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$520 Million For Rebuilding Effort In Liberia

Pledging Conference At UN Raises $520 Million For Rebuilding Effort In Liberia

Donors meeting at the United Nations in New York today pledged $520 million to help Liberia to meet a host of reconstruction and humanitarian needs, including disarming fighters, creating jobs, retooling the country's infrastructure and stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS.

On the second day of the International Reconstruction Conference on Liberia at UN Headquarters, representatives from dozens of countries promised to support the West African nation with the $487.7 million needed for the next two years to begin the rebuilding process after a ruinous 14-year civil war. Another $180 million will be required for humanitarian activities.

In a communiqué adopted at the close of the two-day event, representatives from 96 countries and 45 organizations noted agreement on an inclusive, community-based approach to reintegration and reconstruction which fully incorporates the needs of all segments of the population affected by the conflict, with special focus on women and children.

Opening this morning's meeting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to donor countries to be generous in their support. "Let us seize this opportunity to end a long-running nightmare that has disgraced humankind," he said. "Let us consolidate the peace, and make the peace process irreversible."

Speaking earlier Friday, C. Gyude Bryant, Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, described measures under way to begin the process of national renewal, including by centralizing the collection of State revenues through the Central Bank of Liberia, reducing the price of rice and petroleum products, opening the market for importation of basic commodities, and paying civil servant salaries.

Liberia passionately appealed to the international community to assist it in achieving peace and reconciliation and commencing the process of national renewal, Mr. Bryant said. In addition to the needs that the Conference would address, his country also required help in obtaining relief from its daunting debt burden. Only Liberians could achieve a real and enduring peace and build their country.

United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said that a Liberia at peace would be critical to peace and well-being throughout the West African region, and the country's successful reconstruction would send a powerful message to other long-troubled parts of Africa that the international community would stand behind those who seized the opportunity for peace and set their course for democracy and sustainable development.

"Together, we will support Chairman Bryant and the men and women of Liberia as they transform their country into a place where respect for human rights, good governance and economic opportunity are the norm, and stability at home is matched by peace in the region," Mr. Powell said.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said that to guarantee the effectiveness of efforts in Liberia, the stability of the entire region must be ensured. In Sierra Leone, the UN’s presence since 1999 had extinguished one hot spot. In Côte d’Ivoire, France was heavily engaged with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in preventing civil war by supporting a political settlement to the crisis. Today, strengthening the presence of the UN and establishing a peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire were indispensable.

"Let us fully realize the importance of acting in time, without waiting for crises to degenerate into chaos. Let us also realize that only an integrated, United Nations-coordinated, regional approach can effectively deal with the crises on the African continent," he said. "The responses we bring together to the Liberian crisis and the problems of West Africa will be a test of our ability to act together in the cause of peace."

Jacques Paul Klein, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and chief of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), noted that political progress was being made, the security situation was improving, and the peace process was irreversible, making this the optimal time for the donor community to help. "Let's give the people of Liberia the tools and means to fulfil their dream," he said.

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