Partnering for sustainable peace in Liberia

©Institute for Security Studies

Amanda Lucey

Liezelle Kumalo

Liberia is at a pivotal point in its transition to a peaceful democracy. In October 2017 the country will have its first ‘open seat’ elections. The incumbent, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will step down and hand over power to the leader of one of the 22 political parties that are currently participating in the election. Moreover, despite security fears for the elections, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has downsized from over 15 000 military troops in 2007 to around 1 000 soldiers in 2016 (see Figure 1). It will continue to draw down in 2017 in recognition of Liberia’s growing ownership of its own transition. The country has made steady progress in transitioning from decades of civil conflict into a new democracy. It has instituted a number of legal reforms, national strategies and peacebuilding activities to address the root causes of violence. Liberia has been receiving support from the United Nations’ (UN) Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) since 2010, but its institutions still need to be supported to consolidate their democracy gains. The 2015 review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture argued that, for the peacebuilding components of peace operation mandates to be more effective, there must be better coordination between the UN Security Council Summary Liberia is going through an important period in its transition, with elections in October 2017 and the final drawdown of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in March 2018. Despite having made significant strides towards sustainable peace, the country still has a number of urgent peacebuilding priorities that need to be addressed.

This policy brief is based on field research carried out in November 2016. It makes targeted, practical recommendations to the UN Peacebuilding Commission on enhancing its support to Liberia, drawing on a wide range of partnerships with other internal and external peacebuilding actors. Partnering for sustainable peace in Liberia Amanda Lucey and Liezelle Kumalo 2 Partnering for sustainable peace in Liberia (UNSC), the PBC and UN Country Teams. It also stated that the PBC could play an enhanced role in advising the UNSC on the diverse range of views from the full spectrum of international peace, security and development tools and actors, and in developing practical and context-specific solutions. Finally, the PBC could be instrumental in bringing together various stakeholders, both from New York and from the field, to mobilise peacebuilding support to conflict-affected countries. What does this mean in the case of Liberia? Noting the numerous peacebuilding actors (including national, regional, subregional and international organisations) involved in Liberia’s efforts to sustain peace, this policy brief makes practical recommendations on how the PBC, particularly its Liberia Configuration, can enhance its role in the country. Liberia has instituted a number of legal reforms, national strategies and peacebuilding activities to address the root causes of violence Statement of Mutual Commitment on peacebuilding in Liberia is signed by the government of Liberia and the PBC This paper is part of a broader project called ‘Enhancing African responses to peacebuilding’, made up of a consortium of three partner organisations – the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and New York University’s Center on International Cooperation (CIC). It is one of a series of products derived from research carried out from 2–10 November 2016 in Monrovia with 36 stakeholders from 22 institutions.

It takes its point of departure from the Statement of Mutual Commitment (SMC) on peacebuilding in Liberia, signed in April 2016 by the government of Liberia and the PBC. This statement is particularly important, as it is the most comprehensive document confirming the Liberian government’s peacebuilding priorities,3 namely security sector development, rule of law, national reconciliation and a peaceful and inclusive society.4 Cross-cutting issues such as decentralisation and empowering youth and women were also noted. This paper first looks at those of Liberia’s national frameworks relevant to peacebuilding. It then examines the engagements of multiple peacebuilding actors in Liberia, with a particular focus on the roles of African regional, subregional and bilateral organisations. It also unpacks principles as to why they may hold an advantage in certain peacebuilding activities. Finally, the paper explores how the PBC can develop context-specific solutions to Liberia’s peacebuilding priority areas, making use of partnerships.

Download the full paper Partnering for sustainable peace in Liberia

This publication was made possible in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.