Your Excellency George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia,
Your Excellency Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,
All protocol observed.
The Liberia Moment. There are certain phrases associated with the word "moment": we talk about "taking a moment" to pause and reflect; but also about "seizing the moment" to take decisive action. Today is an opportunity to do both.
First, we must take a moment - "Take time" as the Liberians say – to reflect on what has been achieved in the 14 years since UNMIL first arrived in Liberia.
UNMIL is undeniably a success story for international peacekeeping and the men and women who have served under its mandate can be proud of their contribution to the security and stability that Liberia now enjoys. On behalf of the EU, allow me to thank SRSG Zarif and his team.
However, the fact that UNMIL has now finished its mandate here is also a testament to the efforts of Liberians, to turn their backs on conflict and follow the path of democracy and respect for the rule of law. This was demonstrated very clearly in last year's successful electoral process.
The subtitle for today's event is "New Vision for Development in Liberia", so we are here mainly to look forward. Today is the start of a process that will result in a new National Development Agenda. It will in turn guide the interventions of Liberia's international partners, including the European Union and its Member States.
From the perspective of the European Union and our Member States, we will continue to have a strong partnership with the new government after the departure of UNMIL. We welcome the intention expressed by President Weah in his inaugural speech to further strengthen the relationship with the European Union. The European Union's Global Strategy adopted in 2016 recognises the inter-connections between Europe and other regions, particularly Africa, which is our closest continental neighbour.
In Liberia, the integrated approach fostered by the Global Strategy is reflected in regular political and policy dialogue at various levels, covering both bilateral matters and regional and global issues of shared concern. The European Union and its Member States are not just one of Liberia's most important development partners, we are Liberia's biggest export market. We have entered into bilateral trade agreements which deliver economic benefits to both sides from the sustainable management of Liberia's forests and fisheries.
There is great potential for further European investment in Liberia and we welcome the President's commitment to improving the business environment for both domestic and foreign companies.
The overall envelope of the EU in Liberia is around 350 million euros (around 430 million USD) while a number of EU Member States also have their own cooperation programmes, in particular those present in Liberia.
EU Cooperation is based on the 2017 European Consensus on Development, which aligns the Union's development policy with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, focusing on the "five Ps": people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership, with poverty eradication as the primary objective.
The EU-Liberia National Indicative Programme 2014-2020 strongly matches with the four pillars of the current administration's pro-poor agenda. For example, one of our focal sectors is Education, which is a pro-poor priority and we have developed a 20 million euro Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme.
The European Union gives part of the development assistance to Liberia in the form of direct grants to the national budget, so called budget support. However, policies should be in place to ensure macro-economic stability, increase domestic revenue collection and to allocate the national budget in a way that reflects Liberia's own development priorities.
The international community is committed to supporting Liberia in achieving its development objectives, but the nature and the impact of that support depends on the policies and actions adopted by the Liberian government – and as under the Liberian Constitution the Government consists of three separate branches so I am pleased that the Legislature is a part of our discussions here today.
This brings me to the second opportunity that is provided by the current "Liberia Moment". While transition can provide a moment to reflect, it also provides an opportunity to break with old habits and establish new ones. Agreeing the details of the National Development Agenda may be an ongoing process, but I believe now is the time to "seize the moment" and agree on the principles under which the government of Liberia will work with international partners to deliver that Agenda as effectively as possible.
I just want now to highlight one important area that I am sure will form a part of our continuing discussions: gender. We trust that the new Government will continue, in the steps of former President Johnson Sirleaf to take positive steps to give women and girls the opportunity to compete on an equal footing with their male counterparts. In this regard, I am proud to announce that Liberia has been selected to participate in the Spotlight Initiative. This newly launched EU-UN partnership will provide dedicated large-scale resources for intensified and focused action to address violence against women and girls in various areas.
Sustainable development is a continuous process, just as the maintenance of peace and stability it requires continual vigilance. But in any process there are key moments that can have a disproportionate influence on the overall outcome: moments when opportunities are either taken or missed. All of us here today share a commitment to the people of Liberia, to give them a better future. The Liberia Moment is a chance to establish the conditions under which that commitment can be fulfilled.