No one knows the exact depth of a river unless he stands in its center, so the Liberian maxim goes. That is the problem with some pundits and members of the international community who posit that the United Nations, primarily the Security Council, should discontinue its peacekeeping role and focus on peace prevention and poverty alleviation instead. According to them, peacekeeping is not only risky and expensive, it proves to prolong conflict and entraps innocent intervening armies. Those making those arguments perhaps have neither tasted conflict and wars nor experienced firsthand and the relieving powers of the United Nations peacekeeping program. But longtime politician and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf knows what UN’s peacekeeping does for a people and country trapped in intractable war. In a statement to the UN congregation on January 5, 2021, the former Liberian head of state asked the world body not to discontinue its peacekeeping role around the world, stating that it is foundational to the UN values and the UN Charter. The Analyst reports.
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been speaking to a congregation of the United Nations Security Council on challenges of maintaining peace and security in fragile contexts. Besides, being a former President, Madam Sirleaf is an international civil servant working with various international organizations. And, furthermore, her own country, Liberia, is not only a success story of the UN’s interventionist programs but saw how the world body contributed in providing a solid governance foundation upon which she and succeeding leaders thrive in post-war Liberia.
She therefore used her oration on January 5 to express her disagreement with panelists and other scholars on UN affairs that there is no need for peacekeeping in troubled spots of the world.
“As with multilateralism, countries are questioning the efficacy of peacekeeping operations and the costs of running them, often for years at a time,” the former Liberian leader noted, adding: “I disagree and remain a strong advocate for Peacekeeping.”
She however acknowledged that 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.
“Today peacekeepers must also battle Covid-19, while supporting peace and containing conflict,” she stressed.
She used the occasion to express her gratitude for the support for interventions in Liberia and highlighted the three keys to ending the country’s brutal armed conflict.
“First, the desire for peace by ordinary Liberians, tired of war,” she recounted. “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.”
Former President Sirleaf nevertheless concurred with others who think 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,” she said. “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, Madam Sirleaf intoned, “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.”
She asserted that open debate must on UN peacekeeping program was highly necessary to keep the world body faithful to that promise and to commit to new and bold steps.
The First African Female President said members of the United Nations Security Council and one of its most important organs, have the power in their hands to help to end the vicious cycles of conflict, displacement and despair so many have faced for so many years.
She said: “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.”
Recalling that the 75th anniversary of the United Nations was celebrated last year, Madam Sirleaf recognized the heroic role of 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,” she said. “This year commemorates the 70th anniversary of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.”
She said while everyone commends the leadership and staff of that agency, its continued existence is a mark on collective conscience; it means that everyone have not pursued peace, not addressed fragility.
“What will we say now at the beginning of this year of promise – more platitudes?” she chipped.
“I plead yet again,” the former Liberian president asserted. “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.” See Full text of former President Sirleaf’s remarks on page 7 of this edition.