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LIBERIA: UN ENVOY SAYS FURTHER PROGRESS NEEDED TO CONSOLIDATE FRAGILE PEACE

By UN

8 September - While the overall security situation in Liberia is stable, it also continues to be fragile, and further progress is needed in a number of areas to truly consolidate the peace, the top United Nations envoy to the West African nation said today.

“Seven years of unbroken peace – the longest in decades – has allowed Liberians to begin to believe, to be optimistic about the future, and to day by day start taking charge and shaping the direction of their country,” Ellen Margrethe Løj, the Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), told the Security Council.

“However, these positive developments are tempered by the fragile peace that relies heavily on the presence of UNMIL military and police,” she stated, adding that Liberia will continue to require substantial international support and assistance for the foreseeable future.

Presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's latest report on UNMIL, Ms. Løj stated that Liberia faces a number of “potentially destabilizing” security challenges arising from mob violence, ethnic and communal tensions, competition for natural resources, land disputes, sexual and gender-based violence and armed robbery.

“Alarming rates of unemployment, including of youth and ex-combatants, raise further security concern,” she said.

In his report, Mr. Ban noted that security institutions continue to make progress, but do not yet have the capacity to respond independently of UNMIL, especially outside the capital, Monrovia.

“It is crucial that the development of the security sector becomes a main priority for the Government and the international community so that those institutions become independently operational, and are sufficiently resourced,” he wrote.

He added that public confidence in the criminal justice system is still minimal, and improving its functioning will be the key to increasing its credibility. It is also vital to ensure proper follow-up of the recommendations of the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to ensure that Liberia has a publicly accessible human rights institution.

Both Mr. Ban and his envoy highlighted the fact that the 2011 presidential and legislative elections will be a critical milestone for Liberia and test the capacity of national institutions.

The electoral timetable was announced on 27 August and voter registration is set to begin in January. However, Ms. Løj pointed out that the National Elections Commission will not be able to successfully organize elections without the international community's support, adding that while considerable pledges have been made, more is needed.

The Council set up UNMIL in 2003 to help the country restore stability and set up a democratic government after more than a decade of civil war. The Secretary-General has recommended that the mission's mandate, set to expire on 30 September, be renewed for another year.