Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf stresses development
MONROVIA, Liberia, June 13 (UNHCR) - President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has told a top official of the UN refugee agency that it was time for Liberia to move from the humanitarian to the development stage of recovery.
"We want to see those returning with skills to usefully integrate in communities and effectively work towards self-sufficiency," the Liberian leader told Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Judy Cheng-Hopkins during a meeting in Monrovia last Thursday.
Cheng-Hopkins, who was due to leave Monrovia on Monday after a week-long review of UNHCR's reintegration operations for Liberian returnees as well as local integration of Sierra Leonean refugees, agreed with the president. "We would like to use Liberia as an example of our approach by building on reintegration gains," she said.
President Johnson-Sirleaf thanked UNHCR for its unfailing support for the repatriation and reintegration of Liberian refugees from countries of asylum. She also noted UNHCR's efforts in finding durable solutions for Liberian refugees in Côte d'Ivoire and other neighbouring countries.
The UN refugee agency repatriated more than 100,000 Liberian refugees between October 2004 and June last year. Another 50,000 returned home on their own, encouraged by the restoration of peace and democracy. The assisted repatriation operation resumed earlier this year following a meeting in April between UNHCR and the governments of Ghana and Liberia.
Renata Dubini, UNHCR's representative in Liberia, stressed the need to promote community-based interventions to ease the local integration of refugees in countries of asylum. She said it was essential to create a "conducive environment for peaceful coexistence between the host communities and the integrating refugees".
UNHCR in Liberia has engaged in reintegration projects in a variety of sectors, including livelihoods, education, water, sanitation, infrastructure and rule of law.
Cheng-Hopkins, accompanied by UNHCR's senior adviser for reintegration and recovery, Sajjad Malik, also held meetings with other government officials as well as NGO partners and representatives from sister UN organizations. She paid field visits to UNHCR projects in the counties of Lofa and Bong.
By Oscar Nkulu in Monrovia, Liberia