UN Day observed in Sierra Leone with virtual gathering and awards for longest-serving staff.

Freetown, Sierra Leone—The UN Country Team (UNCT) in Sierra Leone celebrated the United Nations’ 75th anniversary on 23 October 2020 in a hybrid event, combining a virtual and physically-distanced assembly.

Longest serving UN Staff member in Sierra Leone, Mr. Martin Jongo displaying his trophy in recognition of his 33 years of service

Martin Jongo, a UNICEF Transport Coordinator was among the 30 UN personnel from various UN agencies, funds, and programmes to be recognised for their length of service with the UN System in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Jongo joined the organisation in 1987 as a driver. He received a trophy, certificate, and a country cloth in honour of his service to the UN for the past thirty-three years.

Speaking on behalf of the other recipients at the recognition ceremony, held at the Radisson Blu Hotel Mr. Jongo said, “We feel honoured to receive awards for our service to the UN on this special day of celebration. “He added that the recognition showed that the UN is a family that respects, cares for and appreciates its staff. “We will remember this day for the rest of our lives, and we will share this special moment with members of our family,” he echoed.

Other UN staff who have served for over ten years were also recognised with certificates, while Mrs. Mary Okumu, the Country Representative for UN Women, was recognised for being the longest-serving UNCT member in the country.

Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Hon Nabeela Tunis and Resident Coorinator, Dr Babatunde Ahonsi taking a bite of the UN Day

Congratulating staff members of the UN in Sierra Leone on behalf of the President, and the Government and people, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hon. Nabeela Tunis said, “Over the last 75 years, the UN’s ability to make good on its original promise has depended on our ability to identify, anticipate and respond to the defining questions of the day. The immense support of the donor community and our shared belief in what the UN stands for, has been key in achieving milestones, ranging from the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals to working together to achieving the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and our promise to leave no one behind in the implementation of the 17 Goals of the Sustainable Development agenda.”

She also commended the 21 United Nations Agencies for their active engagement in supporting the fight to stem the spread of the coronavirus and to return the country to normalcy. On the Government’s behalf, Minister expressed her sincere condolences to staff members who have lost loved ones and compatriots to the disease.

She concluded her remarks by stating that, “We have to Build Back Better stronger than ever, to harness our comparative advantages to deliver on the Medium-Term National Development Plan and on the Agenda 2030. We need to ramp up our commitment to pursue our shared goals and vision towards sustainable human capital development and our national priorities outlined in the Medium-Term National Development Plan. 

A cross- section of UN Staff members at the hybrid event marking UN Day

In his remarks to thank the Government of Sierra Leone, member states and other national and international partners , the UN Resident Coordinator Dr Babatunde Ahonsi said that their continued engagement in support of the global aims of the United Nations is ever more important, as highlighted by recent events and the need to come together as a global community to address the challenges of our time.  

Reechoing the UN Secretary-General’s remark to mark the 75th anniversary of the organisation, the RC said the statement resonances with his sentiments that we must join together as individuals and as nations like never before to fight the complex challenges of our time. This includes, according to him, climate change, pervasive income inequality, and COVID-19. 

“We take this moment to recognise and stand in solidarity with all those in Sierra Leone and around the world whose lives have been impacted by the devastating health, social, and economic consequences of COVID-19,” he said that achieving them.    

He expressed his belief that that through our collective efforts, the UNCT is confirmed that Sierra Leone will emerge from this exceptional period to build back better.

Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone

The RC also used the opportunity of the event to congratulate the World Food Programme for being the 101st proud recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. “We celebrate that the 59-year-old agency was given the prize for its efforts to combat hunger and improve conditions for peace,” and reiterated that in Sierra Leone, “WFP has worked to address hunger and promote food security whether during the war, natural disasters, the Ebola outbreak, or currently, by meeting needs of vulnerable communities during COVID-19.”

“Let us all pledge here today to do our utmost to fulfil the hope revealed in these responses, and the promise of the UN made 75 years ago – for the benefit of Sierra Leoneans and all persons around the world,” he concluded.

Ms Adeola Carew, a Sierra Leonean poet performing at the UN Day event

A performance by Freetong Players, a popular acapella group and a poetry recitation done by Adeola Carew formed part of the highlights of the events in which staff members also took part and won prizes at a quiz competition.

Mahmoud Conteh, the President of the Federation of National Staff Members, delivered the vote of thanks at the staff event.