April 20th, 2006 04:20 EST
An overwhelming 94 per cent of Liberians said
An overwhelming 94 per cent of Liberians said that the United Nations Mission in Liberia (<"http://www.unmil.org/read.asp?newsID=1219&cat=pr">UNMIL) made them more secure in the aftermath of a bloody, decade-long civil war, and they gave high marks to the operation for its quick-impact projects and information outreach, according to a poll made public today.
The query, "Would say your security situation has improved since UNMIL has been in the country?" elicited a positive answer from 93.5 per cent of Liberians as part of a January survey of nearly 800 people conducted by Jean Kranso of the City University of New York and Yale University in response to a request by the Best Practices Unit of the UN's Peacekeeping Department.
The majority of the people surveyed also reacted positively to questions surrounding the disarmament process and the 2005 elections, according to the poll, and UNMIL was also highly rated for its "quick impact" reconstruction projects.
Liberians enthusiastically described roads and bridges, shelters, health centres, schools, buildings and market structures built or renovated by the peacekeepers.
However, a good number of respondents felt that not enough development work had been done by the mission. "Some respondents felt that UNMIL should be providing jobs, building infrastructure and constructing clinics and hospitals," the survey noted.
On the issue of communication, UNMIL Radio scored highly, with 97 per cent of respondents saying that "UNMIL had done a good or very good job at getting information out to the people," particularly in the areas of civic and voter education for the elections.
Although 92 per cent stated that the training of the police by the UN was very good, many questioned the effectiveness of the resulting force and 88 per cent of the participants said they would like UNMIL to stay longer.
The latest report on Liberia by Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommend
reductions in UNMIL's military component, but advocates police strength be increased at the same time, to provide a "reliable security umbrella" for the new Government led by Ellen Sirleaf Johnson to fully establish its authority and to give the Liberian Police Support Unit experience it needs to eventually take over from UNMIL.
Another concern raised in the survey related to the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse, which UN officials agreed must be adderssed. Some 22 per cent of the participants reported that some peacekeepers had raped women and young children and had contributed to the encouragement of prostitution among young girls, leading them to drop out of school. The authors of the survey noted, however, that these responses were opinion-based rather than proven facts.
Alan Doss, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, welcomed the public opinion survey while noting where problems existed. "We are very pleased by the strong support that this survey shows for UNMIL. However, we are very conscious of the need to further strengthen our efforts to prevent and deal with sexual abuse and exploitation," he said.
In other news from UNMIL today, the Joint Government of Liberia-UN Rubber Plantations task force submitted a report highlights the need to develop livelihood assistance for ex-combatants currently occupying the plantations, and to improve security there.
The report also indicates that the Task Force has not yet received sufficient evidence that the plantation management companies are meeting their fiscal obligations towards the Government.
Also today, the UN, the Government of Liberia and international partners will officially mark the end of the return process for internally displaced persons in the country.