30/06/2004
Press Release
SC/8140



Security Council                                           

5000th Meeting (PM)                                         


SPELLING OUT SECURITY COUNCIL mISSION’S AIMS IN wEST aFRICA, ITS LEADER


STRESSES SUBREGION’S CRITICAL NEED FOR DEVELOPMENT, STABILITY


Development, security and stability were essential if peace was to be maintained in West Africa, a region of rich potential but fragile States, Emyr Jones Parry (United Kingdom) told the Security Council this afternoon.


Briefing the Council on the mission he had led to the subregion from 20 to 29 June, he said, “We must tackle the problems in West Africa before they become problems for all of us”.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had demonstrated leadership in the subregion.  Hence, the simple aims of the mission included identifying a coherent strategy for United Nations intervention across the spectrum, supporting ECOWAS, and assessing overall progress towards the Council’s objective of restoring peace and security, among other things.


The mission had focused on underscoring regional aspects as it visited individual countries, he said.  It had become clear that, without security and peace, there could be no sustainable development.  Without development, security and stability became more difficult.  Regional cooperation could be a catalyst for economic growth, but porous borders allowed trafficking in arms and people, as well as the problem of refugees, which affected the whole region.


He said the mission had visited Ghana, the current chair of ECOWAS, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea.  It had addressed issues such as human rights, small arms trafficking, demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, the role of women, poverty, HIV/AIDS and elections, problems that all had common themes affecting all countries.  The mission had also met with representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations.


In Côte d’Ivoire, the mission had expressed a tough message to President Laurent Gbagbo and parliamentarians, emphasizing the importance of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, he said.  In Liberia, the mission had been impressed by the improved security situation, but had noted that progress still presented a big challenge.  While there had been much progress in Sierra Leone, making the country capable of managing its own security and defence was only the first challenge.  Guinea-Bissau, having recently emerged from turmoil, with the Government in power only some 50 days, was showing signs of renewal.


Summing up, he emphasized that the United Nations and the wider international community must stay the course.  A sustained effort was required on behalf of West Africa.  “We cannot afford any letup”, he said, stressing that everyone must remain focused to avoid not only the risk of failed States but of failing parts of States.  Involving regional groups such as ECOWAS would be essential.


The representatives of France, Angola and the Russian Federation also spoke, while the outgoing Council President, Lauro L. Baja, Jr. (Philippines), noted that the meeting was the Council’s 5,000th, marking more than five decades of work.


Beginning at 3:21 p.m., the meeting adjourned at 4:15 p.m.


Background


The Security Council met this afternoon to hear a briefing by Emyr Jones Parry (United Kingdom), head of the Council mission to West Africa, which took place from 20 to 29 June and encompassed visits to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau.  In Guinea-Bissau, the mission was joined by the Chairman of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau, Dumisani S. Kumalo (South Africa).


Last year, Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom) headed a similar mission from 26 June to 5 July (see Press Release SC/7821 of 9 July 2003).


The mission’s terms of reference are contained in a letter from the Council President to the Secretary-General, dated 15 June (document S/2004/491).  For the West African region, the mission intended to identify a coherent strategy for United Nations intervention across the spectrum from conflict prevention to peace-building, and to encourage the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in coordination with the United Nations, to design and implement a subregional conflict prevention strategy, including how to tackle cross-border problems.  The mission also was to assess the practical support needed to strengthen ECOWAS.


Other aims of the mission were to assess progress towards Council objectives on the protection of civilians and children affected by armed conflict; to emphasize the need for all countries to respect their obligations with regard to human rights and international humanitarian law; and to underline the Council’s support for civil society, including women’s groups.  The mission would also assess the role of sanctions and their effectiveness in helping build peace and stability in the subregion.


In Sierra Leone, the mission wanted to assess progress towards building long-term security and sustainable development; consider appropriate benchmarks for the drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone in 2005; and assess the contribution of the Special Court and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission towards addressing the root causes of the conflict.


[The conflict in Sierra Leone began in March 1991, when fighters of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched a war from the east, near the border with Liberia, to overthrow the Government.  In October 1999, Council resolution 1270 (1999) established UNAMSIL to help implement the Lomé (Togo) Peace Agreement, which was signed on 7 July 1999, between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF.]


In Liberia, the mission was to express support for the National Transitional Government in its efforts to rebuild the country and establish conditions for free and fair elections in 2005; to review progress made by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in establishing security and implementing its mandate, particularly disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and to assess progress towards fulfilling the criteria for lifting sanctions.


[Due to Liberia’s support for armed groups in the West African subregion, including Sierra Leone, the Council had imposed wide-ranging sanctions against former president Charles Taylor’s Government in 2001, including an embargo on arms and rough diamonds.  In a 13 December 2002 presidential statement, the Council had expressed concern over armed attacks by Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), a rebel group.  By adopting resolution 1509 on 19 September, the Council dispatched a 15,000-strong stabilization force to assist in implementing the 18 August Accra Peace Agreement and welcomed the 11 August resignation of Charles Taylor, who is now in exile.  Conditions for lifting sanctions were set out in resolution 1521 (2003) (see Press Release SC/7965 of 22 December 2003).]


In Côte d’Ivoire, the mission was to remind every Ivorian party of its responsibility to keep the national reconciliation process on track, including through participation in the Government of National Reconciliation and in Parliamentary business, as well as by beginning to disarm militias and armed groups, as stipulated in the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  It was also to assess the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI) and the Monitoring Committee and review progress towards addressing the underlying causes of the conflict.


[Following an attempted coup in September 2002, resulting in widespread violence and a humanitarian crisis, the country was divided, with the south controlled by the Government of President Laurent Gbagbo, and the north by rebel groups.  On 24 January 2003, Ivorian political forces signed a peace agreement at Linas-Marcoussis, France, and on 4 February, the Council authorized the deployment of ECOWAS and French forces.  By resolution 1479 (2003), the Council established MINUCI, to facilitate implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.]


In Guinea-Bissau, the mission wanted to demonstrate the Council’s support for the Government’s efforts to promote national reconciliation and restore democratic institutions, including free and fair presidential elections in 2005.  With the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau, the mission was to assess the priority needs of the Government and to encourage increased donor support.


[The Council established a Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) in March 1999 to coordinate the efforts of the United Nations system after the civil strife of the late 1990s.  On 14 September 2003, the military seized power from President Kumba Yala in a bloodless coup, after he had postponed elections several times following his dissolution of the Government in November 2002.  On 18 June this year, the Council expressed satisfaction  with the installation of a new National Popular Assembly and a new Government on 12 May, but expressed concern about the fragility of the democratization process, due to the weakness of State institutions and persistent economic and social crises (see Press Release SC/8127 of 18 June).]


Briefing by Head of Council Mission


EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that, while it was clear that the Millennium Development Goals could be achieved in most of Asia and Latin America, Africa was way off track.  Many leaders in Africa, however, had stepped up to the challenge by establishing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  It was the moral duty and in the practical self-interest of the international community to help them in their efforts to build a prosperous Africa.


But, without security, there could be no stability, he pointed out.  Through institutions like the African Union and ECOWAS, Africans were building their own peacekeeping capacities and it was the Council’s responsibility to support those efforts.  The Council had decided to send a mission to West Africa, a subregion rich in potential, but full of fragile States where problems often had contagious effects on neighbouring countries.  The ECOWAS had demonstrated leadership in the region and hence, the simple aims of the mission were to identify a coherent strategy for United Nations intervention across the spectrum, support ECOWAS, and assess overall progress towards the Council’s objective of restoring peace and security, among other things.


He said the mission had focused on underscoring regional aspects as it visited individual countries.  Regional cooperation could be a catalyst for economic growth.  Although free movement was inhibited by restrictions, porous borders allowed trafficking in arms and people.  The problem of refugees affected the whole subregion.  The mission had gone beyond simple issues to address human rights, small arms trafficking, demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, the role of women, poverty, HIV/AIDS and elections -- problems that all had common themes affecting all countries.  The mission had also met with civil society representatives and non-governmental organizations working in the field.  It had become clear that without security and peace, there could be no sustainable development.  Without development, security and stability became more difficult.  Security and development were interdependent.


Noting that the mission had visited seven countries in eight days -- Ghana, the current chair of ECOWAS, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea -– he said a written report would be circulated later.  The ECOWAS agenda had been set out in Accra, Ghana.  It was dominated by a political-military role, including the intention to establish a stand-by force.  In Cote d’Ivoire, the mission had expressed a tough message to President Gbagbo and parliamentarians, emphasizing the importance of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  The signatories had been brought together for the first time since the signing of the accord.  The goal was to proceed to elections in 2005.


In Monrovia, Liberia, the mission had been impressed by the improved security situation, but progress still presented a big challenge and the mission had emphasized that there should be no impunity for facing indictments.


Expressing his condolences to the bereaved families of those killed in yesterday’s helicopter crash in Sierra Leone, he noted that there had been much progress in that country.  The UNAMSIL seemed to be on course to drawdown.  However, making Sierra Leone capable of managing its own security and defence was only the first challenge.


In Nigeria, he said, the mission had met with the country’s President, who had underscored the importance of NEPAD and the need for support for that organization.


He said that in Guinea-Bissau -- evidently the poorest country visited – the mission had been told that the situation was better than it had been during last year’s visit.  Having only recently emerged from turmoil and with the Government in power only some 50 days, Guinea-Bissau was indeed showing signs of renewal.  The IMF was considering a special programme for the country, based on the Government clear, persistent efforts to pursue peace.  The challenge for the international community would be to support the positive trends.


In Conakry, he said, the Council members had visited the President of Guinea, who had expressed his commitment to work for peace.


Throughout the trip, he said, the Council members had been impressed by the work of United Nations peacekeeping personnel, as well as that of United Nations country teams and other staff, and various Special Representatives of the Secretary-General.  Coherent and effective policies were in place and the Special Representatives had an important task in presenting their role as amenable partners without fostering the notion of permanent dependency.


Summing up, he said the United Nations and the wider international community must stay the course; a sustained effort was required on behalf of West Africa.  Everyone must remain focused to avoid not only the risk of failed States but of failing parts of States.  While ushering nations toward free and fair elections, the promotion of human rights and developing absorptive capacities was difficult, vigilance and sustained commitment by the United Nations family, international financial institutions and regional groups would ensure peace, growth and development.


Involving regional groups such as ECOWAS -- seen by all as “a force for good” -- and other institutions aimed at spurring economic development would be essential, he continued.  Harnessing the subregion broad potential was crucial and, in that regard, sovereign governments must establish themselves and assume control as soon a possible so as to assure the path towards sustainable development.  It would also be important for the Council and the wider United Nations to support those countries in the region that were not in conflict and which promoted good governance.


Urging the Council not be too shy in stepping up its conflict-prevention efforts, he said it should examine ways to design more effective conflict-prevention policies in the near future.  In West Africa, the heads of the various United Nations missions met regularly and it was important to enhance the regional synergies between those operations.  Small arms trafficking added to the instability of much of West Africa and the current moratorium on such weapons must evolve into a more effective tool for combating the illicit trade.


Development, security and stability were essential if peace was to be maintained in West Africa, he said, emphasizing the need to make those elements the focus of support for governments in the subregion.  While some doubted the importance and relevance of the work of the United Nations, the Organization’s role significance was quite clear in West Africa.  “We must tackle the problems in West Africa before they become problems for all of us.”


Statements


JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), a member of the mission, said such exercises were very useful, chiefly in ensuring that the Council’s recommendations were better understood, and in sending a message that it was concerned about the full implementation of its decisions in order to improve situations on the ground.  Such missions also enriched the Council and another should be scheduled for Central Africa in the fall.


On ECOWAS, he said the Council had been right to pursue and enhancement of its relationship with that organization, as their goals and aims were complementary.  A regional approach was crucial in addressing issues like the spread of small arms and light weapons.  The Council and ECOWAS would have to return to that issue very soon because it was clear that such weapons were still at the heart of many of the region’s problems.


He expressed great concern about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly the evident obstacles to the full implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  The Council would continue to follow efforts to implement that accord very closely, particularly with preparations for the upcoming elections picking up steam.


While encouraged by what the mission had seen in Liberia, the real challenge for neighbouring Sierra Leone was what would happen when the United Nations Mission there closed out its mandate.  There was a need to ensure that the fragile gains that had been made could be built upon when the UNAMSIL left the country.


ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said the mission had come at a time when deadlocks should be broken and peacekeeping made more effective.  Peacekeeping in Côte d’Ivoire was endangered by a lack of continuing dialogue between the Government and the opposition.  However, the meeting that the mission had held with all stakeholders had achieved such a dialogue.  Another result of the mission was that United Nations radio was back on the air.  All that had been achieved through the mission’s firmness in delivering its message.


In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the mission had met with the leaders of peacekeeping operations, he said, noting, however, that peacekeeping in both countries could be seriously affected by a lack of progress in Côte d’IvoireSierra Leone and Liberia seemed to be well engaged in the process of disarming former combatants.  But, UNAMSIL seemed to be more or less ending its mandate though it had not fully achieved its objectives.  There was now a need for peace-building.


Noting that Guinea-Bissau offered hope, he said the fact that the mission visited that country at the same time as an ECOSOC mission, underscored the message that peace-building and nation-building went together.  Since last year, there had been clear progress, which must be reinforced by the commitment of the international community.  A review mission of the International Monetary Fund had shown the existence of a clear effort to improve governance in Guinea-Bissau.


ALEXANDER KONUZIN (Russian Federation), expressing regret that his delegation had been unable to take part in this year’s mission, asked whether the constitutional Government of Côte d’Ivoire had asked for Council assistance in settling the dispute with the opposition.  How much restraint did the military in Guinea-Bissau say it would exercise as the new Government moved forward?  On Liberia, he asked whether, after all the killings, recruitment and use of child soldiers, rape and torture, there was a feeling that anyone would be punished for those grave crimes.


Mr. JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that a written report would be available very soon.  An open discussion on the mission’s findings at that time would hopefully include representatives from the respective countries.  The report and subsequent discussion would certainly provide more detailed information than he and the other mission participants had sketched out today.


Responding to the question, he said he had detected a cooperative response among the parties in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as an appreciation for what the United Nations and the Security Council were trying to do.  On Guinea-Bissau, the Chief of Defence had explained the reasons behind the coup, saying it had been the last thing anyone had wanted, but that there had appeared to be no choice.  The important thing to remember was that once fighting had broken out ECOWAS had been on the ground within 24 hours and the path to civil authority had been quickly restored.


Throughout the mission, the Council members had reiterated the need to address the situation of child soldiers, particularly in Sierra Leone and Liberia, he said, calling it “one of the abominations of West Africa”.


At the conclusion of his Council presidency, LAURO L. BAJA, JR. (Philippines) said June had been a hectic but historic month, during which the Council had achieved milestones it could be proud of.  The current occasion, on the important topic of West Africa, was the Council’s 5,000th meeting, marking more than five decades of work.  During the Philippine presidency, one common thread had been shared by all delegations:  the singular goal of making the Council work.  That was the key to making the Council effective.


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