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UN to Seek $600 Million or More for Liberia Reconstruction - 2004-01-21

A senior U.N. official says the United Nations will seek $600-$700 million for reconstruction projects in Liberia at a donors conference to be held next month in New York. A detailed recovery plan will be presented to international donors at that time.

The Liberia Reconstruction Conference, which takes place February 5-6, will be opened by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The U.N. coordinator for the conference, David Nabarro, says Liberia has a good chance of getting what it needs to recover from 20 years of war because it has powerful support from the United States, the European Union and other important countries. He said the recovery plan is linked to the political process.

"The two-year transition period in which we prepare for democratic elections at the end of 2005 is about transforming what is going on in Liberia from bitter warfare to the rule of law," he said, "from economic collapse to recovery, from a timber industry which cannot work because of timber sanctions to managed forestry programs."

Dr. Nabarro, an assistant director-general of the World Health Organization, called Liberia a failed state and says it will need the help of the international community to establish the rule of law, root out corruption and restore basic services.

He said the health, education and water systems have completely collapsed. And money from the pledging conference will need to be spent immediately on getting hospitals, schools and water supplies up and running. Dr. Nabarro said Liberians themselves should carry out the reconstruction program.

"The best way to do reconstruction in a country like Liberia - whether it is building houses, building roads, even rehabilitating timber factories - is to use local construction capacity rather than to get outsiders in," he stressed. "This will be a radical difference from Iraq, where there has been an emphasis on using outsiders.… And our whole business is using local construction capacity, local building material set up and so on. And that is why I mentioned at the end, it will be very much a community developed focus reconstruction program."

Because of close links among west African countries, Ms. Nabarro says recovery in Liberia will affect the stability of its neighbors.