Helen Clark starts first visit to Africa, meets with Liberia President

11 Jun 2009

View more footage on the UNDP in Liberia site

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark met today with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on the first day of her official visit to that country. Miss Clark commended the President for the real progress made in Liberia under her three year-old presidency, which came on the heels of decades of violent conflict.

Liberia is the first stop on Helen Clark’s inaugural visit to Africa as UNDP Administrator. She has indicated that Africa, where UNDP has a presence in every country, will be a top priority during her administration. Following Liberia, she will meet with Government and local leaders and tour UNDP programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia in the days ahead.

During her discussion with President Johnson-Sirleaf, who served as Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa in the 1990s, Miss Clark acknowledged that the current global recession would create additional obstacles to Liberia’s fragile peace-building process and she re-affirmed UNDP’s commitment to continuing its work with the Liberian Government in addressing this and other challenges.

UNDP has been a key partner to the Government and the people of Liberia in the post-civil war recovery and rebuilding process. For example, UNDP helped establish 15 Truth and Reconciliation Commission offices, trained people to staff them and assisted 500 women who testified before the Commission. Through the Peacebuilding Fund, UNDP and its partners relocated and trained as farmers some 800 ex-combatants who had been working in illegal mining and logging. It has worked with the Government and local people to repair roads, clinics, schools, markets, wells, latrines and bridges, directly improving the lives of an estimated 400,000 people.

Later in the day, Helen Clark travelled to the Liberian village of Kakata where she led a town hall meeting with key government ministers and local leaders. During the meeting, Miss Clark also launched the Youth for Volunteer programme, an initiative of the UNDP-administered UNV Volunteers. The programme will launch a cadre of trained ‘Youth Peace Ambassadors’ who will be responsible for identifying and diffusing potential violent conflicts in local communities.

The Youth for Volunteer programme is an offshoot of a national youth volunteer programme that UNDP, UNV Volunteers and the Government launched in 2007, sending university graduates across the country to provide much-needed educational, agricultural and health services.