Liberia needs both African and international partners to build lasting peace
Joint press release by the Liberia Peacebuilding Office, the African Union and the Institute for Security Studies

Monrovia, Liberia – The withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers soon after a successful election signals that Liberia is well on the road to recovery. But the country’s transition from war to sustained peace is far from over. As international attention turns to other ongoing violent conflicts, Liberia needs clear and coordinated action by all partners involved in the next phase of peacebuilding.

On 16 May, Liberia’s Peacebuilding Office (PBO) in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, together with the African Union (AU) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) will bring local and international partners together in Monrovia, Liberia to take on this challenge.

Guided by the lessons of South-South cooperation which prioritise national needs in peace and development efforts, the meeting will discuss the distinct contributions that African and international partners can make in Liberia.

‘The technical expertise and capacity building that African partners offer must be effectively paired with the generous funds and skills of northern partners’, says PBO Executive Director Edward Mulbah.

The governments of Sweden and the United States, along with the European Union, have long contributed to Liberia’s transition. Their representatives, together with those from the United Kingdom, African regional organisations and governments, and development finance institutions like the African Development Bank and World Bank are expected to participate in the workshop.

‘Liberia needs to intensify its cooperation with its West African and African neighbours,’ says Ambassador Ibrahim Kamara, AU Special Representative in Liberia. ‘Through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) framework, Liberia can effectively develop the various sectors of its economy’.

Liberia is facing an economic downturn and remains heavily dependent on foreign aid. In response to its many challenges, the country has no shortage of plans for economic growth, development and reconciliation.

Liberia’s government, the UN and multilateral and bilateral partners developed a peacebuilding plan based on country priorities that recognises the important roles of partners like the World Bank and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Liberia also has a strategic roadmap for national healing, peacebuilding and reconciliation. A new development plan based on government’s pro-poor agenda that builds on Liberia Rising Vision 2030 is being drawn up. It will replace the Agenda for Transformation which covers economic growth and infrastructure development.

‘A key challenge is that Liberia’s development frameworks haven’t been adequately linked to the peacebuilding frameworks’, says Annette Leijenaar, Head of Peace Operations and Peacebuilding at the ISS. ‘And although the new peacebuilding plan recognises ECOWAS’ role, its potential, and that of other partners like the African Development Bank, are not fully explored.’

Current plans, along with donor coordination forums and the new Multi-Partner Trust Fund, fall short on the contribution by African role players in the areas of skills development and capacity transfer. There could also be clearer links between the activities of northern and southern actors in sustaining Liberia’s peace gains.

‘The workshop will explore a deeper role in Liberia’s peacebuilding for the AU, ECOWAS, African Development Bank and leading regional states like Nigeria,’ says Mulbah. Liberian doctors have for example received training in Nigeria to boost the numbers of trained medical professionals in Liberia. Nigeria has also provided scholarships and trained public officials in public administration.

‘South-South cooperation offers Liberia many opportunities in areas like agriculture, education and health,’ says Ambassador Kamara. ‘With better coordination and strategic planning, resources can be matched and pooled – drawing on the unique strengths of specific partners.’

Funding is important for peacebuilding and development. So too is a sustained programme of engagement that provides lessons and a transfer of skills that match the local context.

For the latest on peacebuilding in Liberia, read the ISS policy brief: Sustaining peace in practice: Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Picture: UNMIL

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