Addressing 67th Session UN General Assembly, President Sirleaf Calls
for Tolerance, in Face of Violence, to Preserve Democracy
(NEW YORK, USA – Wednesday, September 26, 2012) President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, on behalf of the Government and people of Liberia, expressed deepest condolence for the death of the United States Ambassador and staff, as well as Libyan nationals, in the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others were killed in a rocket attack after his car was targeted.
Addressing the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, day two of the General Debate, President Sirleaf said all nations should be concerned about the spreading of violence. “We must all be mindful that democracy requires freedom – freedom of ideas, freedom of association, freedom of religion and, more importantly, freedom of expression. This often results in statements and actions that may offend,” she said.
According to an Executive Mansion Dispatch from New York, President Sirleaf stressed that tolerance, not violence, is an appropriate response to prevent further violence. Citing Liberia as an example, she said that were it not for its tolerance to the new-found freedom of expression, the country would be back in chaos.
Speaking on sub-regional developments, President Sirleaf said while most countries are consolidating economic and social gains underpinned by democratic processes, it was unfortunate that some parts are still plagued by serious challenges that risk undermining the peace and progress of the entire region.
Liberia, she said, like many other countries in the region and the world at large, was particularly troubled by the unconstitutional unraveling of democratic governments in Mali and Guinea-Bissau early this year. She condemned these attempts to seize power through unconstitutional means. “Liberia endorses the decisions of ECOWAS aimed at the full restoration of constitutional order in both countries in the shortest possible time,” noting that Liberia enjoins the world community, particularly the Security Council, to buttress efforts of ECOWAS in restoring peace in our region, most especially in Mali.”
On the issue of reforms at the world body, President Sirleaf said that Liberia remains fully committed to the ideals and purposes of the United Nations, and believes that the Organization should continue to occupy the center of global governance, by leading efforts to meet our collective challenges to peace, security and development.
“To meet this objective, the inter-governmental negotiations on Security Council reform need to come to an early and logical conclusion,” she emphasized, adding: “My Government is encouraged that an increasing number of Member States support the enlargement of the Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories, which would ensure a fairer and more equitable participation reflective of the world’s demography.” Amidst applause, President Sirleaf stated that Liberia supports the African Common Position, based upon the “Ezulwini Consensus” as adopted by the African Union.
She further stressed that Member States must ensure that the General Assembly is revitalized to fully assume all the responsibilities entrusted to it in the Charter. “After all,” she said, “it remains the most representative body of the United Nations.”
Speaking about her country, President Sirleaf informed the Assembly that as the nation moves forward into its tenth year of sustained peace, she is convinced that Liberia has turned the corner. “Liberia is no longer a place of conflict, war and deprivation. We are no longer the country our citizens fled, our international partners pitied and our neighbors feared. Our stabilization efforts, over the past six years, have resulted in average annual growth of over 6 percent.
“Revenue has more than quintupled; direct foreign investment of over US$16 billion mobilized; an expanded fiscal space through unprecedented debt cancellation, infrastructure reconstruction and institutional rebuilding,” she said, noting, more importantly, that Liberia has earned its rightful place as a country of hope and opportunity.
“The processes of change which have started will continue and will not stop until the country is placed on an irreversible path of sustained peace, growth and development. Our Vision 2030, resulting from a robust nationwide consultation, is a long-term program for transformation which prioritizes youth development, infrastructure, reconciliation and capacity development,” she noted.
President Sirleaf pointed out that, for the first time in two generations, Liberia has a second successive democratic government elected by the will of the people. Despite the distractions, local and external, Liberians are determined to take their destiny into their own hands, determined that Government’s ambitious goal of making Liberia a middle-income country by the year 2030 will be achieved, she said.
Despite the gains, President Sirleaf said her Government is aware of the challenges that lie ahead over the next three years as the United Nations peacekeeping forces begin its phased withdrawal from Liberia. “In our discussions with various UN teams coming to Liberia – the Technical Assessment Mission in March, and the Security Council delegation in May – we have emphasized the need for a responsible transition, through a gradual process, occurring over a period of 3-5 years. We also seek the alignment of transitional activities with our budget cycle, reflecting Government priorities,” she told the General Assembly.
On being selected as one of the co-Chairs of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, President Sirleaf said she is honored and humbled to have been selected by the Secretary-General. However, the Panel was mindful of the difficulty of this responsibility, which requires them to propose a framework that builds upon, but goes beyond, the MDGs in the establishment of goals that are ambitious, but achievable.
She expressed appreciation to the United Nations, which has been a very committed and effective partner; adding, “We owe the Organization much gratitude for preserving an enabling environment for peace-building and state-building.