The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has received a new Deputy Special Representative (DSR) for Recovery and Governance, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator to assist the Mission.
Mr. Moustapha Soumaré from Mali was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to carry out these tasks. He replaces Jordan Ryan who had served in this capacity.
Mr. Soumaré graduated with a Doctorate in soil and water conservation in 1979, and served as a skilled and seasoned professional in positions of increasing responsibility, both in his native country Mali and at the international level.
He later merged his skills with policy analysis, development issues and international affairs. His range of expertise and knowledge spans environmental management; project development and management; and management of human resources.
Mr. Soumaré brings to the UN family in Liberia a range of in-depth skills in partnership-building, policy development, operations management, team management and stakeholder dialogue.
The Recovery and Governance boss possesses a unique understanding and capacity to manage complex negotiations and relationships, borne out of his in-depth knowledge and understanding of international institutions, including the Bretton Woods Institutions and regional economic bodies.
In recent years, Mr. Soumaré’s career at the UN Development Program (UNDP) has seen him serve in a number of capacities, including as Head of the Directorate, Special Assistant to the Director, UNDP Africa, New York; Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Benin and Rwanda; and as Deputy Regional Director for Africa.
While in New York, he also served as Research Director for the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the UN system-wide coherence, in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the Environment. The UNMIL new chief is married with children.
It can be reached on UNMIL website that Mr. Soumaré’s predecessor, Jordan Ryan, UN’s Resident Coordinator in Liberia held an interview, when he first arrived at his new post three years ago, he soon discovered how much needed to be done to rebuild the war-shattered West African country. One of the UN’s early tasks was to help re-establish working government systems at the local and regional level. But “we faced a challenge where local officials had to sit under trees to hold county meetings,” says Mr. Ryan.
In an interview in December 2008, he had this to say: “They had no electricity, running water… much less functioning county buildings. Rather than disparate UN agencies acting in an uncoordinated fashion, what we did was to create a single team in each of the 15 counties, with the goal that they were there to support the restoration of state authority, to help the County Superintendent learn the basics.”
Mr. Ryan has a lot on his plate, both as Resident Coordinator, bringing together the work of the agencies, and as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, acting under the overall leadership of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ellen Margarethe Løj, who was at the time Denmark’s ambassador to the UN in New York and now UNMIL Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG).
Mr. Ryan arrived just before President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female elected head of state and a former UNDP director, took her oath of office in January 2006.
There were still IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, refugee camps and a nation not very clear on its way forward. “But after three years of engagement, there has been a real effort—that the UN is quite proud of—towards beginning a dialogue with the people of Liberia, focusing on their needs.”
The UN supported consultations that helped formulate the County Development Agendas in 130 districts across all 15 counties. Thousands of people were consulted for the first time as to what development should be in Liberia: from road networks, to schools and health services.
“Early on when I first came, we faced a very large vaccination campaign. We were able to use peacekeeping mission assets—helicopters—to get us and NGOs out to places that couldn’t otherwise be reached. The strength of the mission makes us stronger; and when you start working together, people realize ‘wow, we can do so much more,” Mr. Ryan disclosed.
While the SRSG is the overall voice of the UN, Mr. Ryan said the entire team “sees what we’re doing, that we’re all part of the UN.” Each agency has relationships with a variety of ministers, and they are encouraged to think outside their traditional roles.
As the DSRSG and Resident Coordinator at the time, he promised to take an enormous pride in the entire team; an enormous respect. He did as he promised. And other ordinary citizens who spoke to these new papers hope the new successor, Mr. Moustapha Soumaré, will do even better now that he is in charge.
The country extends thanks and appreciation to Mr. Jordan Ryan for his assistance.