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Liberian President Calls Employment Key to Stability


Liberia's President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has appealed for international support in her country's efforts to build a stable, democratic society. In a keynote speech to the International Labor Conference in Geneva, the Liberian president told delegates decent work was at the heart of development.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not mince her words or try to hide the desperate straits of her country. In an impassioned speech, she told the more than four 4,000 delegates that Liberia faced a critical period. She said the country's long civil war has decimated its institutions and undermined its socio-economic fabric. She said Liberia needed all the help it could get to recover.

She called her country's civil war unprecedented. She said the war wrecked Liberia's state institutions and criminalized her peoples' sense of humanity.

"Our institutions, both public and private have experienced both physical and moral decay," she said. "Unemployment has risen to an unbelievable and unbearable 85 percent. The level of unemployment and the idleness of our youth have a propensity for social disenchantment. For us, employment is synonymous with peace."

President Sirleaf proudly proclaimed her role as a woman, a mother and a worker. Sirleaf is the first woman president in Africa. As a woman, she said she represented the millions of women in Africa whose strength and determination to influence national decisions was propelled by blood, sweat and tears.

She said Liberia's journey out of the darkness of civil war could not end with elections and the inauguration of a new government.

"It must be nurtured continuously by our commitment and national renewal, an agenda to reconcile, a vision to rebuild and a determination to study war no more," added Ms. Sirleaf. "Equally significant will be the international goodwill and partnership that will sustain stability and the dividends of democracy."

President Sirleaf pledged the rule of law and regard for labor standards would be central to Liberia's quest for development. She said her government already had begun a review of labor laws and had initiated the repeal of those found to be offensive to a democratic government.

She said she viewed full employment and decent work to be key to her government's national development strategies. She called on the international community and the International Labor Organization to immediately help Liberia develop a decent work program.

She said there is no cause for pride in Liberia's recent past. But, she added, there is cause for hope because of the country's new political and national commitment to create a better society.

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