Security Council votes to extend peacebuilding mission in Sierra Leone

The Security Council voted unanimously Friday to extend the mandate of the U.N. peacebuilding mission in Sierra Leone after outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the country a "success story."
"Today Sierra Leone is a good example of what can be achieved by the U.N. and its member states working closely together," Annan said in a farewell speech to the council. "Sierra Leone is definitely one of the success stories of our work together."
A U.N. peacekeeping force helped put Sierra Leone back on the path to peace and stability after a bloody 11-year civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002. Poverty continues to plague the country, which has one of the world's lowest life expectancy and literacy rates.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry praised the resolution and said it was "appropriate that this should be one of the last resolutions adopted by the council under Kofi Annan's tenure as secretary-general."
The council "rightly recognizes the huge steps that Sierra Leone has taken over the past two years," he said. "Only a few years ago, Sierra Leone was the site of Africa's most gruesome civil war. Over the past 12 months, in comparison, Sierra Leone has continued to move forward."
Jones Parry said a consolidated effort between U.N. peacebuilders and the Sierra Leone government was essential for eradicating problems such as adult illiteracy and gender equality as well as ensuring a "full democratic process" in the upcoming July 2007 elections.
"Gender equality remains a serious problem, yet women's empowerment is central to peace consolidation and good governance," he said. "There's a particular need to ensure that women are able to participate fully in the 2007 elections, both as electors and as candidates."
The peacebuilding mission was established on Jan. 1 as the successor to the U.N. peacekeeping operation. It has 10 military observer, 18 international police officers, and about 130 civilian staff members.
The resolution extends the peacebuilding mission until Dec. 31, 2007 and authorizes 15 additional military observers and police, who will assist with the presidential and parliamentary elections. It calls on incoming Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who takes over the U.N.'s reins on Jan. 1, to conduct an assessment of the mission's role closer to the July elections.
World leaders attending the September 2005 U.N. summit created a new Peacebuilding Commission so that key international players could assist in promoting reconstruction and economic development in countries that have emerged from war.
Sierra Leone and Burundi were the first post-conflict countries chosen by the commission.
Over the next three years, Jones Parry said, the commission should focus on fighting corruption, reforming the civil service and instituting policies that tackle youth unemployment and stimulate economic development.