Significant Progress in Sierra Leone

Another sign of UN success in West Africa. From the UN News Centre:

The United Nations mission in Sierra Leone has made “significant progress” in supporting the Government to consolidate peace in the country, by strengthening the security sector, by promoting human rights and the rule of law, and by helping prepare for upcoming elections, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report.

However, Mr. Ban also cautions that the “the country continues to experience political tension along ethnic and regional lines” and cites high unemployment, poor economic and social conditions, and the rising price of food and gasoline, as other factors which “have the potential to derail the peace consolidation process.”

This update on the improving situation in Sierra Leone follows similarly encouraging news out of neighboring Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire. As Ban’s prudent warning suggests, however, these transitions toward peace and democracy in West Africa do not come unaccompanied by serious lingering problems and potential pitfalls. After easing violent societies into stability, the UN faces perhaps the even steeper challenge of consolidating these gains and ensuring that former war zones become politically and economically sustainable. That’s why the peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, scheduled to withdraw in September, will be replaced by a peacebuilding office.

These peacebuilding efforts will be funded out of the UN’s relatively new Peacebuilding Fund, created in late 2006 to provide societies transitioning toward peace with “a crucial bridge between conflict and recovery at a time when other funding mechanisms may not yet be available.” Despite the enormity and importance of its work, though, the Peacebuilding Fund has received less than a third of the money it needs to operate — including zero contributions from the United States.