On 7th September 2021 new British High Commissioner Lisa Chesney presented her credentials to President Julius Maada Bio.
In their meeting as part of the ceremony, President Julius Maada Bio said: “Sierra Leone and the UK have a long and historic relationship. Sierra Leone has valued the closeness and breadth of this partnership. We have appreciated UK support on many shared priorities such as Girls’ Education, which I discussed with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recent successful Summit; improving health and tackling Covid 19; and X.”
The new British High Commissioner said:“It was an honour to present my credentials to His Excellency at this exciting time for UK and Sierra Leone. We agreed that whilst our important relationship is grounded in history, it is a modern and forward-looking one, underpinned by shared values, respect and bonds between our people – the UK and Sierra Leone have a strong foundation on which to work together on the opportunities and global challenges ahead.
During her meeting with President Bio, Lisa raised the upcoming COP26 conference held in Glasgow this November and welcomed President Bio’s attendance at the World Leaders Summit to discuss the important climate and environment issues in Sierra Leone.
With less than 90 days until COP26, the UK will be hosting the most important climate conference of our generation, and the decisions made in Glasgow will set the context for years to come. The conference will work towards ensuring a greener, cleaner future for us all; including the most climate-vulnerable countries and communities, such as Sierra Leone, which globally is one of the world has most impacted countries to the effects of climate change. In Sierra Leone, the UK is joining forces with Government officials, Ministers, Civil Society, companies and people on the frontline of climate change to ensure a successful COP26.
Speaking on COP26, British High Commissioner Lisa Chesney said: “The UK and Sierra Leone share a common goal – as we recover from COVID-19, it is critical that we build back better, greener and more resilient. The decisions we make now will directly affect our ability to safeguard the environment for future generations and support the sustainable, economic growth needed in Sierra Leone to provide jobs and opportunities. The beauty of Sierra Leone’s biodiversity is unrivalled and recognised as internationally significant. I look forward to working with the Government on a green path forward where climate – smart decisions now, along with an improved investment climate, help green growth in the future and where Sierra Leone can attract the support needed to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The new High Commissioner is a passionate feminist and advocate for women and girls empowerment and gender equality. Empowering women and girls to access opportunities, make their own choices, and play their full role in society is a UK priority in Sierra Leone. The UK has been working hand in hand with the Government of Sierra Leone with the Government of Sierra Leone to support the delivery of women’s empowerment through programming on maternal, child and sexual and reproductive health, girls’ education, and to empower the most vulnerable out-of-school adolescent girls. Including through the Minister of Gender to develop a survivor centred response strategy for sexual and gender based violence.
“As the first female British High Commissioner in over 10 years, I am making it my personal commitment to do all I can to improve gender equality for the women of Sierra Leone. Whether that is through continuing to support Girls’ Education following from the Global Education Summit held in July, or through supporting female participation in politics, I will work hard to support the empowerment of women and girls to access opportunities, make their own choices, and play their full role in society. I am delighted to see the leadership and momentum here in Sierra Leone on this important issue.
President Bio and the British High Commissioner agreed how central good governance was to the improvements needed in health, education, security and economic growth and the importance of protecting Sierra Leone’s hard-won democratic pedigree.
The new High Commissioner said that Sierra Leone could set an example to other countries with continued momentum on governance, democracy and human rights, building on recent abolition of the death penalty (awaiting Presidential assent) and on media freedom. I am pleased to see the progress Sierra Leone has made on a range of issues, particularly in the repeal of the criminal libel law and now joining the media freedom coalition. We must now work together in ensuring the principles of the coalition are upheld, particularly to ensure the democratic and governance space is protected within the media in the lead up to 2023 elections. The 2023 elections will be an opportunity for Sierra Leone to further demonstrate the progress it has made towards inclusive and accountable political institutions, with a free and fair electoral process which reflects the will of the Sierra Leonean people.”
His Excellency encouraged the High Commissioner to enjoy, explore and feel at home in Sierra Leone. She gave the President her personal pledge to help reset the international narrative on Sierra Leone. Part of my role is to understand the country I am in. I am already struck by the culture, the warmth of the people and the beauty of Sierra Leone. I am looking forward to explore more in the years ahead. I intend to share my experiences to encourage others to come and find out more about the real Sierra Leone for themselves.
Lisa’s previous postings include Mogadishu where she opened the first British Embassy after the civil war and in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. She has a background in defence and security and experience of working with a range of countries, UK government and multilateral partners on these issues.
Her recent roles include Head of the Counter Extremism Unit in the UK’s Home Office and leadership positions in the UK’s response to Covid 19. Lisa brings with her 13 years of experience working internationally in the private sector, prior to joining the civil service.
Lisa is a keen hiker and wants to explore the mountains and rainforests of Sierra Leone, and is particularly excited to try groundnut soup.