1 July 2013 Four West African countries, along with United Nations and regional officials, have agreed on the need to develop a joint security strategy for an area that is blessed with natural resources but has been plagued by challenges such as cross-border crime and trafficking.
Following decades of deadly conflicts with heavy human and security consequences, the Mano River Region – comprising Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – has undergone a remarkable socioeconomic recovery in the past few years, according to a news release issued by the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA).
The sub-region is among the wealthiest in Africa, with an estimated economic growth rate of 19.7 per cent in Sierra Leone last year, and 9.8 per cent in Côte d'Ivoire, UNOWA added.
On Saturday, ministers from the four countries met in Dakar, Senegal, with representatives from the UN and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to discuss a joint security strategy for the Mano River Union (MRU).
The UN Security Council, in several resolutions, has encouraged ECOWAS and the MRU to develop, with the support of the UN missions in West Africa, a sub-regional strategy to address the threat of cross-border movements of armed groups as well as illicit trafficking of weapons.
In his opening statement at the meeting, Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for West Africa and head of UNOWA, underscored the need to support peace consolidation in the four countries, notably through increased collaboration on border issues.
“The Mano River region has the potential to become a pole of stability and prosperity in the ECOWAS zone,” he stated.
Hadja Saran Daraba Kaba, the Secretary-General of the MRU, welcomed the mobilization of the partners to support the efforts of the Union in securing its borders. “Thanks to the strategy, we will be able to respond in a coordinated manner at community, national, regional and global levels,” she underlined.
Meanwhile, Kadré Désire Ouedraogo, President of the ECOWAS Commission, highlighted the need to develop a realistic action plan to strengthen peace and security in the sub-region and to ensure that the exploitation of the countries' natural resources improve the well-being of the population.
The meeting also brought together the heads of the UN missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire; the Resident Coordinator in Guinea; and the chairs of the country-specific configurations of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. Representatives of the African Union, the UN system and civil society also attended, as did development partners, including the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the European Union.
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