UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, having a meeting with the Cabinet in BanjulApr 7, 2017
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark landed in Banjul on Thursday April 3, 2017 around 1PM local time. She was received from the Banjul International Airport by the UNDP Resident Representative/UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Ms. Nessie Golakai-Gould and UNDP Operations Specialist Ms. Bintu Mahfouze-Aidara as well as members of the Gambia’s Cabinet, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Ousainou Darboe, Minister of Justice, Hon. Abubakar Ba Tambedou and other High government officials. Shortly after her arrival, the UNDP Administrator was escorted to the UN house where she met with UNDP staff. Several issues were discussed including the direction UNDP is current heading towards. During the meeting, the UNDP staff were also privileged to ask several questions and raise issues of concern.
Later that afternoon, The UNDP administrator accompanied by the UNDP Resident Representative and Deputy Resident Representative headed to the statehouse in Banjul to meet with the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service and some members of Cabinet. At the meeting, they discussed a whole host of issues, covering UNDP and Gambia government collaboration in peace, security and social economic development. The Secretary General and head of the Civil Services welcomes the UNDP Administrator in his opening remarks. He states that the government of the Gambia is looking forward to working with UNDP on challenges facing the Country. The minister of Tourism, Hon. Amat Bah stated that the government needs assistance with young people especially those who undertook the dangerous journey (backway) to Europe in search of greener posture. He stressed that many of them with families sold most of their valuable assets to finance their trip. In many cases, their cattle and even pieces of lands were sold to embark on these journeys. He further stated that, now that the Gambia has become a democratic state, asylum seeking in west maybe difficult and their application could be rejected due to the stability in the country. He proposed that some type of assistance package will be needed to help some of the returnees settle down and be integrated back to the society. He asked the administrator for assistance in engaging with the EU so that they can reconsider returning those young folks “emptyhanded” as it may be a huge burden to a nation that is currently going through transition. The Minister of Agriculture, Hon Omar A. Jallow reiterated on the need to revive the agricultural sector in the Gambia. He stated that, this revitalization could boost agricultural production, improve earnings of framers as was done in the past. In his remarks, he recalled during his time as Minister of Agriculture in the Jawara’s administration, the produce in the Gambia were often exported to the sub region as well as to Europe, which was beneficial to farmers and crop growers. He believes that the agricultural sector could as well attract young people if they expect positive returns. Speaking among the panel, was the Minister of Trade and Regional integration, Hon. Dr. Isatou Touray. She stated that during the past administration, there has been several restrictions on trade which have since been lifted. The removal of those bottlenecks would help grow the economy and attract some investors to the country. She also suggested that there is a need to go out for a study tour to learn from best practices to attract investors to the country. This tour would serve as learning lesson to the department and to see how other countries who were once in a similar situation, were able to recover. Also, speaking at the table was Minister of Justice, Hon. Abubakar Ba Tambedou who reiterate on the need to reform the justice system in the Gambia.
During the roundtable meeting, all the ministers have commended the UNDP Resident Representative in the Gambia for her tireless effort to amicably resolve the December 2016 political impasse. They acknowledged effort made by the UNDP Rep and the entire staff in the Gambia country office for the leading role they played during and after the election. They also acknowledged that, the whole political crisis couldn’t have been resolved diplomatically without UNDP leadership role and the partnership they built with other organizations. The ministers, very much appreciated UNDP’s leading role throughout this process. They all affirmed their commitment in working with the UNDP in rebuilding a new and prosperous Gambia.