Based on the core principles of the SDGs, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) represented by its Offices in countries of the Mano River sub region of West Africa—Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and La Cote d’Ivoire—signed a historic memorandum of understanding to strengthen regional integration to advance peace and security and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Mano River countries.
UNDP and MRU share similar visions and have worked together on various missions and initiatives over the past years. They worked collaboratively to foster peace and security especially during and since the end of the civil conflicts in the MRU countries, as well as, during the Ebola epidemic which began in 2014 and ended in 2016.
The MoU is based on the core principles of the SDGs and will ensure stronger regional cooperation among the MRU countries and between the countries and UNDP in areas of mutual concern to enhance the effectiveness of their development efforts. “Today we commit ourselves and this MoU will provide a framework of cooperation and facilitate and strengthen collaboration between the Mano River Union and UNDP, on a non-exclusive basis in areas of common interest” said Dr. Samuel Doe, Resident Representative of UNDP in Sierra Leone on behalf of his fellow Resident Representatives from the other countries in the region.
The MoU has four objectives:
i) Strengthen the capacity of MRU Secretariat to deliver on its integration agenda including supporting the MRU to develop its five (5) years strategic plan and a resource mobilization strategy;
ii) Strengthen the capacity of the MRU Joint Border Security and Confidence Building Units to address trafficking in arms, persons, and other illicit substances and promote cross-border peacebuilding and social cohesion;
iii) Promote sustained progress in the consolidation of democracy, and sustainable development with focus on increasing women in elected positions; youth entrepreneurial development and cross border trade of SMEs especially those owned by women in the MRU Member States;
iv) Coordinate with the MRU to support its Member States to harmonize national policies with regional implication including civil registration and vital statistics and identity management, maritime, as well as climate change resilience policies, strategies, and resources.
Dr. Doe further emphasized that, thinking regionally and sub-regionally is the pathway to sustainable development moving forward and reaffirmed the urgency for regional collaboration for sustainable development and UNDP’s commitment to achieving that. “I want on behalf of the UNDP Administrator and on behalf of the Regional Bureau for Africa Director, and my colleagues from the four countries to commit to this MoU, that, we will work towards achieving the four goals we have set out in this agreement. Immediately after this signing in the next coming days, we want to commit to a working session where we will develop an action plan around those five areas to begin to accompany the MRU and its governments and peoples to achieve the sustainable development goals and to achieve their aspiration for prosperity and peace.
Multilateralism is increasingly moving beyond state to regional focus to act as an accelerator of sustainable development. UNDP has signed similar commitments in the horn of Africa and in the lake Chad Basin between Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad.
The MoU was signed in the presence of Mr. Sunil Saigal, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations (UN) in Sierra Leone, Madam Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, UNDP Resident Representatives from the MRU country offices, Representatives from the MRU secretariat, representatives of the Governments of the four countries and members of the public.
In her remarks at the occasion, Madam Ruby Sandhu-Rojon said that, “It’s a historic moment because we have brought together the UN family and we have brought together the four countries in the MRU to agree upon working together. This signing is an entry point for the UN family to see how we all work together in responding to the challenges and the opportunities that exist in the Mano River Union. We can only address challenges if we have a holistic approach and the elements of the MoU give us that approach”. The MoU emphasizes development, social welfare, peace and security, democratic governance and women as priority focus areas of the collaboration.
Her Excellency Medina Wêsseh, Secretary General of the MRU expressed deep gratitude to the UN system and UNDP affirming that, “we will ensure that we impact the lives of our people and that the narrative of the sub-region will change through these kinds of understandings and partnerships. Today we pledge and commit ourselves to ensuring that peace and stability are our niche and commit to working with UNDP-the UN’s development arm to sustain our peace, development and security”.
The UN Resident Coordinator congratulated UNDP and MRU for signing the agreement and said it is an approach that the UN system in the region will use to better achieve the SDGs.