President Barrows Gives Opening Remarks for the First-ever Collaborative Leadership Retreat for Cabinet Ministers
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5TH MAY 2017



Your Excellency, Hon. Minister of Women’s Affairs overseeing the Office of The Vice President,

Honourable Cabinet Ministers,

Honourable Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service,

Secretary to Cabinet,

Your Excellency, former Prime Minister of Niger,

The Special Representative to the UN Secretary General,

The Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa,

Representative of the UN Economic Commission for Africa,

UN Resident Coordinator,

Facilitators of this Retreat,

Members of the media fraternity,

Ladies and Gentlemen.


Good evening to you all.


It gives me great pleasure to warmly welcome you all to this retreat for Cabinet Ministers. I would like to extend special thanks to the senior UN officials who have taken time off their busy schedules to come and support us in this important policy forum.

Before going any further, let me on behalf of the entire Cabinet and on my own behalf, take this opportunity to sincerely thank the United Nations Development Programme Gambia and the entire UN System for organizing this important meeting. This retreat is very timely and is one of the critical support systems that the UN has generously provided, and continues to offer to the new government since the elections in December 2016. It is the first in a series of capacity building and experience sharing platforms that the UN has committed to support us with.

Ladies and gentlemen, this retreat could not have come at a better time given that the new Cabinet members and their technicians are working hard to finalize and align the vision as contained in the Coalition 2016 Election Manifesto with the new National Development blueprint.

This workshop clearly provides us the unique opportunity to interact and enhance our ability to create the conducive environment in which we can hold inclusive and constructive conversations on how best to serve our people.

Today, the responsibility to make key decisions that will have significant impacts on which direction we take as a country, rests on us. Therefore, how we engage among ourselves and the actions that we agree on will determine how our country seizes this opportunity of change to build a better and prosperous future for this great country.

We have inherited many challenges including a low performing public service, lack of accountability as well as a credible policy direction, that have understandably led to growing frustrations of the population, particularly the youths.

However, these challenges provide the opportunity for an urgent reform of our systems and structures as well as attitudes so that together, we can usher in higher output, greater democracy and economic growth.

I have no doubt that constant national engagements and reflections at policy level like this will strengthen our unity and cohesion so that we can all rise above partisan interest and work for the public good, for the new Gambia.

Clearly, we have come from a painful past especially in the last two decades in which we hurt each other in many different ways. While I strongly believe in the healing power of reconciliation and forgiveness, it is important to underscore the reality that justice must not only be served but in fact be seen to be done where necessary. However, what is urgently required of us is to unify the country around our transformative development agenda so that we can move speedily with our bilateral and multilateral partners to bring about socio-economic development for our people.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to take a moment to reflect on the Gambia that we wish to see our children grow up in and to identify the changes in attitudes and behaviours that will be required to bring about the new Gambia we promised. A culture of accountability will be a crucial start, so that national resources and those contributed by our partners are wisely invested. The ability to collaborate for the sake of national interest even in the heat of political competition will be equally crucial.

The most important element is for the leadership to be exemplary, and as such we must demonstrate by our personal action a commitment to the highest standard of integrity and personal positive reform for the public to follow.

The Gambia’s aspiration for inclusiveness that leaves no one behind and builds peaceful and strong communities across the country is vital to the success of our democracy.

The Gambia cannot afford to leave its women and youths behind making it important that all collaborative efforts include and involve women equally, to achieve sustainable peace and development.

This is why I am particularly happy that this afternoon we will be deliberating on the draft National Development Plan 2017 to 2020 which will essentially guide our choice of priorities to move this nation forward. We should be forward looking in our thinking and direction as we fight to reduce poverty, which currently stands at almost 50%.

Also of importance is the need to improve our infrastructure, generate decent employment for our people especially the youths and women, and by extension improve the standard of living of all Gambians.

Ladies and gentlemen, my government is committed to encourage and create spaces for collaboration, dialogue and constructive feedback from the people of the Gambia, who gave us the mandate to serve them.

We are therefore pleased with the UN support to expand and entrench a culture of collaboration and dialogue among ourselves.

We will count on your continuous support for the strengthening of national capacities to build momentum among the leadership and Gambians generally, for all inclusive peace and development.

It is my hope that this retreat will be an opportunity for genuine interactions and reflections in which we can gain insights from one and another’s experiences and from our resource persons here present.

With those few remarks, it is now my honor to officially declare this cabinet retreat open and I wish us all a fruitful experience.