25/02/2005
Press Release
SC/8321


Security Council

5131st Meeting (AM)


SECURITY COUNCIL CONCERNED BY CRISES IN WEST AFRICA OVER POWER TRANSFER;


COULD FURTHER OBSTRUCT EFFORTS TO STABILIZE SUBREGION

 


Presidential Statement Follows Council Debate,

Stresses Need to Help Curb Illicit Cross-Border Activities


The Security Council today noted with deep concern the tensions emerging and ongoing in some West African countries over the transfer of power, which might further obstruct efforts to stabilize the subregion.


In a statement read by Rogatien Biaou, Foreign Minister of Benin, which holds this month’s Presidency, the Council also welcomed action taken by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to address those issues. 


Underlining that ongoing or emerging crises in West Africa were a threat to subregional stability, the Council also stressed the need to help West African States to curb illicit cross-border activities, and to take action to address problems, such as youth unemployment, the circulation of small arms and light weapons, security sector reform, drug trafficking and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants. 


Opening the meeting, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today’s debate came at a critical moment for peace and security in the subregion.  Some signs of hope and encouragement could be seen, as well as some very worrying developments.  The current crisis in Togo served as a reminder that much remained to be done to establish peaceful, constitutional transfers of power as the region’s norm.  He urged all sides in Togo to exercise maximum restraint while efforts continued to find a peaceful solution to that crisis. 


The region continued to face grave security challenges, he said, noting that border areas were especially volatile, with populations at risk from illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons, recruitment of child soldiers, banditry, rape and environmental damage.  Youth unemployment levels were shockingly high, and the accompanying desperation carried a real risk of political and social unrest in countries emerging from crisis, and even in those that were currently stable. 


Noting that the challenges in the subregion remained daunting, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office in West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said Togo was a clear illustration of the fragility of peace and stability in parts of West AfricaTogo was a reminder that unless “small crises” were addressed in a timely and coherent manner, they could easily turn into bigger and more complicated issues, as happened in Côte d’Ivoire


The United Nations Office, he said, would continue to facilitate coherent and integrated approaches to peace-building among United Nations entities in West Africa, strengthen its partnership with West African States and subregional organizations, especially ECOWAS, and carry out preventive diplomacy and early warning missions, among other things. 


The proliferation of small arms and light weapons was among the cross-border problems highlighted by speakers this morning.  In West Africa, noted the representative of the United Kingdom, that scourge was both a feature of conflict and a main source of it.  United Nations missions, he stressed, must be better equipped to implement and monitor arms embargoes.  Also vital was agreement on proposals for the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons, on international controls on the transfers of such weapons, as well as working towards the goal of an arms trade treaty to extend the international rule of law on conventional arms, in general.


In that connection, the decision by ECOWAS to convert its Moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms and light weapons into a legally-binding instrument was hailed as an important endeavour by a number of speakers, which would send a strong signal to development partners and the wider international community that West African governments were themselves prepared to address decisively the devastating effects of the proliferation of small arms.


The shocking levels of youth unemployment in West Africa, which manifested itself in the use of mercenaries, the circulation of small arms and light weapons and rebel recruitment, was noted by several speakers as another major impediment to the consolidation of peace in the subregion.  The growing numbers of young men and women who lacked prospects of ever being able to work for a decent living were a major threat to the future of the subregion, stated the representative of Sierra Leone.  Youth unemployment, and the desperation that accompanied it, not only undermined any progress that countries like his had made, but threatened the political and social structures of currently stable countries. 


Also speaking this morning were the representatives of China, Algeria, Brazil, United Republic of Tanzania, Philippines, Russian Federation, Denmark, Japan, United States, Greece, France, Romania, Argentina, Benin, Burkina Faso, Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), Mali and Niger, as well as the Special Adviser to the Executive Secretary for Child Protection of the ECOWAS.


The meeting began at 10:23 a.m. and ended at 2:23 p.m.


Presidential Statement


The full text of the presidential statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/2005/9, reads as follows:


“The Security Council  has carefully reviewed the Progress Report of the Secretary-General (S/2005/86) dated 11 February 2005, on the implementation of the recommendations of the Council on cross-border and subregional problems in West Africa and reaffirms the statement of its President S/PRST/2004 /7 of 25 March 2004.


“The Security Council notes with appreciation the enhanced cooperation among the various United Nations political and peacekeeping missions in the subregion and looks forward to receiving the Secretary General’s forthcoming report on intermissions cooperation.  The Council also welcomes the growing and constructive partnership between the United Nations system, Economical Organization of West African States (ECOWAS), individual Member States, key bilateral and multilateral development partners, as well as civil society organizations, including women's organizations, aiming at addressing the many complex challenges confronting the West African subregion.


“The Security Council reiterates its belief that action on cross-border and subregional issues should take place as part of a wider strategy of conflict prevention, crisis management and peace-building in the subregion.  The Council thus also encourages the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) to further promote an integrated and joint subregional approach with ECOWAS and the African Union, as well as with other key international partners and civil society organizations.


“The Security Council welcomes the encouraging prospects for the reactivation of the Mano River Union and the resumption of dialogue among its Member States, notably on ways to deal with mercenaries.  It welcomes also initiatives taken by ECOWAS, to establish a Small Arms Unit and to adopt a new Small Arms Control Program (ECOSAP) and its ongoing efforts to transform the Moratorium signed in Abuja on 31 October 1998, on the import, export and manufacture of small arms and light weapons into a binding convention. `


“The Council welcomes the decision of the European Commission on 2 December to assist ECOWAS in implementing its plans to combat illicit dissemination of small arms.  The Council reiterates its call on all MemberStates and organizations, in a position to do so, to extend further assistance to ECOWAS in this field.  The Council calls on arms producing and exporting countries and West African States to explore ways in which they can ensure the implementation of the Moratorium.


“The Council calls on Member States and key international partners to explore practical ways of assisting ECOWAS in enhancing its capacities in the areas of conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacekeeping, including through the provision of technical expertise, training programmes, logistical and financial resources.  In this connection, the Council reaffirms the crucial importance of the reintegration of ex-combatants, taking into account the special needs of child soldiers and women, in order to reverse the culture of violence and create an enabling environment for national reconciliation in countries emerging from conflict, and reiterates its call to the International community to provide adequate funding to this end.


“The Security Council underlines that ongoing or emerging crises in West Africa are a threat to the subregional stability and, in this regard, notes with deep concern the tensions emerging and ongoing in some countries over the transfer of power, involving members of security and armed forces, and which may further obstruct efforts to stabilize the subregion.


“The Security Council recalls in this regard the African Union position on unconstitutional changes of governments, as stated in the 1999 Algiers Declaration and the 2000 Lomé Declaration.


“The Council welcomes the action taken by ECOWAS and African Union to address these issues.


“The Security Council expresses its deep concern about the involvement of individuals including those from security and armed forces in such illicit activities as smuggling of arms, drugs and natural resources, human trafficking, extortion at roadblocks and money-laundering, in the context of mismanagement in the administration of justice, and weak government capacity to fight against criminal activities and impunity.  The Council stresses the need to pay special attention to those critical issues that have direct bearing on efforts to enhance peace, stability and democratic governance in West African countries.


“The Security Council emphasizes the need to pursue security sector reforms aiming at improving civil-military relations in countries emerging from conflict situations and creating a culture of peace and stability and promoting the rule of law.  In this regard, the Council requests UNOWA to further explore with interested governments and organizations ways in which security sector reforms could be formulated and implemented.


“In this regard, the Council welcomes ongoing efforts of ECOWAS, in collaboration with the United Nations Office of Drugs Control, to improve border control mechanisms in West Africa by facilitating the flow of information among national law enforcement authorities, as well as regional networking and cooperation in the law enforcement issues.


“The Security Council reiterates the importance of curbing the growing risks of instability along some border areas.  The Council, therefore, encourages the UNOWA to facilitate in close cooperation with ECOWAS Executive Secretariat and its member states concerned the implementation of the strategies developed for sensitive border zones in the subregion and calls on the donors to support these efforts.


“The Council stresses the need to help in West African States to curb illicit cross–border activities and to strengthen the capacities of the civil society groups working to promote a cross-border culture of non-violence and peace.


“The Security Council further emphasizes the need to generate economic activities and foster development as a means to promoting sustainable peace in the subregion. It urges international donors to assist ECOWAS States to address that need.


“The Security Council reaffirms the urgency of finding lasting solutions to the problem of youth unemployment in order to prevent the recruitment of such youth by illegal armed groups.  In this connection, the Council requests the Secretary General to include in his next progress report practical recommendations on how best to tackle the problem.


“The Security Council urges the donor countries, International Organizations and civil society to address the dire humanitarian situation in many parts of the subregion and to provide adequate resources in the framework of the Consolidated Appeals Process 2005 for West Africa as part of a regional humanitarian response strategy to improve human security of the people in dire need for protection or those whose coping capacities are close to exhaustion.


“The Security Council expresses its intention to keep these issues under review and requests the Secretary General to report on them regularly through his reports on the United Nations missions in the sub-region.”


Background


Before the Security Council was the progress report of the Secretary-General on ways to combat subregional and cross-border problems in West Africa (document S/2005/86), which informs the Council about the progress made towards the implementation of the recommendations contained in its presidential statement of 25 March 2004 (S/PRST/2004/7), as well as the implementation of the recommendations made by the Council mission to West Africa (20-29 June 2004) (document S/2004/525).


The Secretary-General is encouraged by the progress achieved in implementing some of the recommendations contained in the Council’s presidential statement of 25 March 2004.  He is pleased to note the growth of a constructive partnership among the United Nations system, development partners and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as some of the governments, civil society organizations and local communities in the West African region.  The development of truly collaborative arrangements for addressing cross-border problems, a process in which the first steps have now been taken, is an essential element in any integrated approach to conflict prevention in the subregion.


While some of the recommendations are being acted upon, progress on others appears limited or slow, the report continues.  There are many areas where redoubled and better targeted efforts could contribute more effectively to conflict prevention and peace-building in West Africa.  It would be helpful if ECOWAS member States converted the moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms and light weapons into a legally binding instrument at the earliest opportunity.


This would send a strong signal to development partners and the wider international community that West African Governments are themselves prepared to address decisively the devastating effects of the proliferation of small arms, says the report.  Support should be given, both by ECOWAS, through its new Small Arms Unit and Small Arms Programme, and development partners, to the various national commissions on small arms and light weapons, and also for work to begin on establishing a regional register of small arms.


The implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes in Sierra Leone and Liberia, with the support of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), in particular, has witnessed commendable progress.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration cannot be successful, however, without adequate funding for the reintegration and rehabilitation of ex-combatants to avert the risk of relapse into conflict.  The recommendation of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (document A/59/565), that a sizeable standing fund for peace-building be established that could be used to fund rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, could prove especially beneficial to West Africa.


The humanitarian situation in many parts of the subregion remains a great concern, the report says.  The consolidated appeals process 2005 for West Africa underlined the need to fund a regional humanitarian response strategy with project proposals that provide a broad range of cross-border support services.  Development partners are urged to fund some of those proposals, which could improve the security of people in dire need of protection or those whose coping capacities are close to exhaustion because of protracted hostilities.  Special attention should be paid to sensitive border areas affected by conflict, whose populations are at risk from a variety of cross-border problems, including illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons, recruitment of child soldiers, environmental damage, banditry and widespread rape.


Security sector reform is an especially pressing priority for West Africa, and one which ECOWAS member States ought to address, with support from the international community, as a key tool for conflict prevention.  A regionally integrated programme for reform of the security sector, which would include concrete projects that development partners could fund, should be produced by the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), in consultation with its partners in West Africa, before the end of 2005.


Statements


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General, said that today’s debate came at a critical moment for peace and security in the subregion.  Some signs of hope and encouragement could be seen, as well as some very worrying developments.  The current crisis in Togo served as a reminder that much remained to be done to establish peaceful, constitutional transfers of power as the region’s norm.  He urged all sides in Togo to exercise maximum restraint while efforts continued to find a peaceful solution to that crisis.


The region continued to face grave security challenges, he noted.  Border areas were especially volatile, with populations at risk from illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons, recruitment of child soldiers, banditry, rape and environmental damage.  The lack of funding for security sector reform, particularly for the reintegration and rehabilitation phases of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation programmes, was disturbing given their central importance.  Youth unemployment levels were shockingly high, and the accompanying desperation carried a real risk of political and social unrest in countries emerging from crisis, and even in those that were currently stable.  And there was very rapid population growth in the region’s urban areas, where job opportunities were limited and social services were far from adequate.


The report highlighted areas that required immediate and longer-term action, he said.  Its recommendations were directed at a wide range of players, including the Council and other parts of the United Nations system, bilateral and multilateral development partners, the ECOWAS secretariat, individual Member States, and civil society organizations.  They placed particular importance on good governance.  And they called on everyone to practise prevention and to address root causes of conflict at an earlier stage.


He welcomed the recent efforts of ECOWAS members to address the complex challenges facing the region.  There was growing cooperation among security agencies to crack down on cross-border crime.  Efforts were also under way to protect children, stem small arms flows and involve civil society groups more regularly in peace-building and other initiatives.


AHMEDOU OULD-ABDALLAH, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa, said that UNOWA remained focused on the fulfilment of its mandate.  In that connection, it would continue to facilitate coherent and integrated approaches to peace-building among United Nations entities in West Africa, strengthen its partnership with West African States and subregional organizations, especially ECOWAS, and carry out preventive diplomacy and early warning missions, among other things.  The needs and requirements of the WestAfricanStates and people would continue to motivate and guide the Office’s work.


To strengthen its actions within the framework of its mandate, UNOWA focused on three broad challenges.  The first was an institutional challenge.  It had to strengthen further institutional collaboration among United Nations entities in West Africa.  Of particular importance were the meetings of the three heads of United Nations peacekeeping operations (Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone) and the United Nations Office in Guinea-Bissau.  Those meetings aimed at broadening inter-mission cooperation, improving the exchange of information and experience, pooling assets and collaborating across State borders.  Stronger collaboration between the United Nations and other partners in the subregion was also a priority.


There was also a methodological challenge, he noted, pointing to the need to prioritize issues, areas and objectives.  Issues such as small arms, child soldiers, security sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, roadblocks and cross-border peace-building were among the key priorities.  In the area of small arms and light weapons, for example, the Office was targeting the tracing and marking of small arms, the establishment of a regional register and the transformation of the ECOWAS Moratorium into a legally binding instrument.  On security sector reform, combating non-military threats to the security sector was a main priority.  Specific issues to address were health, especially the spread of HIV/AIDS in armed and security forces, the administration of justice and the strengthening of the customs services.


Lastly, there was a doctrinal challenge.  The UNOWA’s efforts to build peace were concentrated in countries at war.  That was a logical course of action, given the burning political and humanitarian emergencies encountered in those States.  Countries not at war also deserved support, however.  They remained fragile and could be weakened by violence in their neighbourhood.  Stronger support from the international community was needed for countries with working democratic processes, such as Ghana and the Niger, where free and fair elections had been organized recently.


The challenges ahead remained daunting, he said.  Togo was a clear illustration of the fragility of peace and stability in parts of West AfricaTogo was a reminder that unless “small crises” were addressed in a timely and coherent manner, they could easily be transformed into bigger and more complicated issues, as happened in Côte d’Ivoire.


IBRAHIMA DIOUF, Special Adviser to the Executive Secretary for Child Protection of ECOWAS, said, originally, ECOWAS had not included peace and security in its agenda.  The main purpose of the organization was integration of economic and other policies.  But since crises had emerged in the subregion, the agenda had to be reviewed.  He supported the recommendations made in the report.


He said cross-border problems faced in West Africa -- such as money laundering, drug and arms trafficking, trafficking in human beings and illegal exploitation of natural resources -- were threats to peace and security.  Armed groups, with networks in the region, were controlling the process of criminal transborder activities that had jeopardized the economic progress in some States.  They often prolonged conflict and survived by trafficking in drugs and human beings.  They often controlled the richest areas, were diverse in composition, and had roots in a political party and, therefore, escaped control.  That modus operandum encouraged the recruitment of children. 


The ECOWAS had established several instruments to combat the development of gangs, including the Moratorium.  The instruments were developed with a political dimension, a legal dimension and a development dimension.  Prevention was key in halting the export of problems and several protocols had been developed in that regard.  Separation of powers was also important, as were the participation of women and combating the proliferation of weapons.  Those were guidelines meant to lead to an environment conducive to development and peace and security in the region, he said.


EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that cross-border and regional cooperation in West Africa was becoming a model for other regions.  Efforts to further peace and security demanded a response from the United Nations, and the Council in particular.  The need for stronger institutional links between the United Nations and the African Union were obvious.  Collaboration was essential for coordinated and effective efforts.  As to the need for a regional approach, he noted that the problems of Africa, and individual countries, transcended national boundaries.  The free movement in the unpleasant aspects of life were more evident in West Africa.  There was a need for the synergies of United Nations operations to be harnessed, particularly in terms of peacekeeping.


The report had highlighted that, in West Africa, the scourge of small arms and light weapons was both a feature of conflict and a main source of that conflict, he noted.  As many people died from small arms in Africa as from any other cause.  The international community had, for too long, addressed that problem in a rhetorical fashion.  He put forward four priorities in that regard.  First, the United Nations missions must be better equipped to implement and monitor arms embargoes.  Second, it was necessary to agree on United Nations proposals for the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons, and then move forward to the adoption of an international instrument.  Third, it was also necessary to agree on international controls on the transfers of those weapons.  Fourth, it was important to work towards the goal of an arms trade treaty to extend the international rule of law on conventional arms in general.


He emphasized that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were vital to sustaining peace and the rule of law.  Efforts were needed to address the problem regionally.  That was an area in which donors could make a particular contribution.  Also, a key proposal in the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change was the establishment of a peace-building commission.  It was necessary to think about how such a commission could help West Africa, which was the best example of why such a commission was needed.  It was necessary to harness the efforts of all actors to promote sustainable peace and development in post-conflict situations.  Those countries that lacked an evident sponsor needed somewhere to go, and such a commission was one of the best ways to address their concerns.


He added that, while the African Union and the Secretary-General had responded to the crisis in Togo, the Council had been silent on the issue.  It was necessary to think about when the situation in a country actually justified the involvement of the Council.  Was the failure of a government to protect its citizens, or an unconstitutional act, the basis for the Council to stand up and be counted? he asked.


ZHANG YISHAN (China) said there had been positive developments since last year’s debate in the Council.  Awareness of the problem had been raised and cooperation among United Nations agencies and among the United Nations, ECOWAS and donor countries had been strengthened.  Revitalization of the Mano River Union and progress in Sierra Leone and Liberia gave rise to hope.  However, the illegal proliferation of small arms and light weapons had not been curbed and child soldiers and mercenaries were still being used.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes lacked resources, the humanitarian situation was deteriorating and the chaotic flow of refugees had not been eased.


A solution to the cross-border problems in the subregion depended on the stability of the domestic situation of the countries concerned, he said.  It was important to proceed from the regional perspective.  He encouraged the subregional organizations to play their role and called on the international community to give assistance. The international community must also pay attention to the root causes of the cross-border problems and promote comprehensive and sustainable social and economic development to solve the unemployment, especially among young people. 


The report had many helpful recommendations that merited serious study and implementation.  To resolve the cross-border problems in West Africa, the help of the international community and the United Nations was essential.  The United Nations missions must strengthen their coordination.  He supported focusing the consolidated appeals process this year on the worsening humanitarian and security situation in the subregion.


ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that the continuance of cross-border problems was not likely to advance peace and stability in the countries of the subregion.  The report was a valuable instrument of analysis for drawing the necessary conclusions and making adjustments.  There had been significant achievements in the area of diagnosis, and in preparing and implementing strategies to tackle the problems.  Efforts must be focused on bolstering the efforts of national and regional actors and on the provision of adequate resources.  The promotion of partnerships was one way to overcome those hurdles. 


The launching by ECOWAS of regional policies in areas such as child protection and conflict prevention deserved the support of the international community, he said.  One important area for assistance was reform of the security sector, which was responsible for tackling many cross-border problems.  He noted that significant efforts had been made to enhance cooperation between the United Nations missions in the subregion.  Also, the strengthening of UNOWA had enabled it to play a greater role in designing policies and implementing them on the ground.


He said cross-border issues required a multidimensional and comprehensive approach.  While the primary responsibility lay with the countries of the region themselves, the assistance of the international community was crucial.  Issues such as the reintegration of former combatants and youth unemployment required substantive resources.  The challenges faced by West Africa were difficult, but not insurmountable, provided that development partners showed sufficient political will and developed the requisite partnerships.


RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said conflicts had immediate causes, and they had root causes.  Poverty should be placed at the top of the list.  Violence had always been a resort of the oppressed.  The dire humanitarian situation in countries in conflict in West Africa must be addressed from an integrated and strategic perspective that covered cross-border needs.  International donors and humanitarian agents should not only fulfil the pledges under the consolidated appeals process, but coordinate better so that valuable efforts and resources were not wasted.


He said there were still important loopholes in the international regime for the legal transfer of arms.  He welcomed recent initiatives taken by ECOWAS towards greater control of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, such as the Small Arms Control Programme aimed at converting the ECOWAS Moratorium into a legally binding instrument, and urged international technical assistance and support for those efforts.  South-South cooperation could prove useful for developing countries in a wide array of areas.  Criminal activities, such as trafficking in small arms and illegal exploitation of natural resources, might be subject to the proceedings of the International Criminal Court.


He was heartened that the report underlined the question of reintegration programmes and on the absolute need to generate economic activity in order to ensure sustainable peace.  A durable solution for the lack of economic occupation had to be found.  He further welcomed the recommendation of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change to establish a peace-building commission in the United Nations.  That matter should be discussed in the General Assembly, but greater cooperation between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council would also be beneficial.


AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said the West Africa subregion was a geographical entity which had reached a significantly high level of integration.  Internal conflicts, as in Liberia, had contributed to a growing number of civilians and forced them to flee to neighbouring countries.  That movement away from conflict areas also risked inciting upheavals in another area.  Sometimes they turned the violence they had witnessed on the people and country that had provided them with sanctuary.  The mixed picture of the situation in West Africa could, therefore, not be too comforting.  Achievements in Liberia and Sierra Leone offered hope, but the situation in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau and Togo were a cause for concern.


He said West Africa had demonstrated remarkable leadership in conflict resolution and the maintenance of regional peace and security and, therefore, needed the support of the international community.  There was a pressing need for harmonizing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes with specific reference to programmes for women and children.  Many of the cross-border problems were also related to issues of development.  Development policy must seek to shape conditions in the region that fostered growth in constitutional structures and State institutions and the emergence of the rule of law.


The Millennium Development Goals underscored that good governance was one of the critical factors in fighting poverty and insecurity, he said.  In that regard, he noted with great interest the measures taken at national and regional levels in West Africa to institutionalize democracy, rule of law and good governance at all levels.  The aspirations of the people of West Africa to live in peace, security and in prosperity deserved the full support of the Council.


LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines) said one of the significant developments was increased collaboration among the United Nations missions in West Africa.  Inter-mission cooperation maximized the operational capability of United Nations assets on the ground and created synergies.  He welcomed the establishment of an inter-mission secretariat and commended the work done by UNOWA in raising public awareness about subregion and cross-border problems.  The contributions of ECOWAS and the newly reactivated Mano River Union also deserved recognition, as did the important role played by civil society in addressing subregion and cross-border issues.


He said three issues should be highlighted:  the proliferation of small arms and light weapons; harmonization of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and post-conflict peace-building.  He encouraged ECOWAS to further strengthen the intent of the Moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of small arms.  The Council mission to West Africa had addressed the need to harmonize disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.  A set of policy recommendations and practical guidelines had been developed on a regional disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.  He asked for regular briefings on that issue.


Emphasis should be given to post-conflict peace-building, he added.  Addressing the root causes of conflicts and the challenges after the conflict deserved equal attention.  Jobs and economic opportunities were essential elements for lasting peace.  Underscoring the great importance for addressing subregion and cross-border issues in a comprehensive manner, he said best practices and lessons from ECOWAS countries could well serve as examples for other regions and subregions.


ALEXANDER KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that today’s subject showed that West Africa had a tremendous potential for cross-border problems, which threatened the region.  Factors such as continuing conflicts in the region, small arms and light weapons proliferation, attempts to seize power by unconstitutional means, child soldiers, and refugees and internally displaced persons all had a negative impact on the situation in West Africa, and the continent as a while.  A long-term solution could only be found through a comprehensive and holistic approach, incorporating the efforts of all actors.  The report’s recommendations were comprehensive and were meant to neutralize the main cross-border problems through:  reform of the security sector; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; converting the ECOWAS Moratorium into a legally binding convention; creating a subregional register for small arms and light weapons; and rehabilitating child soldiers.


He agreed with the Secretary-General that the primary responsibility for carrying out such programmes was with the countries themselves, but recognized the importance of assistance provided by the international community and financial institutions.  The recommendations of the Secretary-General were beginning to be implemented.  The idea of establishing national commissions to combat child soldiers was beginning to gain ground, and it was important that work in that area continue and yield tangible results.  He also agreed on the need to strengthen the borders of the States in the region.  Specific steps must be taken on the borders to stop the movement of illegal armed groups and the illegal export of natural resources.  He was pleased at the close cooperation between the United Nations missions in the subregion and the coordinating role played by UNOWA.


However, he emphasized that coordinated action by the United Nations should not violate the sovereignty of individual States or the mandates of individual peacekeeping operations.  Enhancing stability in Africa was an intrinsic part of work to establish, under the aegis of the United Nations, a global system to counter new threats and challenges.  It was necessary to think about what more the Council could do to reinforce the peace processes in Africa.


ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), associating herself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed progress made over the last year, but said there were numerous grounds for continued concern, not least the deteriorating situation in Côte d'Ivoire.  It was evident that the root causes of the conflicts had yet to be tackled and that addressing the situation in individual countries in isolation would not bring lasting peace to West Africa.  The Council must design its response to the conflicts within an overall subregion framework for joint and integrated action.  The forthcoming action plan by UNOWA, ECOWAS and the European Union would hopefully contribute towards that end.


She was encouraged by the strengthened African involvement in conflict prevention, referring in that regard to the ECOWAS response to developments in Togo.  The Council should explore how to best support ongoing efforts to build an African security architecture and work closely with ECOWAS and the African Union to advance cooperation.  More could still be done to integrate forces and pool assets across the United Nations missions in West Africa.  Peace operations could be mandated to engage in monitoring and enforcement of sanctions, including joint cross border controls.  Further sharing of resources would free up capacity for other pressing tasks.  Denmark had allocated 33 million euros to the Africa Programme for Peace.


She called for the development and dissemination of best practices for security sector reform, including the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  That reform should go beyond the regular forces of the military and policy and must also include government-supported militias, irregular combatants and civil defence groups.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes in the region must be further harmonized and should be tailored to specifically take into account the problem of children and the disillusions West African youth.  The young generation should be acknowledged as capable citizens and drawn into mainstream politics.


ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), noting that the victims of the current conflicts in West Africa had predominantly been civilians, regardless of nationality, recommended that improving regional integration and cooperation in all areas of conflict management, prevention and peace-building would significantly benefit the well-being of the entire region’s people.  He was, thus, encouraged to observe the interaction between regional and international organizations, as well as among the various United Nations agencies in drafting regional conflict prevention and resolution strategies and the joint activities started by them for their implementation.  Coordination and interaction among the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the region was also vital for a successful integrated approach to conflict management and prevention, as well as post-conflict stabilization in the subregion.


Stressing the importance of African ownership of the endeavour, he said West African states needed help to enhance their capacity to pursue policies aimed at social and economic development.  Such help would enable them to eliminate the possibility of future conflicts, particularly through poverty reduction strategy papers.  Greece believed that no approach could be comprehensive without adequate attention paid to the issue of development. Specifically on cross-border issues, he said it was development that provided the guarantee for the successful reintegration of ex-combatants into society and for finding lasting solutions to youth unemployment, thereby removing the risk for those ex-soldiers being recruited again by fighting parties.


In that regard, he welcomed the call for a regional disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan of action made in Dakar, Senegal, last year by the United Nations peace missions, United Nations agencies and development partners, as well as the establishment of a network between the National Commissions on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, in order to ensure successful completion of those programmes.  He acknowledged that illegal trafficking of arms posed a serious threat to the region’s peace and stability and reaffirmed Greece’s strong support for the strict implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, especially those that imposed arms embargoes.  Additionally, he welcomed the extension for an additional three years of the ECOWAS Moratorium and encouraged the efforts to turn it into a legally binding instrument.  Concluding, he said Greece, which had already contributed $300,000 to the ECOWAS efforts, firmly supported the initiatives by ECOWAS and UN agencies in West Africa in introducing integrated policies to reform the security sector, thus, enhancing stability and democratic governance in the region.


STUART HOLLIDAY (United States) welcomed increasing cooperation among United Nations missions in cross-border issues and the enhanced coordination of patrolling in border areas.  It was the most efficient use of resources, he said.  He also welcomed the cooperation between civil society groups across borders and encouraged cross-border private sector collaboration to continue.  Expressing support for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes in West Africa, he noted that funding remained a challenge.  His country was studying the recommendations of the High-Level Panel in that regard and endorsed the need for security sector reform.


In light of the recent debate on small arms and light weapons, he said the destabilizing illegal trafficking in those arms constituted a threat to peace and needed to be addressed.  He commended ECOWAS’ work in that field and supported the Moratorium.  Although his country believed in holding individuals that committed such crimes accountable, it continued to have a different view on the most appropriate forum to hear specific cases.  He saluted the efforts of peacekeepers involved in West Africa and noted with sorrow the tragic report of the deaths of peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


KENSO OSHIMA (Japan) directed his attention to three points, namely:  small arms and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; cooperation and coordination among United Nations missions; and governance.  He reaffirmed Japan’s determination to continue its contribution to the development of international frameworks on those matters.


Specifically on the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, he said it was particularly important to tackle the issue of reintegration, and especially the problem of youth unemployment, in order to avoid the recurrence of conflict.  To that end, Japan welcomed the achievement of the disarmament and demobilization process in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and looked forward to further advancement in the collection of small arms that remained in the communities and the new progress in the reintegration phase.


On the issue of coordination and cooperation among the United Nations missions, he observed that, as those missions in the region were playing more far-reaching roles than ever, the international community needed to examine how it could best mobilize the limited resources available to the United Nations.  It was, therefore, a positive development that there was close communication between the chiefs and force commanders of the five United Nations missions in the region.  Japan was hopeful that that mutually cooperative relationship would be promoted further and at multiple levels, because it believed that cooperation among the five missions in the area of border control was of special importance.  Controlling the border of Sierra Leone with its neighbours, especially with Liberia, would be particularly challenging, and Japan expected that the government of Sierra Leone would continue to play an important role through its cooperation with relevant UN missions such as UNMIL.


Regarding good governance, Mr. Oshima cited the recent “unconstitutional” transfer of power in Togo contrary to the efforts of both UNOWA and ECOWAS to prevent the seizure of power by such means.  He lauded ECOWAS’ efforts to find a solution there and hoped those efforts would lead to an early and peaceful resolution of the matter, in accordance with the will of the Togolese.


JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said that, last year, the Council had met when hope was emerging in West Africa.  Now, it must be acknowledged that the situation was still fragile and there were potential crises undermining the region’s development.  Turning to situations of particular concern, he said the situation in Côte d’Ivoire was disquieting, as the election deadline approached.  Côte d’Ivoire was a great country in the heart of West Africa.  It must return to the road of peace and reconciliation, in its own interest and in the interests of the region and the whole of Africa.  Also, he noted that ECOWAS and the African Union had been in Togo and their measures would be decisive in bringing about constitutional order and free and fair elections. 


He could see the courageous and committed determination of ECOWAS countries and those of the region in maintaining peace and stability.  The international community should support the efforts of Africans as they worked for peace on the continent. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council was now a full partner of the Security Council.  While each had its own role, their activities must be complementary.  African countries were aware of the scale of the challenges facing their continent and the international community must continue to support their efforts.  To be effective, the mobilization of the international community must not be confined to sporadic assistance to countries facing crisis, but must, in the long term, benefit the whole of the subregion.


Turning to the report’s recommendations, he emphasized the pressing need to end the scourges of child soldiers, mercenaries and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons.  The resolve of ECOWAS to replace the small arms Moratorium with a legally binding instrument was very promising.  The ECOWAS knew that it could rely on the support of the European Union in achieving that objective.  He also supported the recommendation to give United Nations peacekeeping operations the means to guarantee respect for embargoes.  Security sector reform would also be a key element for the stability of the countries in the region.  Those countries should also pool efforts to control border areas, dismantle illegal roadblocks, combat illegal exploitation of natural resources and combat drug trafficking.  Why not envisage an embargo on arms intended for use by non-State actors, and assist States to strengthen their control over natural resources? he asked. 


He attached particular importance to the resolution of conflicts in West Africa, and encouraged the Special Representative, ECOWAS and the African Union to pursue common endeavours to combat the evils that had for so long beset Africa.  He was shocked to learn about the death today of nine “blue helmets” in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and extended his condolences to the Government and people of Bangladesh, in that connection.


MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said that, given the interrelated evolutions in the subregion, West Africa was probably one of the best examples of a need for a comprehensive and harmonized approach to conflict situations.  Investments the international community had made in individual countries could well be wasted if one ignored the many cross-border problems.  Expressing satisfaction with the trend towards greater coordination within the United Nations system, he advocated closer cooperation between the United Nations and the regional organizations and welcomed the spearheading role the ECOWAS was playing in West Africa.  He hoped that UNOWA would work towards ensuring the necessary regional coherence in the wide-ranging assistance and financial aid activities in West Africa.


He said international and regional efforts must be backed by fundamental political changes at national levels in such areas as participatory decision-making, transparent and accountable governance, and fighting impunity and corruption.  Finding solutions to cross-border issues depended primarily on the efforts of the countries themselves.  The cross-border problems could not be truly dealt with, however, in the absence of viable premises for development.  The reform of the security sector and improved relations between civil and military structures in West African countries were vital conditions for achieving stability.


He welcomed the decision of ECOWAS to convert the Moratorium on Small Arms and Light Weapons into a legally binding instrument.  A “naming and shaming” list could be a powerful tool in achieving compliance with arms embargoes and the Moratorium.  The humanitarian situation in parts of West Africa remained of great concern.  That situation had a considerable potential to affect the entire stability of the subregion.  He supported funding a regional humanitarian response with special attention paid to sensitive border areas and to recruitment of child soldiers, widespread rape, illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons and banditry.


CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) welcomed the progress made in implementing the recommendations made in relation to the subregion.  He highlighted the regular contacts between the Special Representative and other United Nations entities, and the regular meetings of the heads of the peacekeeping missions in the subregion, with a view to developing integrated strategies.  Cooperation among United Nations entities in West Africa designed to harmonize disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes in the subregion would assist in consolidating peace processes in the region.  In that regard, he found interesting the recommendation of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change that a permanent peace-building fund be set up to finance such programmes, such as those in West Africa.  However, cooperation should not be confined to political or military issues, but also extend to issues such as alleviating the humanitarian suffering of refugees and internally displaced persons in the region.


The cooperative initiative among ECOWAS, the European Union and UNOWA designed to promote the implementation of the 1979 Protocol on the free movement of people and goods was vital to promoting economic development in the region and generating employment.  For trade and the free movement of people to take place, there must first be peace and political stability.  He welcomed the small arms control programme adopted by ECOWAS with a view to converting the Moratorium into a binding convention.  The ECOWAS’ establishment of a small arms unit responsible for monitoring implementation of that agreement and for converting the Moratorium should be supported by contributions to enable it to function efficiently.  Security sector reform was another essential instrument for preventing future conflicts.


While international assistance was vital for peace in the region, the primary responsibility lay with the leaders and communities of West Africa, he added.  For that reason, the governments of the region should not permit impunity to prevail for those who violated human rights or engaged in illegal activities.  He urged greater cooperation among civil society, ECOWAS and international organizations, with a view to putting into effect actions plans on the cross-border issues discussed today.


Speaking in his national capacity, the Council President, ROGATIEN BIAOU, Minister for Foreign Affairs and African Integration of Benin, said the report had highlighted a series of problems that could have a serious impact on efforts to stabilize the subregion.  The countries emerging from crises and armed conflict were facing serious funding problems in the critical sector of reintegration.   There were also problems with youth unemployment and refugees.   A dangerous threshold had been reached, because of the risks those problems posed to stability.  Harmonizing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes was a correct way to go, with special emphasis on children and women ex-combatants.  The ECOWAS deserved the full support of the international community.


He agreed with the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his report.  On  18 January, the meeting of Foreign Ministers of ECOWAS members in Accra, Ghana, had addressed the concept of local integration in border areas, involving management of the local communities of those areas.  The Accra meeting had decided on a plan to establish an association for border regions and towns in Africa.  The United Nations should support such initiatives, as they indicated an awareness of the need to address cross-border problems.


In the ECOWAS countries, he said, there was a real awareness of the importance of the role of good governance, security sector reforms and democratic institutions.  He supported the approach outlined by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  There was reason for optimism.  Recent decisions taken within the Mano River Union, which contained eight ECOWAS members, set an example.  They had decided to eliminate roadblocks and replace them with joint patrols, which would reconcile the need for free movement of persons and goods with the requirement of security.  He expressed his condolences to Bangladesh for the loss of life of some of its peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) recognized that the last decade had been a particular ordeal for West Africa.  Nonetheless, there had been no lack of resolve or determination on the part of States or leaders.  Many of them had contributed with initiatives to reign in some forms of violence and banditry.  However, much more needed to be done to render safe the free movement of people and goods among countries in the region, to curb small arms and light weapons proliferation, and address the problem of child soldiers.  There was a need for more resolve and means to stop monetary extortions and end the activities of traffickers.  It must be acknowledged that the actions required placed a considerable constraint on the capacities of States and obliged them to rely on international assistance, first and foremost, that of the United Nations. 


The political and social consequences of the crises in West Africa had been studied in the successive reports of the Secretary-General, he noted.  Cooperation with the United Nations was encouraging and should be further strengthened.  The United Nations had, more than any other organization, made decisive contributions in the struggle against two major scourges -- the circulation of small arms and light weapons and child soldiers.  He also highlighted cooperation with the European Union, in areas such as post-conflict reconstruction.  He added that the maintenance of peace and security was, first and foremost, the responsibility of the States themselves.


JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union regretted that West Africa was still affected by armed conflict, which put the long-term development of the region at risk.  It was following the recent developments in Togo with great concern and called for full respect for civil liberties and immediate return to the constitutional and legal order.  It supported the actions by the African Union and ECOWAS to restore constitutional order and the democratic process.  Concerned about Côte d'Ivoire, the European Union called on parties to make progress towards full implementation of the Linas Marcoussis and Accra III agreements.


In the context of developing an integrated and coordinated approach to conflict prevention in West Africa, he said there was a need to join forces to address post-conflict situations and the need for United Nations missions to work together and to implement a constructive partnership between the United Nations system, development partners and ECOWAS.  Together with ECOWAS and the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union had a critical role to play in West Africa in the area of conflict prevention and peace-building, and needed to establish a more effective partnership.  It was looking forward to the plan of action to be submitted in June by the joint working group of the European Union, UNOWA and ECOWAS.


There was also a need to strengthen regional capacity building, he continued.  In 2004, the European Union had adopted an action plan for support to peace and security in Africa, which primarily addressed issues of capacity-building and identified practical ways to support African organizations in building autonomous conflict prevention and management capacities.  A 10 million euros programme in that regard was being designed.  The challenge for ECOWAS was to integrate short-term crisis-management activities into a longer-term preventive strategy.


Further, there was the need to urgently address specific cross-border issues.  The Union encouraged the efforts of ECOWAS to transform the Moratorium into a legally binding instrument.  The Council should consider giving peacekeeping missions the authority and resources to monitor and enforce arms embargoes.  Those responsible for criminal activities in the field of human trafficking and trafficking of natural resources should be brought before the International Criminal Court.  Regarding disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, he said the reintegration phase was critical and called for increased international support.  The importance of security sector reform was obvious, both within countries and on a regional level, he said.  ECOWAS projects in that area could be financed through the Union’s Africa Peace Facility.  The Union had earmarked 235 million euros for West Africa within the current regional indicative programme.


PHILIPPE DJANGONE-BI (Côte d’Ivoire) said that there were many cross-border and subregional problems which undermined the development of the countries of West Africa, including child soldiers, small arms and light weapons, use of mercenaries, a culture of impunity, the spread of HIV/AIDS, a continued weakening in security sector, and youth unemployment.  He had heard no reference to the manifestations and effects of globalization and trade liberalization and the targeting of West Africa by arms producers and manufacturers. 


The Secretary-General had helped to enhance a realistic understanding of the subregional and cross-border problems in West Africa, leading to the design of measures to address them.  He commended the Secretary-General for his efforts to elaborate a coordinated and integrated approach to West Africa, and encouraged him to pursue and step up those efforts.  Africa as whole, and West Africa in particular, would find salvation only if there was effective implementation of strategies for conflict prevention.  The United Nations was working to promote a healthy transition from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention.  The progress made so far, though modest, would pave the way for the progressive strengthening of peace and security in West Africa.


He hoped for the effective transformation of the ECOWAS Moratorium into a legally binding instrument.  He also wished to see harmonization and concerted activity in West Africa to implement national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, which should receive the necessary technical and financial support from the international community.


ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said there was a need for a coherent approach to find solutions to small arms and light weapons, mercenaries and integration of West Africa.  People in the region got the feeling that small arms and light weapons were weapons of mass destruction.  The lack of harmonized national policies had led to the proliferation of those weapons.  He hoped that the ECOWAS programme would strengthen national capacity.  The adoption by West Africa States of a standardized user certificate and exchange of information would help to trace small weapons and identify those responsible for illegal trafficking.  He supported a legal instrument for marking those weapons.


The heads of State of the Mano River Union had addressed the problem of mercenaries, he said, underlining the necessity of a resolute war to eradicate that phenomenon.  Youth unemployment in the subregion fuelled the problem.  Steps taken in response to the appeal of the Council to strengthen cooperation among United Nations entities and various partners in preventing conflict did not fully meet expectations, yet.  Such cooperation could only be successful if it had the unreserved cooperation of participants.


He said his country found the decision of the International Contact Group on Liberia working to extend its mandate to include other countries of the Mano River Union, as well as Guinea-Bissau and Côte d'Ivoire, inappropriate.  Guinea was, unlike Liberia and Sierra Leone, not emerging from conflict.  The situation in his country did not constitute a threat to peace and security of the subregion. Extending the mandate could not, therefore, be justified.  Guinea would continue to work tirelessly to restore peace in the subregion.  His country encouraged partners to increase capacities of the subregion in assessing threats to it and urged the United Nations to strengthen its political, humanitarian and economic missions on the ground.


SYLVESTER EKUNDAYO ROWE (Sierra Leone) shared the view of the Secretary-General that conversion of the ECOWAS Moratorium would send a strong signal to development partners and the wider international community that West African Governments were themselves prepared to address decisively the devastating effects of the proliferation of small arms -- a major contributing factor to political, economic and social instability in the region.  Now that efforts were under way to convert the Moratorium into a legally binding instrument, he believed the Council should also send a strong signal by pronouncing itself unequivocally on the need for an internationally, legally binding instrument on the tracing and marking of illicit small arms and light weapons.  That would constitute a significant contribution to efforts in combating subregional and cross-border problems in West Africa.  A non-binding instrument or political declaration was not enough.


One could not speak about subregional and cross-border problems in West Africa without referring to the situation of youth, and what the report rightly described as the shocking levels of youth unemployment in West Africa.  There lay perhaps the most viable, effective and long-lasting means of dealing with conflict prevention, peace-building and development in the subregion.  The state of youth unemployment manifested itself in such regional and cross-border problems as mercenaries, rebel recruitment, the circulation and use of illicit small arms and light weapons, as well as illicit mining.  He agreed with the Secretary-General that the growing numbers of young men and women who lacked prospects of ever being able to work for a decent living were a major threat to the future of the subregion.  Also, youth unemployment and the desperation that accompanied it not only undermined any progress that countries like his had made, but also threatened to destroy the political and social structures of currently stable countries.


SIMEO A. ADEKANYE (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons remained a major concern for African countries.  The unrestrained access to those weapons had fuelled conflicts with attendant cross-border crimes, including armed banditry.  Member States of ECOWAS and the African Union were constrained in effectively countering the proliferation of those weapons, as they were manufactured outside the region and imported by non-State actors.  Current efforts, such as the ECOWAS Moratorium and the Small Arms Unit needed the clear support of the international community.  The time had come to identify individuals, corporations and countries that had been implicated in the illegal export of those weapons.  He supported, in that regard, production of a “naming and shaming” list.


He said the need to take into account specific local socio-economic and geopolitical factors in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process had been recognized in the report.  The ultimate goal should be the social and economic reintegration of former combatants, including women and children.  The success stories in Liberia and Sierra Leone attested to the valuable work of the United Nations and the engagement of the Council.


A solution to the major problem of refugees and displaced persons should encapsulate security sector reform and be consistent with ECOWAS protocols and the free movement of people and goods.  The existing joint initiative of “Integrated Strategies for Sensitive Border Areas in West Africa” should, if implemented fully, prevent possible outbreak of violence, restore trust and confidence in inter-State relations, and promote peace and stability in West Africa.  He stressed that cross-border problems in West Africa could only be effectively addressed when the opportunities for economic growth and development were enhanced.


CHEICK SIDI DIARRA (Mali) said that the instability prevailing in the subregion had required regular monitoring by the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.  The various missions to the subregion attested to the concern of the Council of the precarious security situation.  The creation of UNOWA sought to improve the contribution of the United Nations to peace and security.  Most of the scourges causing instability in the subregion had a common denominator in that they were cross border in nature.  He called for coherent and integrated strategies for those problems.  The multidimensional nature of those issues called for close cooperation between military, political and humanitarian actors.


The interaction between the Special Representative and the heads of the peacekeeping missions in the subregion had made it possible to have exchanges of experience.  Cooperation between ECOWAS and UNOWA would help improve the capabilities of ECOWAS.  He welcomed the involvement of the European Union, which should lead to a plan of action to facilitate the free movement of people and goods across borders, an important component of regional integration.


Civil society was increasingly involved in the design of strategies to address cross-border issues, he noted.  He welcomed the creation of a coordination mechanism within ECOWAS for cooperation with civil society.  When assessing the progress made in dealing with cross-border problems, the report mentioned the ECOWAS small arms programme, designed to transform the ECOWAS Moratorium into a legally binding instrument.  He supported the recommendation to provide generous contributions to that new structure.  The strengthening of the mandate of peacekeeping operations to implement and monitor arms embargoes, the institutionalization of marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons, and the punishing of violators could be effective if implemented.  Also, joint activities between ECOWAS and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should help create the conditions for the free return of refugees to their countries of origin.


OUSMANE MOUTARI (Niger), speaking on behalf of the Chairman of ECOWAS, said today was the eve of the 110th birthday of the Berlin Conference which resulted in the carving up of the “Black Continent” in colonial territories, which then became independent and whose borders sometimes turned out to be restraints and gave rise to tensions.  For a regional economic community such as ECOWAS, whose primary responsibility was to ensure the well-being of the people, cross-border issues were a major concern.  One of the most recurrent cross-border problems in the regions was the mobility of the populations.  There was a high degree of mobility in the ECOWAS region, prompted largely by the need to seek employment.  At the end of the 1990s, for instance, 11 per cent of the West African population, Nigeria excepted, resided outside their own country within the subregion.


Cross-border movements were often hampered by border posts and roadblocks.  People often had to pay off the agents at the posts, he said.  Extortion and abuse at the border post had often provoked revolts.  Moreover, cross-border mobility was not always lawful in purpose and enabled banditry and cross-border crime.  Trafficking in drugs, weapons and human beings attested to the scale of the cross-border problems.  Management of the border areas was, therefore, a major problem, because the borders could not be changed.


He said ECOWAS had adopted a set of measures, including the protocol on the freedom of movement and other protocols, as well as the adoption of an ECOWAS passport.  The ECOWAS had also taken the initiative to develop a programme to expedite local integration, enabling bordering populations to share some goods and services.


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