Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)

Amy Tachco
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
April 19, 2018


Thank you very much, Mr. President. I want to thank Assistant Secretary-General Zouev as well as Ambassador Schoulgin-Nyoni for their remarks today. And I would especially like to welcome Mr. Liberty to the Council today and thank you for your briefing and telling us about your very inspiring work on the ground in Liberia.

Mr. President, today we reflect on the history of a more than 14-year long peacekeeping mission, one that made an invaluable contribution to peace and security in a country wracked by years of civil war, chaos, and hopelessness.

In the 14 years before UNMIL’s arrival in 2003, Liberians endured a horrific civil war that left up to a quarter million men, women, and children killed and left half Liberia’s population displaced. Throughout that fighting, human rights violations and abuses, including torture, rape, sexual slavery, summary executions, and unlawful use and recruitment of child soldiers were prevalent. A Comprehensive Peace Agreement finally brought the calm that allowed UNMIL’s arrival.

UNMIL has played an indelible role in Liberia’s return from devastation. Through its SRSGs’ application of good offices, the reporting of its political and human rights units, the mentorship of its police units to their Liberian counterparts, its capacity building of Liberia’s courts, and at times its very physical presence – UNMIL made a difference. It helped Liberia navigate the challenging days that come with any overwhelming transition. Last month Mr. President, a mission that had more than 15,000 military personnel at its height saw the last of its military, police, and civilian members depart.

The United States commends the personnel and leaders of the UN mission in Liberia for their service and sacrifice in establishing peace and security, and remembers those who lost their lives in its pursuit. UNMIL’s personnel should never forget that their presence really changed lives. This Council’s action had tangible impact too, and as penholder the United States thanks our Council colleagues, past and present, for their collaboration and commitment to Liberia over all these years.

Upon UNMIL’s March 30 closure we were able to look back and see that it was able to achieve so much, and many of its achievements reflect the success that is possible when certain factors are in place. One year ago, Ambassador Haley outlined a set of U.S. peacekeeping principles as a pathway to more efficient operations and successful outcomes. For UNMIL, many of the conditions outlined in those principles were in fact in place and we believe they played a significant role in the mission’s success and its eventual ability to close.

First, UNMIL enjoyed strong relations and collaboration with the host country government, from its earliest support to elections to its recent collaboration on the peacebuilding plan for Liberia, the mission and the government were real partners, working toward a common goal; peace and security for Liberians. Second, UNMIL’s mandate was realistic and achievable in support of political solutions – to help a country recover from total devastation, build the capacity of its core institutions and consolidate democracy through elections and the democratic transfer of power.

The conduct of elections is a challenging enterprise no matter where they happen, and UNMIL worked with the government, regional, and international partners in contributing to their successful execution. During a contentious challenge, the mission engaged stakeholders to ensure they employed legal channels. After the challenges had run their course and elections resumed, we understood just how far Liberia and its institutions had come.

The United States also commends the leadership of UNMIL’s last SRSG, Farid Zarif, and mission personnel who worked arduously toward the preparation and conduct of elections. We commend the leadership of Presidents Johnson-Sirleaf and Weah, and the candidates in the elections, for finding a resolution that put the people of Liberia first and brought about the first democratic transfer of power in over 70 years.

Finally, Mr. President, we want to address the issue of reconciliation and human rights. In any post-conflict setting, the complex challenges of reconciliation and healing can linger. But despite the passage of time and positive momentum, addressing therm remains critical.

As former South African President Nelson Mandela once said; “true reconciliation does not consist in merely forgetting the past.” In that spirit, we strongly commend the Liberian government-led national reconciliation conference last month. We applaud President Weah’s call for inclusiveness and dialogue so all those in Liberia feel that they have been heard and included in working to reconcile the past and forging a common Liberian national identity.

We also applaud the revised strategic roadmap on national healing and the 12 agreed thematic areas of national reconciliation. We hope for immediate progress in the reconciliation objectives of the peacebuilding plan, and realization of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, along with the legislature’s long overdue passage of the Land Rights and Local Government bills.

We encourage the continued development of Liberia’s Independent National Commission on Human Rights and its collaboration with civil society to further embed respect for human rights as a cornerstone of Liberian society. And we commend the agreement between the government and OHCHR in the establishment of the OHCHR office, just on April 2.

The mission’s closure sees the UN in Liberia beginning a different period in a different form. To prepare for this eventuality, in UNMIL’s final mandate we asked the mission and the secretariat to develop a peacebuilding plan for Liberia, which they did in close consultation with the government and civil society. We again thank all of those who put in long hours and much effort to produce the plan in a remarkable 90 days. And we also thank all Member States, some represented here, who have made significant contributions toward that plan’s success. We encourage all of Liberia’s partners to stand beside the government as it seeks to unleash the potential of the country and its people.

In conclusion, Mr. President, UNMIL demonstrated what is possible when peacekeeping missions enjoy full host country support, support political solutions, have achievable mandates, and put forth clear exit strategies. At this historic moment for Liberia, as the baton passes from peacekeeping to further peacebuilding, we again commend UNMIL’s significant achievements, and applaud the contributions of the personnel and staff and the sacrifices made by its peacekeepers. With the mission’s closure, we send our encouragement to the members of the UN Country Team and its Resident Coordinator as they adjust to a new and different phase of effort. But most of all we, salute the Liberian people and their resiliency.