Australian Special envoy visit Sierra Leone

The Australians Prime Minister’s special envoy, Ms Joanna Hewitt is presently making her first official visit to Sierra Leone to strengthen bilateral relations. While in Freetown, Ms Hewitt and Australian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, who is based in Accra, Mr. Billy Williams will meet senior government officials to discuss issues of mutual interest and areas of future cooperation.

“It is a great pleasure to be in Sierra Leone on this special mission on behalf of the Australian Prime Minister,” Special Envoy Hewitt said. “I am delighted about the growing partnership between Australia and Sierra Leone and look forward to productive discussions about how to expand this further” she added.

Australia is committed to deepening its engagement with Sierra Leone across the full spectrum of issues including enhanced trade and commercial activity, strengthened diplomatic links and increased development assistance. Diplomatic relations between Australia and Sierra Leone are growing with the two countries currently serving on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. Sierra Leone’s decision to open an Honorary Consulate in Sydney in 2012 will also support stranger diplomatic and people to people links. Through the aid program Australia is partnering with Sierra Leone to provide a range of training opportunities and targeted technical assistance with a focus on building capacity in agriculture, mining, governance and public policy.

Over 15 Sierra Leonean public sector officials have completed or are currently undertaking study in agriculture, mining, governance and public policy in Australia and Africa, through the Australia Awards for Africa program. A further nine awardees will study in Australia this year. The Australia award program will offer 1,000 scholarships annually across Africa by 2013.

Australia is working directly with the Sierra Leonean Ministries for Foreign Affairs and International Corporation and Agriculture on capacity building. Following two diplomatic training courses held in Accra and attended by 20 foreign affairs staff, support will be provided to enhance the Ministry’s broader approach to training through the development of a training framework and plan.

Australia is working with the Ministry of Agriculture through the Smallholder Commercialization Program to which AUD. 1.5 million has been provided with a focus on addressing youth unemployment. Australia’s expanding cooperation with Sierra Leone aims to boost development of and economic growth and contribute to long term peace and security.

Australia has demonstrated its commitment to peace building in Sierra Leone through increased engagement with the UN peace building Commission and the commitment of AUD 4 million to the UN peace building fund as well as AUD 1.5 million to the Special Court for Sierra Leone since 2010. An Australian government peace building adviser will commence work in Sierra Leone at the end of March. Australia is also supporting Sierra Leonean NGOs, National Election Watch to work with the National Electoral Commission on civic voter education, in the lead up to the elections in November 2012.

Australia’s aid program builds on the strong relations being forged by Australian private sector whose interests and investments are expanding in Sierra Leone. Australian companies are now active in Sierra Leone’s iron ore, petroleum and diamond sectors, supporting the country’s long-term economic development.

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