Statement by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye during the Government of Gambia's Retreat on Building Capacities for Collective Leadership

May 5, 2017

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure and honor that I am attending, on behalf of UNDP, this high-level government seminar on collective leadership.

The Gambia is entering a phase of renaissance. The trauma has been deep as it lasted 23 years, almost a generation. It will take sustained efforts  and collective leadership to transform, into the building of a new nation, the élan vital, the vital force that emanated, just a few months ago, from what history will likely call, one day, a people’s revolution towards freedom and enlightenment.

Thomas Jefferson was right in saying that “the will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object”.

The Gambians have eloquently shown that a people united will never be defeated; and the people of The Gambia have indeed built, in golden stone, their pantheon of freedom and their bridge to the future.

This seminar is an important step of the journey to “protect the people’s free expression” by supporting “the construction of a collective leadership” that can respond to the “new social contract” and the needs of the “new nation” that Gambians want to build.

We must also salute the role of African leaders in supporting the victory of democracy and the sanctity of the rule of law in The Gambia.

We are in a transition. A transition towards a more prosperous, peaceful and secure future for the country; and transition can be a long and difficult journey; fraught with risks and volatility.

If The Gambia experience was a seminal textbook on preventive diplomacy, it is now, for all of us, a pressing test case for sustaining peace; as we must be equipped to weather the potential uncertainties of the future and to unlock the development opportunities of the country.

To do so, we must address, urgently and collectively, three strategic imperatives: 

  1.  The imperative of rebuilding, or in some cases, re-inventing state institutions, including the parliament, the public administration, the judiciary and the security apparatus.

      2.  The imperative of rapidly jump-starting the economy and setting it, structurally, on a sustainable development path; and

     3.   The imperative of mending a much-stressed social contract.

But all this will require a Call-to-Action, in three key areas:

  1. There is need to rapidly rebuild the country’s budgetary and fiscal space in order to bolster the Government’s leadership in driving the much-needed and pressing reforms. Such a fiscal space is now very narrow. Today, gross public debt is about 120% of GDP— way above the IMF-recommended prudential upper limit of 70%. Already in 2016, interest payments were forecasted to rise close to 50% of government revenues; and international reserves have fallen to a precarious low level of about only 3 weeks of imports; hence far below the recommended foreign reserve prudential ratio of 3 months of imports. Therefore, it is critical that partners provide fast-track budgetary support to The Gambia.

  2. International Financial Flows, public and private, must resume in The Gambia. This would be our collective down payment to accompany the legitimate hope and aspiration of the people; and to nurture the rebirth of democracy and the rule of law.  I would like to salute the resolution of the Government to organize a donor conference, to review and to seek funding for a comprehensive recovery and medium term economic development plan, with a focus on economic diversification, youth employment, women empowerment and regional integration.

  3. Rebuilding the social contract, may need not only the much called for investment on Truth and Reconciliation and re-securing people’s trust in government; but also and critically, it will require the collective design and the implementation of a  shared  national long-term vision, which will capture  the spirit  of  “The New Gambia People Want”.

Collective leadership will be the driving force of such an agenda. But collective leadership is a shared process that aims not only at designing commonly-agreed strategic goals, but also at embracing the totality of actors in realizing those goals. 

Hence, it will also require that leaders, partnerships, cross-sector alliances, private sector, community-based organizations, grassroots and citizens’ movements jointly leverage, in a synergetic fashion, the power of their interdependent networks to generate exponential gains, in the rebuilding of the nation.

That is precisely the philosophy of this Retreat.

UNDP and the UN System at large will be on the side of The Gambia in that journey.

I thank you.