Salone News

Victor Angelo’s New Year Message.

7 January 2007 at 00:26 | 339 views

By VICTOR ANGELO
Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone

A new year brings hope for better lives, better prospects and better opportunities. But it is only through sustained peace, security, respect for human rights and development that the hopes of every Sierra Leonean will be realised. There are many challenges ahead of us - credible elections, women’s empowerment, tackling unemployment, and creating the conditions for human development.

I am sure that the people of Sierra Leone will build upon the successes achieved so far, and continue to work together to promote and consolidate the existing culture of peace, through dialogue on critical national issues. When there is peace, there are dividends to enjoy. People will feel safe enough to go about their daily lives - to till the land, harvest the crops, develop livelihoods, go to school, invest, create jobs, construct homes and build a future.

2007 is a significant year for Sierra Leone as the country prepares for the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections in July. The experience we have so far with the electoral work has convinced us that the process can remain on track. We salute the independence demonstrated by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), and encourage all the parties to continue to collaborate with the Commission. Adherence to the Political Party’s Code of Conduct will decisively contribute to a constructive electoral climate. It is encouraging that in November 2006, eight political parties signed a Code of Conduct for the Elections.

The establishment of a Media Code of Conduct for election coverage is also vital. So too is voter education and a successful registration, which will start on 26 February.

Other critical tasks call for attention. As we recognise the relevance of being the first country to partner with the newly established UN Peacebuilding Commission, and congratulate the government for this meaningful international commitment, we should keep in mind that the priorities agreed with the Commission require steadfast implementation to consolidate stability and democracy. Youth unemployment remains a major issue. There is a need to harness the young people’s abilities and to sharpen their skills through education, vocational and professional training programmes, and to develop their management skills. Food security is also imperative for the well-being of citizens. Improved agricultural productivity, and adequate post-harvest techniques, will provide better nutrition and health for both rural and urban communities. The growth of small-scale farming and farm-related businesses and industries will generate additional rural incomes. All these will create firmer conditions for private sector growth. Efficient management of Sierra Leone’s natural resources, such as mining and fisheries, will ensure a sustainable future for its people. However, providing regulated access to these resources and markets remain a challenge. This is where public-private sector partnerships are useful for infrastructure and market development.

The United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) and UN Country team remain dedicated to the people and government of Sierra Leone. UNIOSIL’s mandate has just been extended for another year by the UN Security Council, which will see our continued presence in the country until the end of 2007. Furthermore, the UN Country Team will complete, this January, the formulation of its Development Assistance Framework for the period 2008-10, which will further align our work with national priorities and the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals.

We aim, in an integrated manner, to provide strategic support for national capacity building, by working together with all the other domestic and external partners. The success of this combined effort by the local and international community is determined by the level of good governance and accountability by national institutions. The drive to combat corruption must gain greater urgency. The reform of public services and the transparency of procurement, as part of the Improved Governance and Accountability Pact, will significantly contribute to augment faith in state institutions. Efforts to accelerate the reform of the justice system are also a priority.

We must step up our work to secure a viable future for the men, women and children of Sierra Leone. There are still mountains to climb. The international community must continue to support those negotiating steep inclines to ensure that no key player loses balance.

We believe in the future of Sierra Leone.

As 2007 beckons and as we stand together, the UN staff and I share with the people of Sierra Leone a vista of hope in the year ahead.

Photo: Victor Angelo, centre.

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