President Bio addresses 74th Session of the UN General Assembly

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 September 2019:

Yesterday, Thursday, 26th September 2019, in New York the president of Sierra Leone – Julius Maada Bio, delivered a wide ranging address at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, where he spoke about the progress Sierra Leone has made in its stride to achieving economic and social progress, since he was elected president over a year ago.

This is what he said:

Mr. President, Colleague Heads of State and Government, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I congratulate you Mr. President, on your assumption of the responsibility to steer the work of the Seventy-Fourth Session of the General Assembly. I assure you of Sierra Leone’s full support during your tenure.

I applaud Her Excellency Madam Fernanda Espinosa Garces of Ecuador, for the effective manner in which she conducted the previous session. I commend Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres for his overall dedication and commitment to the work of the Organization, including his efforts in advancing the urgent need to address Climate Change.

We commit in prayer, memories of the late President Robert Gabriel Mugabe. He was a dedicated pan-Africanist whose pursuit of African integration, cooperation and solidarity shall forever remain in our minds and hearts.

Mr. President, the theme for this year, “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion,” builds on commitments we made over the years. The issues are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We therefore commend you for the timely choice of a theme that resonates with the aspirations of the people whom we all represent.

Mr. President, Sierra Leone supports the principle of collective engagement in both the prevention and settlement of conflicts and disputes, as well as the Secretary-General’s reform agenda in sustaining peace in all its facets, including the efforts to reform peacekeeping.

As a Troop and Police Contributing Country, Sierra Leone’s active participation in peacekeeping operations demonstrates our firm commitment to the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security. Let me reiterate this firm commitment to continue to contribute our fair share to maintaining world peace.

Mr. President, the need for Security Council reform is urgent and imperative. Our historic pledge to the early reform of the Security Council as an essential element of our overall effort to reform the United Nations must be upheld and implemented without further delay.

The legitimacy and effectiveness of the Security Council’s decisions, as well as the relevance of the United Nations, will continue to be questioned if urgent action is not taken to make the Council more broadly representative. Africa remains to be the only region without representation in the permanent category of the Security Council, and is also under-represented in the Non-permanent category.

In this context, Africa’s demand for two Permanent seats with all the rights and prerogatives of current members, including the right of veto, and two additional Non-permanent seats is a matter of common justice and the right to have an equal say in decision-making on issues pertaining to international peace and security. This long-standing injustice and imbalance perpetuated in the present configuration of the Security Council should be of grave concern to us all, which ought to be addressed.

As the Coordinator of the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government on the reform of the United Nations Security Council, we are convinced that this reform should address the long-standing injustice and imbalance in the present configuration of the Council.

We believe that the prevailing geopolitical realities are compelling for a comprehensive reform of the Security Council to make way for equitable geographic representation. Africa’s patience is being tested. We therefore urge this Assembly to collectively support our urgent call for Africa’s representation in the Security Council, as espoused in the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration.

Mr. President, we pursue peace as a public common good and we have played an important role in securing peace as a stand-alone Goal in the 2030 Agenda. There is a strong case to make for the voices of billions of people living in conflict affected countries to be heard in the highest global decision-making organ, in particular, the g7+ countries.

Sierra Leone has pursued country-led peace and resilience through national dialogue and reconciliation. We recently concluded a broad-based national consultative conference, Bintumani III, where a nationally representative body resolved to establish a permanent and independent national commission for peace and cohesion. We do so, mindful that peaceful coexistence and inclusive governance are pre-requisites to our development.

Mr. President, development and poverty eradication must be well-planned, inclusive, and sustainable. It must transition our nation out of fragility. To this end, Sierra Leone has partnered with United Nations agencies and development partners to understand the dynamics and severity of poverty, and map out possible approaches to eradicating poverty, SDG 1.

This has culminated in the production of a national multi-dimensional Poverty Index, a report on multi-dimensional child poverty, and Sierra Leone’s Population Policy in order to effectively measure and monitor.

Mr. President, the aspirations of Sierra Leoneans are reflected in a detailed and costed Five-Year Medium-Term National Development Plan, titled “Education for Development”. The Plan, aligned with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, is based on an inclusive nationwide consultative process. It ensures that people are at the centre and own our national development trajectory.

Mr. President, eradicating poverty can only be achieved when we develop and improve on our nations’ greatest resource – the people. Skilled, healthy, and productive human beings are the pathways to global success and prosperity.

As a nation, we see human capital development as a critical enabler for achieving the SDGs. My Government has therefore allocated 21% of the national budget to education. Consequently, pre-primary to secondary school education is free irrespective of gender, ability, or ethnicity and we now have 2 million children enrolled in school.

We have expanded opportunities in education for girls by creating safe spaces in schools, campaigning vigorously against early marriage and sexual and gender-based violence. Girls admitted to study STEM disciplines in colleges are guaranteed scholarships.

Technical and vocational education centres are now accessible to more Sierra Leonean girls and youth; and, we are investing more in school infrastructure, transportation, sanitation and health, feeding, and retention programmes.

We are restructuring and redesigning our education system to deliver quality education that serves inclusive, sustainable, national and private sector development. Our focus is to achieve fundamental, age-appropriate learning outcomes in literacy, computational skills, and critical thinking. We invite the world to work with us!

Through the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation, we have developed a Human Capital Development Incubator with extensive real-time data on education in Sierra Leone and other components of our human capital development flagship programme.

Policy interventions and investments in education, healthcare and food security are increasingly informed by and driven by this real-time data. Sierra Leone continues to use the power of data to plan, make policy decisions, allocate resources, guide governance, and open new possibilities for private entrepreneurship, and drive human capital development.

We are open to partnerships; we are open to collaboration; we are open to ideas about how to continue improving the quality of education because we believe that our success in a global digital economy in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is predicated on our investment in the future of our children.

Mr President, through partnerships and innovation, we have made great progress in establishing legal identity and birth registration, by strengthening our National Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems. We have also unrolled Africa’s first Block Chain National Digital Identity Platform (NDIP) that will help citizens grant access to approved institutions to digitally verify their identities.

Governance, development planning, financial inclusion, and human rights imperatives, among others, guide our initiative to establish legal identity using a singular, securitised, and serially numbered instrument. We can also use the same instrument to strengthen healthcare planning, health information systems, disease surveillance, and monitor public health interventions and outcomes.

Mr. President, the threat of inequality, lack of opportunity and exclusion of our youth still persist. The anxiety over the growing youth population in Africa is complicated by increased poverty indicators, youth exclusion, perilous migration across the Mediterranean, transnational organized crime, terrorism and violent extremism, and greater national and regional security threats.

Sierra Leone is addressing the youth question through financial and social inclusion programmes, skills training, and farming initiatives. We are pleased to be among ten countries selected by the United Nations as pilot in the recently launched United Nations Youth Strategy. We look to collaborate across the region and with international partners, and share lessons and best practices.

Mr. President, our development agenda is inclusive and affirms the critical role of women. We have ratified the UN Resolution on Women, Peace, and Security. We are addressing the inclusion of women in governance and entrepreneurship. Our actions on child marriage, rape, and sexual and gender-based violence have been emphatic and uncompromising.

We have passed progressive laws on sexual offences and a Presidential Task Force directly advises the presidency on Sexual and Gender-based violence. We are also working to eliminate barriers to the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Mr President, quality, affordable, and universal healthcare coverage is foundational to productivity and overall well-being. This is critical for our human capital development agenda. As a nation, we cannot afford the cost of not investing in healthcare and universal healthcare coverage. We have maintained a rights-based approach to healthcare coverage that aligns with SDG 3.

We are focused on and request cooperation on reducing maternal and child mortality; preventing epidemics, tropical, and communicable diseases through increased disease detection, surveillance, and control; providing primary health care in accordance with the Astana Declaration; providing first-rate, in-country medical diagnostic facilities; and strengthening capacity and resilience in healthcare service delivery. Through all these efforts, we are leveraging innovation and technology to support healthcare delivery.

We also believe that we cannot achieve Universal Health Coverage without delivering mental healthcare for all. We are rewriting the mental health legislation and we are committed to Community-based Mental Health Care and treatment.

We aim to change attitudes to mental health and provide affordable and integrated quality care that matches the burden of mental health conditions. We therefore welcome partnerships towards achieving that goal.

Mr President, our focus as a government remains the delivery of accountable and transparent governance of the state through critical debates and engagements with all citizens on rights, governance, and development.

We continue to work with civil society and the press as we expand democratic space. My government has forwarded to parliament a bill to completely repeal a 54-year old law that criminalises libel, which has been used by past governments to imprison journalists and restrict press freedoms.

As Co-Chair of the Task Force on Justice, we strongly identify with and reiterate the Secretary General’s call for accelerated commitments to addressing gaps in the delivery of justice. We have signalled that commitment as a country by establishing a special directorate within the Ministry of Justice to monitor, evaluate, and report on progress on ‘Access to Justice’ for our most vulnerable. We are also using technology and innovation to digitise our court processes and thus fast-track justice delivery for all.

We have undertaken governance reforms that foster the rule of law and public accountability. We continue pursuing a determined fight against corruption while minimising the waste and abuse of state resources. We are implementing business-friendly reforms that create a conducive eco-system for private capital investments and entrepreneurship in our country.

Mr President, let me express my country’s sincere appreciation to the Secretary-General for convening the Climate Action Summit this September. Extreme weather events increase the risk of hunger, disease, forced migrations, conflict, and poverty.

The science is indisputable; the effects on lives and livelihood are real; the threats to our efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals are clear and present. As a country, we are committed to a multilateral approach to fully implement the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Our Mid-Term National Development Plan provides for mitigation and adaptation strategies including reviewing, formulating, and strengthening national policy actions on environmental management and governance. We are committed to green and sustainable energy generation.

With the right partnerships, the right attitude, and unflinching commitment to climate financing and continuing multilateral efforts, we can save our planet from the destructive impact of climate change.

Mr. President, let me conclude, by encouraging us all to keep sight of the shared responsibility we all have to ensure a peaceful and secure world for the next generations. Sierra Leone is a small state determined to play its own part in the international system.

We are committed to promoting peace and security, addressing the underlying causes of fragility and drivers of conflict, tackling the scourge of climate change, and thus building resilience and achieving the 2030 Agenda. Together, we can achieve this in our lifetime!

I thank you!!

10 Comments

  1. I was reading a 2012 article online by its writers; Daron Acemoglu (a Turkish born professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT), and James Robinson (a professor of government at Harvard University both in the United States), and both of the Foreign Policy (FP) magazines. The writers had simply stated “10 Reasons States Fall Apart”, and included Sierra Leone in the mix.

    After rigorous research, investigations, seminars and interviews, amongst other avenues, the writers have come to the inevitable conclusion that ‘States don’t fail overnight’. That the seeds of their destruction are often sown deep within their political institutions over decades. This is a direct and albeit, verbatim quote from the article: “Some countries fail or fall spectacularly, with a total collapse of all state institutions, as in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal and the hanging of President Mohammad Najibullah from a lamppost, or during the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone, where the government ceased to exist altogether”.

    Dwelling upon where Sierra Leone is today, my take, incorporating the authors research, is that intense extraction, with little or no regard toward the welfare of the people inevitably breeds discontent, instability and ultimately failure because, consistent with the iron law of oligarchy, it creates incentives for others to depose the existing elites and take over. And that’s exactly what happened in Sierra Leone. Erstwhile governments have run the country like their personal fiefdom. Some have even attempted to run the country as a business (Trump?) And witness the current near upheaval in governance.

    The trouble is that this sort of extraction creates deep-seated grievances and invites contests for power from would-be strongmen hoping to get their hands on the loot. Soon thereafter, the country didn’t see what was coming and soon descended into chaos, with the civil war taking the lives of about 1 percent of the population and maiming countless others. Sierra Leone’s state itself and institutions totally collapsed. Government revenues went from 15 percent of national income to practically zero by 1991. The state, in other words, didn’t so much fail as disappear entirely. The moral of this story here is to respect the rule of law, state institutions and freedom of the rights of the people and adhere to the principles of democratic institutions. Above all, for Sierra Leone to stay away from the reasons given by the authors for state failures. It is in Back and White. We cannot allow history cannot simply repeat itself.

  2. See the end result,Honorable Mr Thomas – this is what happens when out of empathy,and discretion,you get involved in a fight,and save the skin of some people – they become more emboldened,to spew out more,and more gibberish.(lol) Unlike some people on this forum, engulfed by insincerity,and looking for favors,and recognition from the ruling party,I always call a spade a spade. Mr Bilal Coleman is intelligent enough to understand that – and I know that he stands, boldly,loyally,and sincerely on the side of the SLPP – Nuff respect for that!

    But where do you stand? Yes,you proclaiming that Prezo is listening to your trivial,and petty advice. I am APC for life – come rain or sunshine – through thick and thin; come hell or highwater…The rising sun will burn,and burn forever.Talk is cheap,try walking 10 steps in my shoes,and see if you will be able to manage it…Empty talk can never pave the way to greatness! Ya heard me! Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  3. Saidu Conteh, whether you like president Julius Bio or not, your kind words to the president will not go unnoticed. I wonder what took you so long to acknowledge the fact that Bio of Africa is a great man destined to transform the country that you and I call home.

    We are not going to give up on you on this forum. Sierra Leone needs you and hopefully an attitudinal change on your part will signal the dawn of a new day for you.

  4. See this is exactly my point – Sahr Matturi, I am not praising the policies of President Bio or his style of governance. I am just applauding him for mentioning one of my Heroes – Robert Mugabe, in a gathering of world leaders. That’s it. I still don’t like the Coup-plotters policies,or the stupidities of the SLPP – so don’t get things twisted….Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • I don’t care about the negative comments regarding the RHETORIC about President Bio and the SLPP. What I do know though is that President Bio is our Leader and also the SLPP is the party in POWER. PERIOD. Let’s concentrate on the ISSUES and ARGUMENTS rather than expressing our anger on the President or his party. I am really prepared to take you on the ISSUES Mr. Conteh.

      President Bio has started changing the POLITICAL DEBATE and DYNAMICS. He is just doing things that are not only proving his DIEHARD critics wrong but convincing them to IGNORE their political parties and come under his fold. The best thing for anyone who is angered by the SUCCESS and GAINS this President is making POLITICALLY or ECONOMICALLY, is to RALLY behind him to make him succeed. One can just join the Bio Administration or ELECTION WAGON to feel happy. WELCOME to the BIO POLITICAL WAGON and the SLPP. Saying good things about President Bio is not enough. GOD BLESS THE SLPP GOVERNMENT AND PRESIDENT BIO.

  5. A very good speech indeed but lacks some tangible and sustainable forest management approach which Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry piloted in 2017/2018. This new approach is now supported by the European Union through Boosting Agriculture and Food Security (BAFS) which I called Boosting Agriculture and Forestry (BAF) because one of the overall outcome of agriculture is food security. The ministry and this government should shift from the conventional forest management approach which has deforested our forest regime and excluded forest edge communities from the governance, management and benefit of forest and its resources.

    The government should place high premium on upscaling of Community-Based Forest Management Approach to all chiefdoms and communities. This approach focuses on preserving natural forest regimes through inclusive and participatory community governance and management system. For decades, MAF and many conservation agencies in Sierra Leone are notorious for only tree planting. Worst of it all is the rapid and intensive use of the evasive and foreign species such as Acacia, Melina etc instead of growing our own indigenous tree species.

    If care is not taken, in the next five decades, Sierra Leone landscape will be dominated by Melina. In addition to the old system of afforestation through tree planting, the president should have mentioned this new approach which the whole world is now practicing. Four sites in two districts, Baoma, Pambela and Domboma, Dasse chiefdom in Moyamba, Gbaima Songa, Gbo chiefdom in Bo district piloted in 2017/2018.

    Currently, five sites in four districts are upscaling it, namely: Yiema, Nimikoro chiefdom, in Kono, Bumbuna Hydro Dam – Lower and Upper in the Dansogoia and Kalanthuba chiefdoms in Tonkolili, Kawula, Masungbala chiefdom, Kambia and Samaya, Tambaka chiefdom in Karene. I was expecting this inclusive, participatory and sustainable forest management approach with 100% community-based forest governance and management system introduced in Sierra Leone to have been part of his speech.

  6. A well written,thought provoking speech – accompanied by an effortless delivery by the man in State House, President Maada Bio. Although, I may not agree with most of his methods and style of governance, today he totally blew me away – surpassed all the mediocre expectations I have always considered as boundaries he could never exceed.(lol) To be sincere, I never expected this President to acknowledge the contributions of the late Great Robert Mugabe – a lone warrior against whom an army of thousands, would flee in defeat,counting themselves as nothing when facing him, inside the fiery arenas of combat.

    In my view, Robert Mugabe was incomparable – he could become a slim African customer, or a bold, cunning, merchant, as the occasion demands it.Yup,it was Mugabe who stunned the British,calling them, a bunch of ‘Bloody Idiots’ (lol) It was him, that stood defiantly,at the UN and opposed lesbianism,homosexuality,and the theft of lands and resources by Freeloaders – A White minority, supported by the unsmiling,greedy British.

    President Bio deserves the loudest applause for giving ‘Props’ and a well deserved recognition to an unforgettable “Pan African Hero”…. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • Look at Mr. Saidu Conteh somewhere there applauding President Bio. A leader that he has always been against with all sorts of SACARSTIC and IRRESPONSIBLE remarks. It is hypocritical I reckon. However I applaud Mr. Saidu Conteh for changing course and behaving responsibly. He has started to realize that President Bio has proven his remarks that he has been making against him for ages DEAD WRONG. This just shows how Mr. Saidu Conteh is beginning if not already having CONFIDENCE in President Bio and his agenda.

      Moreover, Mr. Matturi will be watching closely and INTERVENED where necessary for any IRRESPONSIBLE comments. Mr. Saidu Conteh somewhere there driving with his girlfriend saying HYPROCRITICAL LOVELY and BEAUTIFULL words about President BIO. GOD HELP Mr. Saidu. Continue CRITICIZING and APPLAUDING President Bio and the SLPP responsibly. Should we believe that, the FALLING SUN will continue to FALL even before SUNRISE? ABSOLUTELY YES.

  7. A good speech. I support the demands to change the un-inclusivity of the security council. African states have to get more power in this institution. And the veto right of the old colonial and 2nd world war states must be cancelled.

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