SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES BROAD SUPPORT FOR PROPOSED UN WEST AFRICA OFFICE, INTEGRATED APPROACH TO SUBREGIONAL PROBLEMS

18 December 2001
SC/7243

SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES BROAD SUPPORT FOR PROPOSED UN WEST AFRICA OFFICE, INTEGRATED APPROACH TO SUBREGIONAL PROBLEMS

18/12/2001
Press ReleaseSC/7243

Security Council

4439th Meeting (AM)

SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES BROAD SUPPORT FOR PROPOSED UN WEST AFRICA OFFICE,

INTEGRATED APPROACH TO SUBREGIONAL PROBLEMS

The challenges ahead in West Africa highlighted the importance and timely nature of the Secretary-General’s decision to establish an office of his Special Representative for the subregion in Dakar, Senegal, Ibrahima Fall, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council this morning. 

Mr. Fall was briefing the Council on the report of the Inter-Agency Mission to West Africa which visited 11 countries during 6 to 27 March.  The countries visited were Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Mali.  The Mission held open and frank discussions with all its interlocutors during its visit, and discussed a comprehensive and integrated approach to the priority needs and challenges of the subregion.

Twenty-one other speakers made statements after Mr. Fall’s briefing, with widespread support being expressed for the proposed new West Africa Office and the comprehensive and integrated approach advocated for the subregion.  Speakers also called for greater subregional integration in the political, security, and socioeconomic spheres, more cooperation with regional mechanisms and more capacity for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which was repeatedly cited as the main subregional engine.  The issue of resources and financing for the new Office and other ventures in West Africa was also repeatedly raised.

Assistant Secretary-General Fall said that the proposed office was mandated to enhance links in the work of the United Nations in the subregion, liaise with and assist ECOWAS, as well as the Mano River Union, and carry out good offices roles and special assignments in the countries of the subregion.  In this current West African initiative, the United Nations was embarking on a new approach to its actions in Africa in line with the greater trend towards regional political security and socioeconomic integration, both at the subregional and regional levels.

He said developments in the subregion strongly signalled the need for the Council’s continued engagement.  Clearly, the underlying tensions continued to be evident across national boundaries, fuelled by chronic maldevelopment and political crises.  The report also recommended that the United Nations, as well as the international community, consider the adoption of an integrated, global and regional approach in efforts to prevent and manage the many conflicts in West Africa.  It also argued that such an approach would enable the international community to address the multiplicity of factors that underlie those conflicts and the cross-cutting problems that led to their expansion from one country to another.

Nigeria's representative said United Nations agencies and international financial institutions could do much more to help by forgiving or cancelling the huge debts now being serviced by resources that could be used on development. Developed countries should also repatriate assets illegally transferred by corrupt African leaders to overseas banks and interests, which would help rebuild African economies and achieve sustainable development.  The Council must continue its close examination and monitoring of the role of non-State actors in Africa’s conflict areas as their unscrupulous business practices often exacerbated those conflicts.

The representative of the United Kingdom said Mali’s choice of a regional issue for this debate was commendable and the first such choice in the Council’s recent history.  It gave the Council an important focus for the future.  West African issues must be set in the context of Africa as a whole.  Previous efforts to solve the continent’s problems had foundered because they had been seen only as donor-driven exercises or as African initiatives with too little support.  The Group of Eight industrialized countries planned a detailed effort focusing on good governance; peace and security; education and health; and economic growth and private investment.  Those core themes would be further developed by the G-8 in Africa in the lead-up to the Group’s June summit in Canada.

Singapore’s representative said that it had been agreed today that resources were the key challenge to implementing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme in Sierra Leone.  The Organization had committed approximately $1 billion to peacekeeping in the subregion.  It was clear that it was able to raise enough money for peacekeeping -- just one dimension of what was required in West Africa -- but not enough for the other dimensions.  There was no indication as of now that the required resources were available for the Office of the Special Representative for West Africa approximately 12 days before it was expected to begin its work.  The best way for the Council to show its commitment was by deploying the necessary resources.

The representative of the United States said President Charles Taylor of Liberia was violating the Council’s embargo on importation of arms and its ban on diamond exports.  Sanctions against his regime were linked to the continuation of peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone over the coming months.  The Council could not task the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to keep the peace and assist with elections if it could not also hold accountable and sanction the individual most responsible for continuing threats to the peace and to the election process.

Also making statements were the representatives of China, Norway, Russian Federation, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Jamaica, Tunisia, Colombia, France, Ireland, Ukraine, Mali, Egypt, Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Morocco, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

Mr. Fall also spoke again in response to questions raised this morning.

The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and was adjourned at 2:40 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider a letter dated 30 April from the Secretary-General addressed to the Council’s President (document S/2001/434) in which he submitted the report of the Inter-Agency Mission to West Africa which visited 11 countries during 6 to 27 March.  The countries visited include Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Mali, where the Mission held open and frank discussions with all its interlocutors and discussed a comprehensive and integrated approach to the priority needs and challenges of the subregion.

According to the report, one of the principal messages conveyed to the Mission was that greater subregional integration in the political, security, economic and social spheres, with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as the main engine, is a prime factor in addressing the priority needs and challenges of the subregion.  In the past two decades, conflicts and political instability have precipitated large movements of people from one country to another, and also caused significant numbers to become internally displaced.  Those phenomena have precipitated serious security problems and humanitarian crises.

The Mission recommends, among other things, that a United Nations Office for West Africa should be established, to be headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  The Inter-Agency Task Force on the West African Subregion at Headquarters should be transformed into an integrated mission task force on West Africa.  Consideration should be given to the development of a subregional United Nations development assistance framework, which should include a plan for strategic peace-building and recovery activities.

The Mission further recommends that consideration should be given to the expansion of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to covert the three Mano River Union countries [Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia]. The United Nations system and the international community should take steps to strengthen the ECOWAS Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.  Greater support should be provided for civil society initiatives in the area of conflict prevention, and the United Nations should be more actively involved in activities aimed at national reconciliation as soon as early warning signs of a potential crisis are evident.

Particular emphasis should be placed on the political dimensions of peace-building as a tool for conflict prevention, including in those countries where there is no peace-building support office.  Owing to the zonal nature of conflicts in the subregion, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes should be implemented simultaneously in the countries affected and should involve all the parties concerned.  The capacity of ECOWAS to monitor and curb the illegal flow of arms and the formation of militia groups should be strengthened.  The adoption of sanctions against countries using child soldiers should be considered.  Governments should be urged to establish institutions to combat child trafficking.

The Mission also recommended measures regarding targeted sanctions, governance and human rights, provision of humanitarian assistance, and economic development and regional integration.  The Annex to the report provides a list of participants in the Mission, which was led by the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahima Fall.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali), Council President, said today’s open debate offered a valuable opportunity for the Council to begin the action phase regarding the question of West Africa based on the report of the Inter-agency Task Force.  The presidential statement to be adopted at the end of the debate would contribute usefully to that purpose.

IBRAHIMA FALL, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2001/434) recommended that the United Nations, as well as the international community, consider the adoption of an integrated, global, and regional approach in efforts to prevent and manage the many conflicts in West Africa.  It also argued that such an approach would enable the international community to address the multiplicity of factors that underlie those conflicts and the cross-cutting problems that led to their expansion from one country to another.  The report also recommended that the Secretary-General consider the establishment of an Office in West Africa to coordinate the development of such an integrated regional approach and to facilitate the conduct of good office missions for the prevention of conflicts at early stages of their gestation.

He said that, since the report was issued, the United Nations had begun implementing its recommendations.  In the absence of funds to transform it into  an integrated-agency mission task force, the Inter-Agency Task Force that was established by the Secretary-General prior to the mission to West Africa continued to meet weekly to address the problems in the subregion.  In so doing, it had begun implementation of priorities that were defined in the recommendations it had prepared.  That Task Force had also commenced the examination of some of the cross-cutting issues in anticipation of the establishment and functioning of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to West Africa.

He said there had been slight improvements in critical areas such as peace and security, governance and human rights, and the provision of humanitarian assistance.  The peace process in Sierra Leone had continued to progress.  The Government of Côte d’Ivoire had organized a reconciliation dialogue, which had been attended by all the major political leaders.  The Government of Guinea had decided not to force through the legislative elections that would have led to escalation in the internal crisis following the controversial referendum last month on the renewal and extension of the President’s term of office.

He went on to say that he United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, acting on the recommendations of the West African Mission, had dispatched a mission to Guinea-Bissau.  They were also in the process of developing a comprehensive peace-building and development plan for that country with the active involvement of the Office of the Representative of the Secretary-General.  Well-contested but largely peaceful democratic transitions had occurred in Ghana and the Gambia, while the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone had improved following the progress of the peace process.

Despite improvements, he continued, the overall political situation was still volatile, and the potential for the spread of insecurity and instability in the subregion remained real in the Mano River Union area, as well as in Guinea.  The plight of refugees and internally displaced persons was still an issue of great concern.  Since his last briefing to the Council, there had been a relative reduction of tension in the Mano River Union following significant progress made in renewing dialogue between the officials of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  That was due to pressure by ECOWAS, the United Nations, international partners and civil society actors, particularly the Women’s Network of the Mano River Union, which had succeeded in convincing the heads of State to allow the resumption of talks.

He said those talks had asked the United nations to provide assistance in three major areas:  support for the revitalization of the Mano River Union and its secretariat; support for the confidence-building measures to be implemented; and support to civil society groups involved in promotion of peace in the subregion.   The United Nations had subsequently renewed its commitment to help revive the Mano River Union.  A working group for the Mano River Union would soon meet to develop a pragmatic and coordinated response by the Organization to the request submitted by the Mano River Union member States.

He said the situation in Sierra Leone could not be delinked from developments in neighbouring countries.  The recent resumption and the intensification of fighting in the northern and north-western parts of Liberia posed a real threat to the Sierra Leone peace process, as there were now speculations of spillover across the Sierra Leone border.  Unless the fighting in Liberia was isolated and contained, the future peace and stability of Sierra Leone could not be sustained.  Council members might wish to encourage the Presidents of both countries to cooperate fully and join the efforts to contain the situation.

He said the situation in Guinea-Bissau was still fragile, and the United Nations was looking forward to continuing discussions on the stabilization of the political situation there with leaders of ECOWAS at a summit later this week in Dakar, Senegal.  He also outlined efforts being made to address the plight of refugees.

He said developments in the subregion strongly signalled the need for the Council’s continued engagement.  Clearly, the underlying tensions continued to be evident across national boundaries, fuelled by chronic maldevelopment and political crises.  In addition, the following crises would have to be addressed if sustainable peace and development were to be re-established in West Africa: DDR; the circulation of arms; children in armed conflict; peace, justice and national reconciliation; the humanitarian situation; human rights; and support to ECOWAS and the Mano River Union.

He said the challenges ahead further highlighted the importance and timely nature of the Secretary-General’s decision to establish an office of his Special Representative for West Africa in Dakar.  That office was mandated to enhance links in the work of the United Nations in the subregion, liaise with and assist ECOWAS and the Mano River Union, and carry out good offices roles and special assignments in the countries of the subregion.  The presence of the Office would also enable better planning and support for civil society initiatives, particularly in the area of conflict prevention.

He said that through its West African initiative, the United Nations was embarking on a new approach to its actions in Africa in line with the greater trend towards regional political security and socio-economic integration, both at the subregional and regional levels.  That was taking place at a time when the continent was moving from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) towards the African Union and had designed a new partnership for Africa’s development.  “Let us ensure that the United Nations will be a catalyst of international support to this new African renaissance”, he urged.

Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union statement to be read later, applauded the President’s decision to choose a regional issue for today’s debate, the first such choice in the Council’s recent history.  It gave an important focus for the Council for this month and next.  West Africa would benefit from a sharper focus by the Council.

He said that Sierra Leone, on which the United Kingdom had taken the lead in certain aspects, had preoccupied the Council.  The news from that country was better, but next year would be challenging.  The situation in Liberia was dire, with very real prospects for the conflict there spilling over into the subregion.  The targeted restrictions on Liberia’s leadership were a vast improvement on the scatter-gun effect of general sanctions.

The situation in Guinea-Bissau continued to be preoccupying and the news from Côte d’Ivoire worrying, he said.  The Council should deepen its concern about the overall regional situation of West Africa, which risked becoming the world’s first failed region.  The United Nations should not let that happen.  The efforts of ECOWAS were absolutely critical, and the Council must cooperate more closely with that organization, which must, in turn, increase its cooperation with the Mano River Union.

He emphasized that the issues affecting West Africa must be set in the context of Africa as a whole.  Previous efforts to solve Africa’s problems had foundered because they had been seen purely as donor-driven exercises or as African initiatives with too little support.  The Group of Eight industrialized countries planned a detailed effort focusing on good governance; peace and security; education and health; and economic growth and private investment.  Those core themes would be further developed by the G-8 permanent representatives in Africa in the lead-up to the Group’s June summit in Canada.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said a top priority for West Africa was that the Council formulate an overall strategy for the subregion.  China welcomed the appointment of a Special Representative for West Africa and supported the continued role of ECOWAS, as well as the Mano River Union.

Urging the continued closed United Nations cooperation and strong support for those two organizations, he emphasized that a final solution to West Africa’s problems rested with the subregion’s peoples.  The United Nations and the international community, while providing support, must act in accordance with the Charter and respect the wishes of the countries and peoples of West Africa.

Since the beginning of the year, the Secretariat had made efforts to resolve West Africa’s problems and had achieved some results, he said.  However, the situation in the Mano River Union countries remained unstable.  Illicit diamond trading was continuing; the armed conflict in Liberia was intensifying; and the humanitarian situation in the border areas remained grave, as did the situation in Guinea-Bissau and other countries.  However, there was no reason to give up.

He pointed out that like other subregions of the continent, West Africa faced poverty, underdevelopment and problems related to education and health.  It was imperative that the international community, while seeking solutions to conflicts in the subregion, pay attention to development and continue providing political and economic support to the countries of West Africa.  It must also support efforts by ECOWAS and the Mano River Union to improve their relations.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the countries of the West Africa region must chart the road from conflict to development.  Stronger, more accountable political leadership was needed to lift the region from the morass of conflict.  Recent positive developments included the political dialogue between the Mano River countries and the establishment of the Secretary-General’s Regional Office for West Africa in Senegal.  The proposed summit meeting between the three heads of State would be another important step forward.  To keep the momentum of progress growing, however, West Africa must remain targeted by both attention and resources.

He reviewed his country’s assistance to the region, including its

$1.5 million contribution to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme in Sierra Leone.  He said DDR was the key to securing lasting peace.  In Sierra Leone, it had led to the demobilization of former combatants and to UNAMSIL deployment into formerly rebel-held territory.  Nevertheless, the programme was severely underfinanced, which was a threat to stability.  Demobilized combatants would turn to other activities if income-generating activities were not available.  Member States would do well to increase their financial contributions and enable ex-combatants to participate in revitalizing their country’s economy.

Long drawn-out civil wars in West Africa had created one of the world’s most serious forced displacement situations, he concluded.  Insufficient funding was a major obstacle to alleviating the situation.  The Regional Office would help consolidate the improvement already under way in Sierra Leone.  Donors should take encouragement from that development and should contribute to the newly launched consolidated appeals for 2002.  His own country had provided an additional

$2.2 million to West Africa, bringing the total Norwegian humanitarian assistance to the region up to $12.5 million.

ANDREY E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said the situation in West Africa was far from ideal, particularly the situation vis-à-vis refugees and internally displaced persons.  He stressed that work must continue to facilitate the return of those people to safe areas.  His delegation believed that the long-term solutions to the humanitarian problems in West Africa could only be achieved if there was peace in West Africa.  Efforts must be backed up by the authority and potential of the United Nations, he said.

He said a key area in the endeavours to establish peace and stability in West Africa would be the attainment of a long-term settlement in Sierra Leone.  He was convinced that in order for a solid foundation for peace to prevail in that country, the upcoming elections must be democratic and all-inclusive, while the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) must be disarmed and transformed into a political party.  The Russian Federation was ready to continue contributing to the current United Nations work in Sierra Leone and to help the Organization complete its mission there.

He commended the leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for the political wisdom they had showed as they looked for a resolution of their common crisis.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said developments in West Africa were heading in the right direction, despite persisting volatility.  Bangladesh was encouraged by news of the elections in Sierra Leone, scheduled for January.  The sanctions imposed on Liberia had achieved welcome results, and the report of the Council’s Sanctions Committee should be implemented.

He emphasized that the role played by ECOWAS had been, and remained, crucial for sustaining that positive trend.  The subregional organization remained at the forefront of international efforts and must receive adequate assistance from the United Nations and the international community.  Bangladesh looked forward to the forthcoming ECOWAS Summit for the continued work of the Council.

Among the major challenges affecting the subregion were issues relating to good governance, he noted.  Others included the situation of women and children, as well as problems of health, education and poverty.  Those challenges required a holistic and integrated response by the United Nations and the international community.

JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) said the Inter-Agency Mission to West Africa had identified weak governance as a major cause of the subregion's problems.  It was important that efforts be undertaken to improve governance practices in several countries in West Africa.  It was equally important that the international community should invest in capacity-building.  Many West African countries lacked qualified human resources and policy tools to respond to the challenges encountered at the national and international levels. The inability of governments to create jobs for youth because of poor economic conditions and abject poverty had been a major factor in instability.  It was, therefore, imperative that the international community assisted those countries in restructuring their economies.

He welcomed ECOWAS efforts to establish early-warning centres and hoped that the early-warning system would act as a deterrent.  The ECOWAS must also be supported in the implementation of its moratorium on small arms and light weapons. Technical, as well as financial, assistance should be provided to strengthen ECOWAS' capacity to monitor and curb the flow of arms, especially to non-State actors in the region.  It was imperative that the DDR programme be completed at the earliest.  He was concerned that the programme in Sierra Leone faced a serious lack of funding and called on the donor community to continue to assist that programme.

He also welcomed the Secretary-General's decision to establish a United Nations Office for West Africa and encouraged that Office to work together with ECOWAS in the field of preventive diplomacy.  The humanitarian situation remained a cause of concern, he said.  As calm returned to Sierra Leone, the return of refugees to that country should be encouraged and facilitated. Adequate assistance should be provided to Sierra Leone and Guinea for the effective reintegration and settlement of the internally displaced.  He expressed serious concern over the delay in establishing the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was still facing financial difficulties.  The Council should not rely on a trust fund for that kind of project.

MIGNONETTE PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said Mr. Fall’s briefing today underscored the need for an integrated holistic strategy for West Africa that included the United Nations, the international community, the West African States concerned, and the regional and subregional players.  Also, securing a lasting settlement for Sierra Leone could only be achieved if there was progress in tackling the problems of the entire West African region.

Mr. Fall had had outlined the challenges to peace and development in West Africa, and her delegation agreed that Council action must take place within the realm of a wider initiative organized by African leaders.  Her delegation welcomed the fact that the United Nations had begun to implement various recommendations from both the open-ended working group of the General Assembly on the causes of conflict in Africa and the Inter-Agency Task Force.  Jamaica also fully supported the proposal to establish an office of the Special Representative in West Africa. Enhanced links through an integrated subregional approach would augur well for the region. 

She said that, as Sierra Leone entered the election stage, the Council must define a successful exit strategy from that country to prevent reoccurrence of the conflict.  The upcoming election must not be an end in itself, but a step towards the establishment of a durable peace.  Her delegation had also pointed out the need for the international community to remain engaged in Liberia since the possibility of spillover could affect the peace in Sierra Leone.  Jamaica had also supported the establishment of an inter-position force for the Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone borders.  Due to the lack of funds, however, ECOWAS had been unable to establish such a force.

She said the funding of DDR programmes should also be looked at through the regular peacekeeping budget.

OTHMAN JERANDI (Tunisia) said the debate was opportune, coming just two days before the summit of ECOWAS in Dakar, Senegal.  The Council should thank that organization for its efforts to restore peace and stability to the region, particularly the Mano River Union countries.  The Council should also reaffirm its commitment to cooperate with ECOWAS.

He said almost eight months had elapsed since the Council’s last consideration of the report.  Significant progress had been made in Sierra Leone, where the peace process had come a long way since the spring of 2000.  The RUF had been cooperating, and there was every indication that legislative and presidential elections would be held as scheduled.  The dialogue among the countries of the Mano River Union had resumed and important decisions had been taken on settling the issue of borders.

However, he noted, displaced persons and refugees were increasingly involved in armed clashes in northern Liberia, where there was a very real threat of resumed civil war, a situation on which the Council was silent.  Tunisia reiterated that the problems of the Mano River Union countries, and West Africa as a whole, were interrelated.  Lasting solutions must go beyond addressing the mere symptoms to tackle the underlying causes.

He stressed the need to strengthen the institutional logistic and financial capacity of ECOWAS.  While the appointment of the Special Representative for West Africa was important and welcome, it was not enough.  The other recommendations of the report must be tackled seriously.  Since the United Nations must eventually end its activities in West Africa, it was essential to think seriously about an exit strategy that would leave ECOWAS in a strong position to continue playing its lead role in the subregion.

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said his delegation had always felt that the Council had not given enough time to the recommendations contained in the report of the Inter-Agency Mission.  For that reason, during his country’s presidency of the Council, his delegation had prepared a report on the regional approach to conflict prevention and resolution (document S/2001/1174).  Following the briefing today, he was even more convinced of the need for a regional approach to the conflict in West Africa.  Colombia also supported the establishment of an office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa.

The objectives of ECOWAS -- to preserve regional peace and security -- were particularly akin to the Council’s mission and reflected different fields of convergence.  There were certain areas that required a regional approach. Addressing the issue of emergency care, for example, he said recent conflict in the Mano River Union had left 200,000 dead and had sent 500,000 refugees to Guinea.  Nearly 3,000,000 persons had required assistance in West Africa by the year 2000.  The magnitude of such a figure warranted a regional approach.  In addition, the Council had recognized on a number of occasions the important role of regional agreements in preventing and controlling the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons.

He believed that the regional approach required a greater level of commitment by the United Nations system, including the Council, and more frequent consultations among all the various involved bodies.  It was, therefore, necessary for there to be a flexible mechanism of consultation among the various entities of the Organization.  It was also up to the Council to give support to the Secretary-General’s proposals for West Africa.

KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) noted that there had been a clear change of mindset in the Council’s approach to West Africa, beginning with its mission to the subregion in October 2000.  That was followed by the Secretary-General’s address to the Council in December 2000, and then by a May 2001 meeting where

all the keynote speakers emphasized the need for an integrated approach to peacekeeping and security issues in West Africa, especially regarding the Mano River Union countries.  The challenge was to convert those words into deeds.

An integrated approach meant being able to move resources from one area, where there had been good results, to another, where the situation had not responded as well, he said.  Every speaker had agreed today that resources were the key challenge to implementing the DDR programme in Sierra Leone.  Yet the United Nations had committed approximately $1 billion to peacekeeping in the subregion, according to the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).

He said it was clear that the United Nations was able to raise enough money for peacekeeping -- just one dimension of what was required in West Africa -- but not enough for the other dimensions.  There was no indication as of now that the required resources were available for the Office of the Special Representative for West Africa approximately 12 days before it was expected to begin its work.  The best way for the Council to show its commitment was to deploy the necessary resources.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said his country’s policy in West Africa was based on three principles.  Those were:  full engagement with governments that pursued policies of non-aggression externally and good governance internally; support for Security Council action to deter and contain regimes engaging in aggression against their neighbours and oppressing their own peoples; and assistance to strengthen regional organizations that aimed to reduce trade barriers, combat transnational threats, and resolve conflicts within West Africa.

He noted that election registration in Sierra Leone would begin next month with elections scheduled for May.  The Security Council’s decision on renewing or strengthening sanctions on President Charles Taylor’s regime in Liberia would be made soon.  President Taylor was violating the Council’s embargo on importation of arms and its ban on diamond exports.  He continued to give sanctuary to armed rebels of the RUF, whose presence in Liberia threatened the peace process in Sierra Leone and prospects for elections.

Sanctions against President Taylor’s regime were directly linked to the continuation of peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone over the coming months, he stressed.  The Council could not task UNAMSIL to keep the peace and assist with elections if it could not also hold accountable and sanction the individual most responsible for continuing threats to the peace and to the election process.  While concerned at the recent deterioration of security in parts of Liberia, the United States also welcomed the reported reduction of tensions among the Mano River Union countries.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said there were three problems in West Africa which required subregional attention:  internally displaced persons and refugees; the disarmament of regular forces; and the flow of small arms and light weapons. 

The proposed Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, to be set up in Dakar, would also help in establishing early warning systems in the subregion.  He said that at the subregional level the Mano River Union was the issue that required special attention. 

He said the recommendations in the mission report had not been fully implemented, and further decisions were awaited.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was one issue, however, that was key to stability in the entire West African subregion.  Work was far from over on that subregion, and the Council must certainly take up the issue again soon.

GERARD CORR (Ireland) said regional cooperation made economic, political and developmental sense to shape the future.  The new Office for West Africa was an important step, not only for the subregion, but for the wider United Nations role in fostering peace and economic development in Africa and beyond.  It would maintain liaison with both ECOWAS and the Mano River Union and would assist them.  The United Nations system must play mutually reinforcing roles at all levels to address the challenges.  The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) must assist with poverty-reduction strategies and debt alleviation.  Also, there must be clear lines and definitions of authority and a clear organizational structure to deal with crises, as well as with long-term development implications affecting both countries in crisis and their neighbours.  The staff of the new Office in Dakar, Senegal, had the development experience and political skills to inspire confidence.

He said the countries of the Mano River Union provided the clearest illustration that regional interrelationship was at the heart of the subregion’s political and humanitarian problems, as well as the key to their solution.  They had in common such problems as the exploitation of natural resources, the proliferation of small arms and extreme poverty.  Yet the Mano River Women’s Peace Network was playing a positive civil society role at the regional level, and ECOWAS was playing an enormously positive role on small arms.  Despite continuing problems, such as the recent upsurge of fighting in Liberia, much progress had been made in Sierra Leone.  Targeted sanctions against Liberia had helped bring that about by promoting Liberia’s break with the RUF.

He said the May elections in Sierra Leone would be critical in proving whether the RUF was wholly political and rejected military action to further its ends.  In the longer term, a lasting political accommodation would have to be made between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to consolidate progress.  The disarmament component of the DDR programme in Sierra Leone had been very successful, with 36,000 ex-combatants disarmed since May.  It was vital to create income-earning opportunities for ex-combatants through such avenues as the cooperative effort between the UNDP and Sierra Leone’s National Commission for Reconstruction, Resettlement and Rehabilitation.  Finally, the human rights element must be mainstreamed into all activities aimed at conflict prevention, management and resolution, at both regional and national levels.

VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the need for a comprehensive, coordinated and integrated strategy in West Africa had recently been dictated by the multidimensional nature of the region’s crises and the close linkage of the conflicts.  The Inter-Agency Mission to West Africa and the follow-up establishment of a regional United Nations office were important steps towards an effective subregional comprehensive approach.  The United Nations was already doing an outstanding job in the subregion, in particular, in the Mano River Union.

He said an effective partnership of the Council with the subregional actors, in particular with ECOWAS, was critically important for implementation of the regional approach to conflict management. The international community must support ECOWAS activities, in particular, those related to capacity-building, promoting mechanisms of early warning and conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peace-building, DDR of ex-combatants, and implementation of Council sanctions.

He strongly endorsed the Secretary-General's decision to establish a United Nations office of his Special Representative in West Africa.  He hoped the activities of that Office would help the Council to further strengthen the partnership between the United Nations, subregional organizations and international partners in the implementation of a fully integrated and comprehensive regional approach to durable peace and sustainable development in West Africa.

Mr. OUANE (Mali), speaking in his national capacity, stressed the need for a global, regional and integrated approach to the search for solutions to priority problems.  It was clearly urgent, and the regional leaders had realized that a country-by-country approach did not facilitate a full understanding of all the complex issues.  The Inter-Agency Mission’s report showed that the problems confronting the region were not just national, but transnational as eloquently attested by the question of Sierra Leone.

He said Mali was grateful for the Secretary-General’s appointment of a Special Representative for West Africa, describing it as a timely response to the need for the Council to be more acutely aware of the dynamics in the West African subregion.  Mali also welcomed the establishment, by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the European Union, of a regional approach for West Africa.

Regarding refugees and internally displaced persons, he said it was imperative to guarantee secure access to people affected by conflicts and to facilitate their return to secure areas of their home countries.  Mali encouraged the strengthening of the coordinating bureau of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Guinea and Liberia.  Nonetheless, a lasting solution to the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons could not be achieved in the absence of a definitive settlement of the conflicts.

He said the aim of the subregion's countries was to build viable political and economic frameworks based on good governance.  It was essential to reinforce local conflict prevention capacities and to provide the necessary assistance to ECOWAS for the implementation of its mechanism for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.  It was also essential to supplement the development efforts of West African countries and to support their integration processes.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said the mission headed by Mr. Fall represented a qualitative move in the United Nations’ approach to the security, human, political and economic problems of West Africa, and it transcended all other approaches.  He hoped the recommendations would form the basis of future efforts by the Organization to give support to all West African States as they responded to the various challenges ahead.

The ECOWAS was the major and most comprehensive regional framework to deal with transboundary challenges of the subregion.  All Council activities in West Africa should, therefore, be conducted in close consultation with ECOWAS.  He hoped the new Office of Special Representative of the Secretary-General would represent a focal point through which the ECOWAS’ priorities would be reflected.

He said the crisis in Sierra Leone was at the forefront of the problem of the subregion.  Reaching a final settlement in that crisis should remain a priority of the international community for the future.  He hoped the Council would seriously consider an extension of the military component of UNAMSIL in a manner that would enable the United Nations to preserve security in all different parts of the country and to facilitate the holding of free, fair and safe elections.  Elections should not represent the end of efforts in Sierra Leone.  He, therefore, hoped the Council would not consider a reduction in size or functions of UNAMSIL, and also seriously consider the theme of “no exit without strategy” carefully.

He said efforts to put a disengagement force on the borders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone should also be revived.  While he welcomed the coordinated approach by the United Nations to West Africa, he reminded all of the need to respect the delicate balance between the Council, the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and to recognize their different mandates.

JEAN DE RUYT (Belgium), on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said West Africa had been torn apart by years of conflict, population displacement and economic depression.  The region was still suffering some of the worst atrocities and human rights violations the contemporary world had witnessed. However, there had been several promising recent developments, one of which was the role of ECOWAS.

The United Nations had successfully deployed in Sierra Leone, he continued. The DDR programme was making steady progress, and elections were scheduled for May 2002. Compared to the situation only a few months ago, those were encouraging, hopeful developments.  In Liberia, the European Union was concerned by the security situation and considered renewed fighting in the north a worrying development.  In Guinea, the Union was watching the domestic situation closely, particularly the highly controversial referendum held in November 2001 and the forthcoming elections.

The European Union’s assistance strategy towards the region had focused on supporting regional economic integration, as well as integration of the region into the world economy.  To that end, he said, the Union had identified such priorities as institutional support for regional organizations, strengthening integration mechanisms, managing common resources and developing regional transport and communication capacities.  Other areas needing attention were research, consolidating the rule of law and conflict management.

MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said the Inter-Agency Mission had established a complete and accurate diagnosis of the problems afflicting West Africa.  The grave situation there could jeopardize the lives of the subregion's peoples and endanger their future.  The Mission's recommendations would help the governments concerned to implement the measures necessary to consolidate peace and stability and to improve the workings of their institutions as well as their methods of governance.

The historic, ethnic and economic realities demanded urgent measures to prevent a conflagration affecting the entire region, especially the countries of the Mano River Union, he said.  The heads of government concerned had unanimously emphasized prevention and resolution of conflicts from a regional rather than a national perspective, as well as addressing the root causes of the conflicts.  Such measures included ending the activities of mercenaries, small arms traffickers and those trading in natural resources that fuelled the violence.

He said the proposed preventive measures involved reintegration processes that would strengthen the appeal of DDR processes under way.  The lack of adequate resources for those programmes had often led to a resumption of tensions and conflicts.  Preventive measures would also include efforts by the international community to facilitate economic development built around viable projects, taking into account the need for a wider market.

FRANÇOIS L. FALL (Guinea) said the discussion today was very timely since West Africa, once renowned for peace, had become the arena of spiralling conflicts.  In almost 10 years, the consequences of many wars had afflicted the entire subregion.  The conflicts had tested the West African equilibrium and had resulted in huge losses of life and infrastructure while forcing hundreds of thousands of people into exile.  Only a comprehensive approach would preserve peace and harmony in West Africa.  The Inter-Agency Mission led by Mr. Fall had submitted a series of very relevant recommendations that had also identified the real needs for peace in the subregion.  His delegation supported those recommendations.

He said United Nations cooperation with ECOWAS would strengthen the functioning of the latter.  He stressed the lead role of ECOWAS in preventing and solving conflicts in the subregion.  Both ECOWAS and the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) had made a real contribution to the subregion.

To back up the encouraging results in the Mano River Union, he wanted the Council to continue monitoring the area.  While welcoming the progress in DDR in Sierra Leone, he encouraged the international community to lend full support to that process since real peace depended on it.

ARTHUR MBANEFO (Nigeria) said that despite the major difficulties facing the subregion, the ECOWAS countries had shown  great resilience and determination in confronting those challenges.  However, there was a limit to the effectiveness of subregional mechanisms developed to address problems of security and socio-economic development, as well as provide humanitarian relief to refugees and internally displaced persons.

While commending the efforts of United Nations agencies and international financial institutions, he emphasized that they could do much more to assist the subregion through debt forgiveness or cancellation so that resources now being used to service huge debts could be utilized for development.  The political instability currently experienced in parts of Africa was a result of the parlous state of their economies.

Council members should consider making economic assistance available to countries emerging from conflict to rebuild their economies and infrastructure as a vital provision of Council peace-building mandates, he said.  He also urged the developed countries to repatriate assets illegally transferred by corrupt African leaders to overseas banks and interests.  The return of such assets would assist African countries in rebuilding their economies and achieving sustainable development.

He stressed the need to establish sound and effective systems to guarantee the application of the rule of law to prevent such gross human rights violations as the use of child soldiers and the abuse of the female child by combatants.  Nigeria called on the Security Council to continue its close examination and monitoring of the role of non-State actors in Africa’s conflict areas, as their unscrupulous business practices often exacerbated those conflicts.  Such private entities must be held accountable for all their illicit activities.

IBRAHIM M. KAMARA (Sierra Leone) said that prospects for peace and security in his country had never been brighter.  The disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants was almost complete, and reintegration was gradually taking shape.  The

Government, with the support of its newly restructured military and UNAMSIL, had done an extraordinary job in establishing peace in the entire country.  Its decision to announce the dates for presidential and parliamentary elections next May was a clear indication of progress in the peace process.

He stressed that most of the recommendations of the United Nations inter-agency mission to West Africa could be implemented speedily and effectively, since the relevant mechanisms and institutions were already in place.  The two main areas were economic cooperation and integration, and conflict prevention and management.  The ECOWAS was there to improve the lives of people of the subregion, as well as the Mano River Union.  He strongly endorsed the recommendation that the United Nations system and the international community strengthen the ECOWAS mechanism for conflict prevention, management, resolution, peacekeeping and security.

He also supported recommendations from the inter-agency mission that United Nations agencies should assist governments in focusing on area development programmes covering basic social services, such as health, nutrition, water and sanitation.  The international community could not speak about peace and security in West Africa unless poverty in the area was drastically reduced.  Another key concern was the reintegration of ex-combatants, especially youth, into society. Countries of the region could revert to cycles of conflict unless that particular challenge was confronted –- namely, the status and condition of youth, former combatants and non-combatants in the subregion.

Mr. FALL, responding to questions, said that right now the proposed budget for the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa had already gone though the ACABQ.  He hoped the General Assembly, through its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), would consent to the budget for the Office.

Addressing DDR and peace-building, he said the recommendations of the Inter-Agency Mission and the observations made today only underscored the importance of strengthening the financing aspects of those processes.

Turning to the financing of the International Tribunal and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone, he said the Council should remember that the decision had been made to finance both entities through voluntary contributions.  One had to recognize today, however, that funds were not sufficient to enable those two proposed institutions to get off the ground.  The Secretariat was sending a mission in January to Sierra Leone to contact the authorities on the establishment of both the Tribunal and the Commission.

Responding to requests made for a report on the implementation of recommendations in the report of the Inter-Agency Mission, he said the Secretariat would do its utmost to prepare an interim document.

He also stated that West Africa would be a test case for the comprehensive approach being proposed.

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For information media. Not an official record.