Changing Lives in The Gambia: A Blog from a UN Resident Coordinator


When my mandate started, in 2018, it was not long after the end of the dictatorship [The two-decade rule of Yahya Jammeh]. The new government already embraced several reforms at the same time, revised the constitution, the judiciary and the security sector, and the UN had released money for peacebuilding.

UN News / Hisae Kawamori

Women at work in a rice field, Gambia

Truth and reconciliation

An important development was the establishment of the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC), with the support of the UN and other partners.

People were excited to get on board with the Commission, which has been very important to the country. Expectations were high among the victims, among the population, but also among various partners. It was important that it be a Gambian-driven process to avoid outside influence. We helped set it up and provided the necessary expertise to run it.

The Justice Department needs to be strengthened because they are leading that process, and this is the first time they are dealing with a case like this. Here too, we provide the expertise to work on a step-by-step plan that will lead to the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.

We are involved in the communication related to the process: we want to make sure communities, local governments and civil society all know what role they have to play, and we want to live up to expectations. These reforms are not going to happen overnight, it will take many years, and we need to make sure that this is understood.

Now is the time to put the reforms into practice. So far, the government has issued a white paper endorsing almost all recommendations. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the process, but I think they are still determined to do more.

Amadou Jobe, a returning migrant, trains apprentices in a workshop in Banjul, Gambia.

UN News / Conor Lennon

Amadou Jobe, a returning migrant, trains apprentices in a workshop in Banjul, Gambia.

Lay strong foundations

It is crucial to have a government that shows leadership. If not, you can outline a vision for where you think the country should go, but you won’t get anywhere.

We supported the government’s establishment of a Strategic Planning and Execution Department within the Office of the President. We trained the staff and showed them best practices in other countries.

When we arrived, there was no Gender Minister, so we advocated for the creation of a new ministry, and we see progress in women’s empowerment.

After a 20-year dictatorship, in which human rights were violated, we supported the establishment of a national human rights commission, which is fully functioning and in many ways a central institution, which will oversee the implementation of the TRRC.

In the future, it is crucial for The Gambia to succeed in building strong institutions, something that applies to all countries. If settings are weak, you will not be able to execute plans and you will waste resources.

I think this country is moving in the right direction. We now have many more partners and the donor community is growing. After five years, the transition is almost complete and we have helped the government lay the foundations for most of the reforms, policies and strategies.

The vegetable and fruit business of the brothers Alhadje and Abdoulie Faal in Kanuma, Gambia, is supported by the UN Capital Development Fund

UN News / Conor Lennon

The vegetable and fruit business of the brothers Alhadje and Abdoulie Faal in Kanuma, Gambia, is supported by the UN Capital Development Fund

Changing lives for the better

In addition to supporting reforms, we have been an active partner in developing the economy, empowering women and climate action.

In terms of the economy, where tourism plays an important role, UN agencies have focused on providing training to young people and vulnerable groups such as returning migrants, and providing seed capital to start their own businesses. Returning migrants often feel like a burden to their families, but with our help many of them have been able to thrive.

Unfortunately, this is a country where there is a lot of violence against women, including female genital mutilation. Sometimes women don’t want to talk about the violence they endure, so we’ve set up hotlines for them to call, and built centers where they can go for treatment and support.

The climate crisis is affecting The Gambia, particularly in terms of flooding; last year here was the worst flood in 38 years. It may not be as big as the floods in Pakistan, but for a small country with a small population, it had a big impact.

Our agencies provided food and shelter for those displaced by the floods and provided clean drinking water, but we are also helping the population to adapt and be better prepared before the next floods come.

I am convinced that we have changed lives for the better in The Gambia. We are still in the early stages, but I believe we have built a solid foundation for development and we will see an even greater impact over the next five years, and the country will develop in a coherent way, in all regions of the country. country. the land, leaving no one behind.

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