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UN blue helmets help spur recent Liberian progress General Assembly hears

23 September 2008The presence of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia has been critical to the West African country’s progress in revitalizing its economy, rebuilding basic infrastructure, tackling corruption and consolidating peace and security after years of civil war, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told the General Assembly today. Addressing the opening day of the Assembly’s annual high-level debate, Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf – the first democratically elected female head of State in Africa – said the economic, political and social gains posted by Liberia since the war ended in 2003 are “truly a success story for a country coming out of so much destruction in so short a time.”She noted that Liberian gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 9 per cent last year, numerous schools and health clinics are re-opening or being built, and the once-despised security forces are rapidly modernizing.Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf said that while the country’s people deserved credit for these advances, the support of the international community, led by the UN, has also been vital.She urged UN Member States to support the continuing mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as UNMIL, “until the peace is properly consolidated, thereby removing the threat of the country relapsing into conflict again as some others before Liberia have experienced.”UNMIL was established by the Security Council in September 2003 to support the implementation of that year’s ceasefire agreement, and the President said the ongoing presence of around 11,000 blue helmets contributes to national economic growth by signalling that peace is guaranteed.“The presence of the UN Mission in Liberia has given hope to the people not to surrender to the threat to peace and development that are represented by the large percentage of unemployed youth who cannot be absorbed by an economy still too weak, in spite of the recorded growth; the large number of ex-combatants who were not properly re-integrated into society; and the resultant armed robberies and drug and arms-related crimes,” the President said.The current mandate of UNMIL, which had nearly 13,000 troops, police officers and military observers in place as of the end of July, expires on 30 September.


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