Statement By His Excellency, the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma On the Fourth International Dialogue On Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Freetown [document]

Your Excellencies,

Ministers of Government,

Senior Representatives of International Organisations,

Members of the Press,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to Sierra Leone on the occasion of the Fourth International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. It is wonderful to see so many of you here today.

I hope you will take the chance while you are here to visit historic sites, enjoy the natural beauty of our land and the culture of our people. But while you do so, I invite you to remember that just 12 short years ago Sierra Leone was a very different place indeed.

In 2002, after over a decade of a bloody civil war, some 70,000 people had lost their lives. Countless more had been permanently maimed. Over 2.6 million had been displaced. Businesses, infrastructure, homes and dreams had been destroyed. Near the end of the war, the average citizen survived on the equivalent of 38 cents a day. And over 1 out of every 4 children did not get to their 5th birthday. Sierra Leone in 2002 was a living manifestation of the maxim that ‘Conflict is development in reverse’.

And yet today, as you look around, you will observe the re-emergence of something important.

Not just the commerce or the public services.

Not just the buildings and roads.

Not just the rehabilitation of schools and hospitals.

What you are observing in Sierra Leone is the emergence of hope.

Hope is hard to create but very easy to destroy.

Without hope, you don’t plan for the future.

Without hope, you don’t invest in business, education, or strive for better things.

Without hope you live by the rule that everything you have today could be gone tomorrow.

So the one thing I want you to know, as you look around Sierra Leone today is: We got our hope back.

How did we get our hope back?

– By ensuring freedom of speech. There is a very high concentration of print and electronic media. We have enacted Freedom of Information Act

– By encouraging Inclusive political dialogue. All political parties have signed up to a communiqueacute that ensures that we dialogue on national issues rather than create chaos when we disagree. To this end, I meet with leaders of all political parties, we discuss on issues of national interest. Our last meeting was late last week and we discussed issues of national interest.

– By having No Political Prisoners, and we are pleased to announce that since I took over governance in 2007 for the very first time in the history of this country we have not had a political prisoner.

– By holding Successive Credible Elections. Three Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections since the end of the conflict in 2002

– By strengthening the local councils through devolution of power and authority. This has given fellow compatriots the capacity and the authority to manage the affairs of their localities.

– By bringing the people closer to the Government. Through our Open Government Initiatives, we hold regular town meetings to discuss issues of national and community interest. We have expanded this initiative and become a member of the Open Government Partnership pioneered by the United States.

– Providing Free Health Care to pregnant and lactating women as well as children under five yrs old. This accompanied with improved conditions of service for healthcare workers.

– Providing School Fees Subsidies particularly for the girl child. This also accompanied by improved conditions of service of teachers.

– By restructuring, retraining and rightsizing the security forces

– By improving access to justice particularly for the most vulnerable

– By improving Transparency and Accountability through empowering the Anti Corruption Commission and improving Public Financial Management.

– By improving the infrastructure especially in Roads and Energy.

– Paying special attention to empowering Youth and Women.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, like I underscored earlier, we have our hope back. This HOPE, is now making us even ambitious about our future.

That is why, the overarching goal of our Agenda for Prosperity, which we launched last year is to achieve middle income status within a generation.

We believe we can get there, but we also know that there is a lot of work to be done. With our commitment and support from friends in the international community, we are very optimistic that this ambitious Agenda can be achieved.

We also know that we are not alone, and to that end, the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding embodies three unique elements that can help us and other g7+ countries achieve our common goals:

Firstly, the g7+: As a founding member of the g7+, Sierra Leone couldn’t be more proud of how the group has grown, strengthened and progressed over the past four years.

The g7+ was founded on the principle and vision that fragile and conflict-affected states can achieve more together than they can alone. As a group of 20 countries, we have rich experiences to share, both with ourselves and the international community.

‘Fragile-to-fragile’ cooperation is helpful to us because, although every fragile country is fragile in its own way, we all have recent successes and failures of immediate relevance to each other.

For example, the Minister of Justice wanting to know how to successfully improve access to justice for victims of sexual abuse can learn it from someone who has done it last week, not in the last century. This is a clear benefit that we can enjoy within the g7+ family.

Our g7+ has been ably led by Minister Emilia Pires for the past 3 years, and it is therefore a profound honour that Sierra Leone has been nominated to take over the chairmanship of the g7+.

At this point, I wish to assure the g7+ family that Minister Marah will continue the good work of Minister Pires by ensuring that the g7+ family will grow in strength and influence.

At this point, let me acknowledge the good work of former Minister of Finance, Dr Samura Kamara who was made the focal person. I think it is also fitting to give Minister Pires a standing ovation for the good performance.

Secondly, the New Deal itself helps us to identify and prioritise the major building blocks of our transition to resilience. The five Peacebuilding and Statebuilding goals are what we in the g7+ regard as the very foundations of development in post-conflict countries.

We know from experience that to eradicate extreme poverty and to bring about sustainable development, two things are required: Peace and effective state institutions. The World Development Report of 2011 found that no fragile state has reached a single Millennium Development Goal, and that conflict remains the single greatest barrier to progress for 1.5bn people living in conflict-affected states.

Indeed, the primary reason why Sierra Leone volunteered to be a pilot of the New Deal, and has gone on to become a leading implementer of many of its elements, is that we take the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals very seriously.

We know that without inclusive politics, security which is felt by all, justice that everyone can access, jobs and basic public services – in other words, in the absence of a functioning state – any social and economic gains we make are less sustainable. By rebuilding the social contract with our citizens we will rebuild our resilience.

The Agenda for Prosperity addresses each of the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals, and sets out concrete steps to make progress in Peacebuilding and Statebuilding:

Finally, through the International Dialogue we look to our development partners to support our national agenda. The donor signatories of the New Deal have all signalled their willingness to work in new ways to improve the effectiveness of international support in fragile states. At the national level, together we have developed and signed-up a Mutual Accountability Framework, which is our compact with the New Deal framework and the key monitoring tool for our Agenda for Prosperity.

As we meet today, I call on all Dialogue members to re-pledge their support to the principles of the New Deal, and redouble their efforts to make these principles a reality in Sierra Leone and in all g7+ countries.

We cannot afford to let a single country slip back into conflict. Sierra Leone is living proof that progress can be made, and that when hope returns to a country, anything is possible.

So without further ado, it is my pleasure to declare the 4th International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding open.

I thank you all for your attention.

Source : Sierra Leone Government

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