UNMIL January 25 Press Briefing

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Ms. Ellen Margrthe Loj, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations

Near Verbatim

Good morning to all of you.

I should start by saying Happy Belated New Year because I do not think I have seen you since we turn into the year, and thank you all for being here. As the Chief of Public Information said, this will be my last time I address you as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Liberia since I have now entered my last week of service.

I have been here for four years, and it has been a privilege to serve the United Nations, and the people of Liberia, as they travel along the road to lasting peace.

As I prepare to leave the country, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for the warmth and generosity bestowed upon me by all Liberians.

When I arrived in January 2008, it was clear that the Liberia and its people had started to move away from an immediate post-conflict phase towards a climate of peace and development. And a lot has happened in the last four years. Buildings were rising along Tubman Boulevard, new shops are opening almost daily and classrooms are overloaded with students eager to learn. Roads have been paved and we even have traffic jams in Monrovia. I think in 2008, there was a positive spirit of hope which has only become stronger over these four years. T he country has surely made significant progress despite several challenges still remaining.

Last year, Liberia passed an historic milestone in conducting its second democratic elections since the end of the conflict. This was an important undertaking which, once again, demonstrates the will of the Liberian people. And I congratulate them on the peaceful conduct of these elections.

However, peace cannot be complete without reconciliation. Experiences from around the world have shown us than an incomplete peace is often a prelude to renew conflict. Through dialogue and inclusion, I am highly confident that Liberia will continue its work towards lasting peace.

Liberians have demonstrated that they can be in the driver’s seat and that they have chosen the path to sustainable development. And progress is reflected in the way UNMIL supports Liberia today. From being first in line with a robust military and police presence, the mission is today standing second in line focusing on providing advisory support to security and rule of law institutions.

Changes will continue and we cannot rely on business as usual. Accordingly, in the years to come, UNMIL’s transitions will be carried forward with national institutions taking on greater responsibility. While phasing out certain areas of support, the mission will at the same time intensify its efforts towards capacity development. However, I would like to reassure Liberians that the UN not leave a security vacuum that will put Liberia’s at risk.

This being said, I want to reinforce once more that ensuring peace is a shared responsibility; it is not something to leave for the Government or UNMIL alone. We all have to work to ensuring peace. Throughout my stay here, I have seen tremendous potential in the Liberian people.

With their unfailing support and resilience, we all managed to keep Liberia moving forwards. The international community will continue to stand by the Liberian people side. Their hard won, well deserved peace and democracy require vigilance and most of all to rise above partisan and communal divisions. While many challenges are still ahead, I am confident of the Liberia’s ability to meet these challenges.

For the last few years, the children entering school have never known war; my hope is that they never have to witness such trauma again. They deserve a peaceful tomorrow build with respect for rule of law, gender equity, proper education and sustainable development for all.

Thank you.