United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed to the Security Council to allow peacekeeping missions in West Africa enough time in post-conflict countries to help establish good local governance and ensure national involvement in fostering reconciliation in the region.
In a report to the 15-member Council on ways to combat cross-border problems in West Africa, he calls for the international community to "maintain a significant and robust presence in post-conflict countries to prevent regression into conflict and to promote the consolidation of good governance and national ownership of the peace-building process."
The Secretary-General also voices hope that the Security Council will "bear this in mind when considering the mandates of UN peace operations in this troubled area."
The political approach to the region must promote democracy, accountability, peace, tolerance, gender equality and transparency, replacing the prevailing culture of impunity, violence, exclusion and extortion, Mr. Annan says.
Regional problems include youth unemployment, social exclusion, the increasing use and proliferation of mercenaries, child soldiers and small arms, the culture of impunity, weak national institutions and the erosion of the security sector. These inter-related problems are exacerbated by the poor governance record in many parts of West Africa, the report states.
Mr. Annan recommends improving the harmonization of UN offices in the region, a task he has given to his Special Representative, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. He also calls for ratifying and observing existing treaties and implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for ex-combatants.
In addition, the report advocates reforming the security sectors, eliminating extortion at roadblocks, raising the awareness and participation of civil society, and tightening the regulation of small arms exporters and private security companies.