leone, despite its impressive progress, remains vulnerable to instability from drugs and crime, youth unemployment over 60% and persistent poverty reminds us not only that peace is hard won, but also that we need to continue to work together within and beyond the UN community to confront effectively the challenges that remain

Mr. President, Sierra Leone reminds us not only of the difficulties of post-conflict transitions but also of the promise of the United Nations and the broader international community to assist a country and its people to build a better future.

The United States fully supports UNISPIL, and will remain steadfast in assisting Sierra Leone to put conflict in its past and move towards a future of lasting development and democracy.

Thank you, Mr. President.

###



PRN: 2009/025