David McLachlan-Karr: UN Resident Coordinator's statement to the press
Statement by David McLachlan-Karr.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Sierra Leone.
Constitutional Dialogue with Political Parties
The objective of the Constitutional Dialogue is to consolidate the views of political parties and to build consensus on their recommendations, which are to be presented to the Constitutional Review Committee of Sierra Leone. Notably, this Dialogue will offer smaller political parties an equal opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the constitution review process.
• I am delighted to be here. It is very exciting to be part of this critical juncture in Sierra Leone’s unfolding history and it is a real honour to have the opportunity to address all the political parties at the start of your deliberations on what a future constitution of Sierra Leone should look like.
• We at the United Nations are fully invested in supporting the Constitutional Review Process. Having emerged from a dark period, Sierra Leone is poised to become a great nation and the United Nations is proud to support the country in transitioning to an era of prosperity.
• I had the good fortune to participate in last week’s International Dialogue on Peace Building and State Building hosted by Sierra Leone. It was an important meeting at which Sierra Leone took the lead in setting the agenda for donors and investors by identifying what is really important for countries in the process of rebuilding after conflict. What is important is building sound political processes and ensuring, through initiatives like the Constitutional Review Process, that no Sierra Leonean is left behind in the development process.
• President Koroma delivered a truly inspirational speech that I believe was representative of all Sierra Leoneans. He talked about the sense of hope that the people of Sierra Leone are experiencing and he made the point that when hope returns to a country, anything is possible. He also pointed out that the future of Sierra Leone as a prosperous country is in “inclusive politics and security which is felt by all, justice that everyone can access, jobs and basic public services…in other words a functioning state”. Crucial to securing a well functioning state is a sound and visionary constitution.
• The new constitution should be a collective expression of the aspirations of Sierra Leoneans from every political, ethnic or religious walk of life. Furthermore, the review process should ultimately help Sierra Leoneans realize their hopes and fill them with a sense of confidence that their human rights are protected and their welfare is assured within the constitution.
• In order for the new constitution to be truly representative, it is absolutely imperative that the review process is fully inclusive. That means that the Constitutional Review Committee will have to embrace the participation of everyone including, women who comprise 52% of your population, academics and professional organizations, the business community, all religious groups, civil society organizations and political parties like yourselves.
• As the representatives of all political parties, you can have a profound impact on the future of this country for many generations to come through the role you play in this review process. Your work here today will be to help the Constitutional Review Committee to identify issues that constrained inclusive politics in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and the Peter Tuckers Recommendations, and to advise on how to address those issues in a new constitution.
• It is important that you can rise above your political differences to take full advantage of this opportunity to build common ground and to strategize together in order to advocate for issues of concern to the people you represent. You have a huge responsibility to safeguard the public interest.
• As you work together to forge a new constitution it is crucial that your deliberations are informed by a mutual commitment to a core set of basic democratic values that should be secured in the new constitution:
- Participation and inclusivity. Every voice must be heard and taken account of in decision-making processes. All political parties and civil society organizations that seek to protect and promote the rights of their members, in particular the most vulnerable, must have the right to be heard;
- Tolerance. Sierra Leone has a proud history of religious tolerance. This tolerance should be extended to all divergent viewpoints and interests; the constitution must entrench non-discrimination.
- Transparency and accountability. Under governance that is truly transparent and accountable, supported by an environment of free speech, Sierra Leoneans can have access to crucial information about how government operates, establishes priorities and makes decisions, particularly when it comes to how public resources are allocated.
Finally, I would encourage you to use this opportunity to arrive at an agreement among yourselves that partisan political interests will not stop you from adopting the outcome of this constitutional review process. Thus far the United Nations and the Constitutional review Commission have been working very successfully together to ensure a process that is broadly inclusive. I have every expectation that the review process will culminate in a visionary text that supports the realization of the incredible potential of Sierra Leone; that preserves the best of who you are and inspires a country based on the equal value and dignity of each and every single Sierra Leonean.
Tikue B. Girmay
Office of the Resident Coordinator