Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Former President of Liberia
to the United Nations Security Council on the Challenges of maintaining peace and security in fragile contexts
January 5, 2021
Mr. President, His Excellency Kaïs Saïed,
Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union Commission
Excellencies and Distinguished Members of the Council,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
I thank you for the opportunity to make a few points I believe to be relevant to the purpose of this meeting.
The first is to congratulate you, Mr. President on your country’s Presidency of the Security Council, and for your leadership of this High-level Open Debate on the Maintenance of Peace and Security in Fragile Contexts.
This is only the first week of 2021, a year to which the whole world has looked forward. There is probably never a time when so many wanted and needed a previous year to end while, clinging to the hope of a new year of promise and cautious optimism.
This Open Debate must also then be faithful to that promise and commit to new and bold steps. You, members of the United Nations Security Council and one of its most important organs, have the power in your hands to help to end the vicious cycles of conflict, displacement and despair so many have faced for so many years. You can look beyond narrow interests and recognize that peaceful, just and inclusive societies have benefits far beyond their own borders. You know that unattended issues in societies fester and deepen fragility, which often leads to violent conflicts. You also know that early interventions which support local responses to governance and poverty fault lines can build resilience. You have seen that women peace and security actors, can help put out a small smoldering fire, before it becomes a major conflagration.
I express my gratitude here once again for the support for interventions in my own country, Liberia and would like to highlight the three keys to ending our brutal, armed conflict:
First, the desire for peace by ordinary Liberians, tired of war.
Second, the robust mandate of the regional peacekeeping force and their understanding of the threats posed to regional security
And third, the subsequent international support for the final peace agreement and the timely partnership as we pulled ourselves up, albeit, exhausted, bruised and battered.
However, prevention is always better than cure and in almost every case, interventions are almost too late. The signs, like most situations which spark into active conflicts, are usually there long before any helpful actions were taken. They include persistent torture and extra -judicial killings, ethnicity to consolidate power, women and girls targeted as the loot of war, poverty and inequalities deepened, social services disruption, traditional conflict resolution mechanisms dismantled and disrespected.
In Liberia’s case, the regional peacekeeping force took us into an electoral process, which, while highly flawed, was a step on the path to peace. The UN international peacekeeping mission was a partner for the implementation of the final peace agreement ensuring the protection of civilians, during the sporadic but persistent outbreaks of conflict by new armed militia seeking to remove contested winners of the elections.
Another key was women’s leadership. Women from all walks of life literally sat for peace, following the male combatants as they lurched from one failed agreement to another. Without Liberian women, Liberia would not have peace today.
Today peacekeepers must also battle Covid-19, while supporting peace and containing conflict. As with multilateralism, countries are questioning the efficacy of peacekeeping operations and the costs of running them, often for years at a time.
I disagree and remain a strong advocate for Peacekeeping. However the architecture must, like everything else, change with flexibility to respond to challenging circumstances, flexibility in consonance with recognition of and support to local capability and leadership, when the warning bells ring. Just consider what would result if some 25 percent of financing for peacekeeping, were allocated to a Technical Training contingent of Peacekeeper dedicated to training young unemployed potential militants?
Last year we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. We recognize the Secretary General, particularly for the strong advocacy on climate change and the call for silencing the Guns, to be able to battle the Covid virus more effectively. We now need his equally strong words to national authorities for their actionable response to his advocacy.
This year commemorates the 70th anniversary of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. While we commend the leadership and staff of that agency, its continued existence is a mark on our collective conscience. It means that we have not pursued peace, not addressed fragility. What will we say now at the beginning of this year of promise – more platitudes?
I plead yet again. The United Nations, and its many organs, especially the Security Council was established to lead the process of global development and global equity. The United Nations must represent more than hope. It must be an active mechanism for peace and scaled up support for the fragile nations that too long have been left behind.
Finally, Mr President, Excellences and Distinguished Members of the Council, the COVID-19 Pandemic – is a painful human tragedy. I extend deepest condolences to all who are grieving for loved ones, and pray for the speedy recovery for the infected. We hope that we can see peace in this New Year and an end to the ravages of the pandemic, through an equitable distribution of the vaccines
I thank you for inviting me and for your kind attention.