24 August 2007The top United Nations official in Liberia has briefed civil society leaders on the proposed phased drawdown of the UN peacekeepers who have overseen the West African country’s transition to democracy after 14 years of civil war, assuring them that it will be based on regular security assessments and measurable benchmarks. “Overall the country has made sufficient progress to enable the Secretary-General to make the recommended adjustments,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Alan Doss told the representatives yesterday. But, echoing Mr. Ban’s own report on Liberia earlier this month, he warned that “there are still important challenges to be tackled, including the rebuilding of the security services, strengthening of the judicial system and the unfinished agenda of national reconciliation.” Mr. Ban has recommended that the drawdown for both the military and police component of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) take place in multiple stages from the current level of 15,200, with 9,750 remaining on the ground by the end of 2010. One of the benchmarks for the drawdown is the creation of a 500-person Liberian quick reaction force in the country’s National Police, set to be established by July 2009. On the concerns of citizens about crime, Mr. Doss said National Police, together with UNMIL military and Police, continue to conduct regular day and night patrols throughout the country to deter criminal activities. He also underlined the important contribution that an active civil society can make towards the development of a vibrant democracy. He urged the leaders to maintain an open dialogue with the Executive and other branches of government and to promote and monitor reconciliation and tolerance among communities. This exchange of views is the latest in a series that Mr. Doss has held with national stakeholders and international partners to brief them on the next phase of UNMIL’s operations.