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Forthcoming Peacebuilding Commission visit: A Critical Moment for Sierra Leone
By Michael Massaquoi, Coordinator, PBC Secretariat
May 18, 2011, 17:06
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That time is here again for the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) led by Ambassador John McNee, Chair, Sierra Leone Configuration to take stock of the strides the country is making in its Peacebuilding programmes. The delegation will be in Freetown from May 23-27.  The main objectives of the visit this time round among others include following up on existing commitments, monitoring progress, and identifying future contributions to key peacebuilding priorities in Sierra Leone.

The delegation will in particular discuss with relevant stakeholders how the Commission can best assist the country prepare for free, fair and peaceful elections in 2012. The Peacebuilding Commission with Ambassador John McNee as Chairman is mandated by the United Nations Security Council to assist Sierra Leone in its post-conflict reconstruction programme. The Commission has been engaged in doing just that by bringing together all actors, marshalling resources, advising on and proposing integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery.

Ambassador McNeil

The Peacebuilding Commission has made several visits since Sierra Leone was placed on the agenda together with Burundi, and the Commission is impressed with the countrys performance so far. Sierra Leone with support from international donors has implemented a comprehensive Security Sector Reform (SSR) Programme to build the capacity and professionalism of national security institutions such as the Sierra Leone Police, the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and the Office of National Security (ONS). A number of frameworks and strategies for peace and development, such as Sierra Leone Vision 2025, the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP), the Peacebuilding Consolidation Strategy (PCS), the Improved Accountability and Governance Pact (IGAP), and the report of the TRC, have contributed to the achievements made thus far and continue to guide the process for recovery and stabilization.

The visit is critical for Sierra Leone and the peacebuilding process given the challenges the country continue to face in the area of youth employment, illicit drugs trafficking and Governance. But more challenging is the 2012 elections and the funding gap of $174 million of the Multi-Donor Trust Funds.  This high level delegation is likely to draw huge attention from national stakeholders including civil society organizations and the media as these two key issues will be high on the agenda for discussion.

Clearly, government has made a strong case in previous engagements with the Peacebuilding Commission, one of which was through a video conference arranged by the office of the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General (ERSG) prior to the routine meeting in New York in March this year. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Joseph B. Dauda on each occasion appealed to the Peacebuilding Commission on behalf of President Koroma and the country to increase their commitment in the resource mobilization drive. Minister Dauda told the Commission in New York that Sierra Leone had made significant gains since the 2007 elections, but also highlighted that the PBCs support was still welcome and needed. To attract international investment, he said, the country requires tangible short-term support to the public administration system and public sector reform. Partnerships with key partners in the sector were needed to ensure effective functioning of the newly created National Youth Commission.

Minister Dauda said the PBC could play a vital supporting role as Sierra Leone manages its natural resource wealth, including new discoveries of oil and other minerals. The Minister noted that the PBC could support Sierra Leone beyond the allocation of the initial donor funding. He said the PBC had the ability to improve the efficacy of internationally funded projects, for instance by sponsoring special donor round tables for specific programmes and themes.

Re-echoing the Ministers message the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General (ERSG), Mr. Michael von der Schulenberg lauded Sierra Leone for being steadfast in its peacebuilding effort. Noting the progress Sierra Leone had made since the end of the civil war, Mr. von der Schulenberg called on the Members of the Configuration to invest in success. The ERSG noted that the international community should seek to broaden the donor base and diversify funding for Sierra Leone, and called attention to the budget problems that the government had experienced due to payment delays from international partners.

It is obvious that the Peacebuilding Commission will arrive in the country with these messages firmly in mind. The burden of optimism rests squarely with both Government and the Chair of the PBC and they should continue to urge contributing members to dip deep in their purse to fill in the funding gap of the Multi-Donor Trust Funds. The message of the  ERSG that the PBC should invest in success is a pointer in that direction- support for the preparations of the 2012 elections, including enhancing political dialogue and encouraging participation of women and the civil society in political processes. Also, helping Sierra Leone fight corruption and drugs trafficking, improve natural resources management and address youth unemployment. Support should also be given to help government continue its work in improving gender equality and providing better access to justice.

All of these programmes do not come cheap and so substantial amount of money is required for their successful implementaion. Although the usual accolades often showered on Government by the PBC for bringing peace and stability is encouraging, it is not enough. What really matters now is an increase in funds so that Sierra Leone can sustain the hard earned peace. Government must now come bold and make a strong case yet to member states of the PBC during the forthcoming visit by simply urging them to do more in their resource mobilization drive.

The PBC is a large family and consists of friendly countries including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Indonesia, Spain, Portugal, Japan, China, Australia, China, Italy and several others, and each has played a vital role in helping Sierra Leone move forward and they are happy to do more even. The message of the Executive Representative of the Secretary General, Mr. Michael  von der Schulenberg that the PBC should invest in success cannot be ignored if Sierra Leone is to remain a model of emulation in the history of  post-conflict development in the sub-region.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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