“It is critically important that the Government of Liberia make every effort to develop national security and the rule of law institutions that are fully independently operational,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in the report to the Security Council, citing the prevalence of rape, armed robbery, mob violence and ethnic tensions. Moreover, the stability of the West African country, which the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has been instrumental in returning to peace and democracy since the 2003 ceasefire between warring factions, continues to be affected by potentially adverse developments in the sub-region such as the drug trade and various armed groups, Mr. Ban warns. “I am particularly concerned that drug trafficking could trigger further destabilization,” he says, noting a similar threat to Liberia’s troubled neighbours, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. “The claim made by the ruling military authority in Guinea, regarding possible attacks by armed elements based in neighbouring countries, raises the spectre of renewed regional conflict. “The presence of armed Liberian combatants with uncertain intentions in neighbouring countries also remains a serious cause for concern.” Turning to the economy, which is expected to grow by nearly five per cent this year compared with 7.1 per cent in 2008, Mr. Ban notes that UNMIL, together with the World Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) continues to use labour-intensive road repairs to create short-term employment and promote stability in high security risk areas including near unstable rubber plantations. He also cites “some encouraging progress” in achieving the Government’s poverty reduction strategy, although “weak institutional capacity remains a serious constraint at both the national and local levels.” On human rights he notes a continued improvement although weak law institutions, economic insecurity and limited social services continue to pose serious challenges, while the Government still faces serious constraints in furthering its anti-corruption agenda, despite some progress in strengthening oversight mechanisms. On national election scheduled for 2011, Mr. Ban recommends that UNMIL be mandated to offer logistical support, coordinate international electoral assistance and facilitate the creation of a positive climate for a peaceful poll. He also reiterates his recommendations that UNMIL, which at its height had an authorized total of 15,250 military personnel, be reduced to about 8,200 by next May through the repatriation of a further 8,202 troops, three attack helicopters and 72 armoured personnel carriers. The UNMIL police component would remain at its authorized strength of 1,375. 17 August 2009Liberia continues to make significant progress in consolidating peace after more than a decade of civil war, but the gains remain fragile, especially with regard to security, rule of law and job creation, according to the latest United Nations report on the work of peacekeepers there.