Head of UN mission in Liberia appeals for assistance in cementing peace

“The next two years will be critical for Liberia,” Alan Doss, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative told the Council, as he briefed it on Mr. Annan’s latest report on UNMIL’s activities.“Experience has taught us that an incomplete effort in consolidating the peace is often a prelude to renewed conflict,” he added.The Secretary-General’s report says the Mission has completed many of its initial tasks and could be reduced by one battalion by the middle of this year, and by another battalion early in 2007, possibly complemented by the deployment of an additional formed police unit.Detailing that plan, Mr. Doss said that, at the end of this month, UNMIL strength will be adjusted back down to the 15,000 troops authorized by the Council (after having been augmented to provide security for the UN-backed court in Sierra Leone) and other changes would be considered as the situation permits, “without compromising the security of Liberia and the effectiveness of UNMIL’s operations in the country.”Mr. Doss stressed that UNMIL is crucial to help maintain security in the “fragile” State until the national security structure is complete, to help extend State authority to the countryside, to facilitate the reintegration of ex-soldiers and displaced persons, and to assist reconciliation efforts.Many of those tasks not only boost political progress but also affect the economic viability of the country, which his said was also crucial for stability.“I have personally visited all 15 counties of Liberia and witnessed at first hand the human and physical consequences of economic and social collapse,” he said. “A massive effort will therefore be required to ensure that there is some tangible progress in the months ahead.”In that context, he appealed to donors to quickly bridge the gap in emergency funding and to take early action on sorely-needed debt relief.“The whole country is currently running on an annual budget of $84 million while its external debt stands at $3.2 billion,” he noted. read more