In evidence to the UK Parliament’s International Development Select Committee, IDS research fellow Jeremy Allouche underlined the need for greater efforts to be focused on ensuring that the benefits of greater stability and strong economic performance in Sierra Leone were felt by all, especially young people.
Risks to long term stability in Sierra Leone
Dr Allouche welcomed recent progress in the country but argued that there was still some way to go in terms of securing the long-term stability. Despite achieving growth rates of 15% in 2012 and 13% in 2013, Sierra Leone was ranked 177 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index in 2012.
Drawing on findings from his recent research, he highlighted three major risks to the future wellbeing and security of citizens in Sierra Leone:
- The benefits of large-scale investments in the extractive industries, land and infrastructure are not being enjoyed by the wider population, especially younger people. Youth employment rates remain high and many young people are being drawn into lives of violence as part of gangs and in existing and emerging conflicts along the borders with Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Liberia.
- The capacity of justice and security institutions in Sierra Leone to deal with new forms of violence in peri-urban areas and the proliferation of small arms in the region is limited.
- Too little attention is currently being paid to the regional dynamics of security and stability, particularly given the porous nature of the borders in the Mano River Union (MRU) Region which includes Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea and Liberia.
The role of DFID in Sierra Leone and the wider MRU Region
Dr Allouche told the committee that DFID is well respected, and could play an important coordinating role in helping to tackle the current challenges that Sierra Leone and the wider MRU region are facing. Particularly with the recent end of the UNIPSIL (United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone) mission in March of this year.
Much of the donor activity in Sierra Leone and Liberia is currently based within the capital cities of Monrovia and Freetown. Echoing recommendations made by IDS in a previous select committee evidence session and in the recent IDS report A New Deal? Development and Security in a Changing World, Dr Allouche suggested this activity needed to shift to the border regions, and that DFID should consider operating offices in these areas. He also proposed that DFID offices in the region should be given a greater regional policy mandate. In this way, DFID, alongside other donors and the United Nations, could help support the MRU countries in addressing the complex and political nature of cross-border violence.
Dr Allouche also argued that DFID could build on the work it was already doing to improve the capacity of institutions in Sierra Leone around tax collection and contract negotiation, particularly from and with large multinational companies investing in the country’s extractive industries. He also highlighted the role that DFID could play in helping to build the capacity of civil society organisations to hold the government and other institutions to account, and address the problem of corruption.