Sudipto Mukerjee: Address to the Members of Parliament of Sierra Leone on Constitutional Review

31 Mar 2014

Hon. Speaker of the House, Hon. Deputy Speaker, Most Respected Representatives of the People of Sierra Leone, my Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today is a very BIG DAY for me.  For the first time in my life that I am addressing such an august institution and on a subject of supreme importance.  If our task ahead is well done and well respected in future it will go on to ensure equity, justice, dignity, social cohesion and prosperity for all Sierra Leoneans, not only for the present but for all future generations. 

Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members, I refer to the ongoing review of the Constitution of Sierra Leone.  UNDP is proud and privileged to partner with you in this process.  As a multilateral agency that is mandated in the promotion of democracy, we believe it is our role and responsibility to help you with a process that is widely consultative, most inclusive, decisive, time bound, and also benefits from global best practices.  

Just last week, the whole world applauded this precious country for being a shining example of peace building.  I understand that the address of H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma, delivered by the Hon. Foreign Minister received an unprecedented applause from the members of the Security Council.  Now, the world is looking to Sierra Leone, once again to set another shining example of a constitution review process that is enlightened and inclusive.  

To that end, Honourable Members, your role is absolutely critical in ensuring that the process is fully inclusive.  This will mean that you will need to:

-              Facilitate public involvement and provide ALL citizens with a meaningful opportunity to be heard in this review process; and

-              Use your representative role to engage with ALL constituents – and if required mediate to prevent and resolve conflicts on contentious issues.

Despite the slow start of the review process, we are now progressing well.  Since December 2013, there has been significant progress – several consultation meetings have been successfully held and CRC thematic committees have finalized their outreach and nation-wide consultation strategy with technical assistance from UNDP.   We find that as an extremely encouraging sign – as in the outreach consultation strategy, all committees have identified broad thematic issues, gaps and clearly targeted stakeholders for year-long consultation activities.

UNDP with collaboration of the Ministry of Gender, Social Welfare and Children organized a nation-wide Women Voices Conference on Gender-mainstreaming in the Constitutional Review Process. In the two day event 120 women leaders including honourable MPs participated – shared ideas and developed plans to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment issues throughout the constitutional review process.

Further, to engage the country’s media practitioners in the process – Sierra Leonean media professionals have been capacitated on subjects such as mediation, dialogue and conflict sensitive reporting on constitutional issues.   These are the same areas that this august gathering is going to discuss during the course of the day.

As you get to start your discussions, I also wish to raise another recent development that is both important in your regular business as Parliamentarians, as well as in your engagement with the CR process.  Just yesterday, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at a special meeting of the Economic Commission of Africa reminded the audience of a recently concluded process that she led and which involved nine other Heads of State from the African continent. 

Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members of the House, I refer to the Common African Position on the Post 2015 Global Development Agenda.   The Common African Position draws from the African Union's 2063 long term agenda and is a resolve to deliver on various declarations and commitments related to social and economic integration, poverty eradication, and employment generation for the African people. The CAP aims at re-orienting the development paradigm away from externally-driven initiatives toward domestically-inspired and funded initiatives.

It is based on six pillars:

1. Structural economic transformation;

2. Science, technology, and innovation;

3. A people-centred development;

4. Environmental sustainability;

5. For the first time, peace and security; and

6. Partnership for development.

Underpinning the CAP, there is a strong commitment not only to good governance at all levels for  sustainable and equitable development but also to complete the unfinished MDG business by focusing on the quality aspects of service delivery in the areas of education and health; and by responding to the social and economic consequences of Africa's changing demographic structure.

The CAP also resolves to reverse Africa's dependence on a cluster of primary commodities and to create decent jobs, strengthen resilience to external shocks, deepen and sustain the improved socio-economic performance of the continent by harnessing science, technology and innovation.  Finally the CAP acknowledges that the achievement of development objectives requires peace and security promoted by measures to prevent the outbreak of armed conflicts; thus addressing the root causes of conflict, including economic and social inequalities.

 

Please allow me to quote from the Document:

(Quote) ACKNOWLEDGING the importance of peace and security in Africa and in the world, and the inextricable links between development and peace, security and stability;

REAFFIRMING that peace and security is essential for the achievement of the continent’s development aspirations particularly for countries affected by conflict and those emerging from conflict, we COMMIT to:

1.            Tackle economic and social inequalities and exclusion;

2.            Strengthen good and inclusive governance; fight against all forms of discrimination; and

3.            Forge unity in diversity through democratic practices and mechanisms at the local, national and continental levels. (Unquote)

These principles must therefore be enshrined in the Constitutions of every African nation, including Sierra Leone.

Hon. Members, I thus believe that the CAP provides useful framework elements for your discussions today and in the future towards a revised Constitution for Sierra Leone.

Mr.  Speaker and Hon. Members

Before I conclude, I wish to also thank you for our partnership on strengthening this August House.  Over the years, we believe that our partnership has served very strategically to establish and strengthen the Parliament Assistance Coordination Office; strengthening and professionalizing the Parliament Service Commission in various ways; in improving knowledge management within the Parliament; introducing and capacitating on legislative aspects of your work here; opening up the Parliament to common Sierra Leoneans through the website, production of Parliamentary debates; and through strengthening public relations etc.  As we go forward, your work today and in the near future on the constitutional review and its refinement process; and your leadership contribution for Sierra Leone to accelerate the achievement of the MDGs and the development agenda beyond 2015, will help to deepen our partnership.  We in UNDP stand absolutely ready.

Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members of this August House, I come from India - a nation with a fine and the world’s longest written Constitution.  Today, I feel specially privileged to have the opportunity to engage in a process that could well, with all your committed participation lead to the production of the finest written Constitution in the world.  I salute you in advance for it.

Thank you for your attention.

Sudipto Mukerjee
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Sudipto Mukerjee is the UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director since August 2013.  Sudipto is an architect urban planner with over two decades experience in international development. He has previously worked for the Government of India and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) before joining the United Nations.  Before coming to Sierra Leone, he was with UNDP in Iraq.

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