The UN Mission in Liberia
In 2003, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1509, establishing the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). UNMIL was created as a multi-dimensional operation in response to human rights and governance issues throughout Liberia. On August 12, 2013 the Security Council extended the mandate for UNMIL until September 30th, 2014.
The Mission's mandate includes:
• Supporting the ceasefire;
• Observing disengagement of armed forces;
• Protecting civilians;
• Promoting human rights;
• Supporting reform of the military and police; and
• Promoting the Peace Process including the national elections.
Liberia was founded by freed American slaves in 1821 with the help of the U.S. government.
In 1989, rebel leader Charles Taylor initiated a civil war after invading Liberia from neighboring Cote d'Ivoire. The war claimed more than 150,000 lives and displaced close to one million people. A 1993 peace agreement negotiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and backed by the UN, led to the creation of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL). UNOMIL was established to implement the peace agreement and after many delayed elections, Taylor was elected in July 1997.
Having completed its mandate to support the election process, UNOMIL withdrew from Liberia in September 1997. In November, the UN created a post-conflict support office, The United Nations Peace-building Support office in Liberia. UNOL worked with the government for national reconciliation in the nation, but the Government was unable to control rebel factions, hindering the work of UNOL. In April 2003 UNOL’s mandate changed to focus on developing the Government’s capacity to deal with issues of human rights and conducting elections. The government and opposition parties failed to agree on many key issues though making progress difficult.
Underlined by serious human rights violations and the eventual renewal of civil war, the Security Council decided to establish a multi-dimensional operation in Liberia, United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). In September 2003, 15,000 troops were deployed to help stabilize the nation as well as develop systems to address human rights abuses, civil society, the justice sector, disarmament, child protection, and security forces. Read more || Hide text
By 2003, rebel groups controlled roughly two-thirds of the country and the international community increased pressure on Taylor to resign. As a result, he stepped down in August and fled to Nigeria. In 2005, the UN included an additional mandate to apprehend and detain the former president. In late April, 2012, the International Criminal Court at The Hague convicted him on 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. On May 30th he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
In September 2003, after Taylor fled the country, the Security Council authorized UNMIL to stabilize and secure Liberia, and in 2005, the country held free and fair elections with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf becoming the first democratically elected female president in Africa. Her administration has tackled government corruption, strengthened national institutions, and reformed the national security forces with UN and U.S. assistance. Foreign investment in Liberia has continued to increase since President Johnson-Sirleaf took office in 2006. UNMIL continues to support the Liberian government in its development toward sustainable peace. Since 2003, the United States has contributed over $1 billion in both bilateral assistance to the Liberian government and in assessed contributions to the peacekeeping mission in Liberia.
Foreign investment in Liberia has continued to increase since President Johnson-Sirleaf took office in 2006. UNMIL continues to support the Liberian government in its development toward sustainable peace. Since 2003, the United States has contributed over $1 billion in both bilateral assistance to the Liberian government and in assessed contributions to the peacekeeping mission in Liberia.
In October 2011, Liberia held its general and presidential elections. UNMIL worked closely with the National Elections Commission, as well as the Liberia National Police, to ensure fairness and safety nationwide. Since no candidate won an absolute majority during the first round of elections, a run-off was called between incumbent President Sirleaf and opposition candidate Winston Tubman. Sirleaf was declared the winner of the run-off on November 15, 2011 with 90.7% of the vote.
In March 2012, the Security Council authorized the mission to begin reducing its numbers from 15,000 troops to 8,000, as the mission enters phase three of its withdrawal plans. In the lead up to September 2012, the focus of the mission’s priority will increasingly focus on infrastructure and governance development as the need for peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance lessens.
On June 8th, as a result of post-election strife in Cote d’Ivoire, conflict broke out across the eastern border of Liberia. Seven peacekeepers of the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and 15 civilians were killed in two separate attacks by unidentified armed men. The events have displaced thousands in Cote d’Ivoire, many of which have crossed into Liberia. To handle ongoing unrest, UNOCI and UNMIL have coordinated meetings between Liberian and Ivoirian representatives. UNMIL reallocated peacekeepers to the border to better handle the situation, while continuing its plans to shift control over to Liberian authorities.
How This Affects American Interests
- Promoting Good Governance. Promoting Good Governance: On July 8, 2013 the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the dismissal of four senior officials in her administration for allegedly engaging in illegal practices. President Sirleaf has worked to ensure that gender, ethnic and religious equality is practiced throughout government. The government has demonstrated a strong capability to exercise oversight and create fair laws throughout the country. UNMIL has helped in providing several national meetings and discussions on the importance of the legislature. On March 21st, 2013 the President extended the constitutional review process, to be undertaken by the appointed Liberians and the United Nations Development Program, by one year to 2015.Additionally, the Presidents nomination of a new Chief Justice to the Supreme Court on April 29th, 2013 brought the Court to a full bench. The United Nations has worked with the court to provide national dialogue and training on issues ranging from border security to institutional weakness. Despite positive trends in the overall democratization throughout 2013, budget constraints and funding issues continue to threaten the democratic process. .
- Reforms the police and military. Together, the Liberian Government . and the UN are working to support a transparent, trustworthy, and effective security sector. UNMIL is reforming and training the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Liberian Army to provide stability and security throughout the country. Throughout 2013 police training at the National Police Training Academy faced several issues as donor funding has dropped significantly. As of August 1st, 2013, the police stood at 4,556 personnel, including 812 women of whom 24 were in leadership positions. UNMIL and the Ministry of Gender Development launched a nationwide recruitment campaign to increase female representation from 17 per cent to 20 per cent. The operational capacity of the Liberian National Police increased throughout 2013 as UNMIL provided several training programs in investigative skills to combat human trafficking. Additionally, the Liberian armed forces are expected to become fully operational by 2014, as nation-wide recruiting occurred throughout 2013 with a goal of reaching 1,904 personnel. Creating strong police and military forces will not only benefit the stability of Liberia, but of the region as a whole.
- Improves status of women. UNMIL’s mandate specifically includes empowering, promoting and supporting women by working with partners to advance their roles in government and civil society. Several steps were taken throughout 2013 to further this cause. In February, 2013 the Liberian Government joined the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, a global initiative committed to ending violence against women and girls. The Government has also announced plans to raise the percentage of women in the National Police force to 20 per cent. Additionally, new land policy drafted in 2013 called for all Liberians, including women, to have equal access to land and property. Though steps have been taken towards improving the status of women in Liberia, issues like the underfunding of the national police threaten the security of women in Liberia.
- Developing National Reconciliation. On June 20th, 2013 the President launched the National Reconciliation Road Map, aimed at emphasizing economic empowerment, a shared national identity and effective, decentralized justice and governance structures. Though the overall implication of the Road Map is currently unclear, it will look to create an inclusive national history narrative for primary and secondary schools.
- Human Rights Violations. Despite Government initiatives to combat human rights abuses, several harmful traditions continued in Liberia throughout 2013, including female genital cutting, forced initiation into secret societies, violence against women and children and discrimination based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Throughout 2013 the Independent National Commission on Human Rights continued its campaign against child sexual abuse, and held consultations in several counties. Meanwhile, the government along with the United Nations continued to prepare its report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The national police began to work closely with UNMIL in order to combat human trafficking and violence. During 2013 there was an increase of 25 per cent of reported cases of sexual violence from 2012. More than 20 per cent of such incidents involved victims under the age of ten.
- Regional Instability. .Tensions between Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire remained relatively calm throughout 2013. UNMIL and UNOCI have facilitated direct interaction between officials from both sides of the boarder. In April, 2013, the Liberian and Ivorian governments, along with UNMIL and UNOCI held a quadripartite meeting in Monrovia to plan for coordinated security operations on both sides of the border. Meetings between government officials of the two countries continued throughout 2013, including a larger meeting with the state members of the Mano River Union to discuss the development of stronger security strategies. However, while tensions on Liberia’s border remained fairly quiet throughout 2013, two cross-border attacks on communities in Cote d’Ivoire near the border highlight the potential for increased hostilities.
*Updated April 2014