STABILITY IN MANO RIVER UNION REGION TIED TO SITUATION IN LIBERIA, SECURITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP CONCLUDES

18 July 2002
SC/7456

STABILITY IN MANO RIVER UNION REGION TIED TO SITUATION IN LIBERIA, SECURITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP CONCLUDES

18/07/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7456

Security Council

4577th Meeting* (AM & PM)

STABILITY IN MANO RIVER UNION REGION TIED TO SITUATION IN LIBERIA,

SECURITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP CONCLUDES

Council Envisages Strengthened Cooperation

Between United Nations, Subregional Organizations

In a day-long workshop on the situation in Africa, the Security Council today focused on the latest developments in the area of the Mano River Union -- Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea -- taking note of the lessons that could be learned from the experience of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and trying to determine the way forward to build peace in that country.  Council Members also examined what more the United Nations could do to help reduce subregional instability and end the fighting in Liberia.

The discussion was moderated by the President of the Council, the United Kingdom’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Valerie Amos, who defined the objectives of the workshop and described the situation in the Mano River Union.  The international community had brought peace to Sierra Leone, with trouble-free elections held in May.  The challenge now, she said, was to move from peacekeeping to peace-building.

Opening the workshop, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that today’s Council meeting came at a critical juncture, with UNAMSIL about to begin the new phase of its operations in Sierra Leone, but with the escalating conflict in Liberia threatening to destabilize the whole area anew.  The United Nations peacekeeping experience in Sierra Leone offered invaluable lessons, not only because of the success achieved so far, but also because of the trials encountered in the early stages of the Mission.  They had included the combination of early command-and-control challenges experienced by the Mission, mistakes made in taking over from a subregional peacekeeping operation, lack of adequate preparation, and an attempt to implement an ambitious mandate without adequate resources.

“Lessons were learned the hard way” from that experience, he concluded, but the international community did not give up.  The United Nations, troop contributors, regional partners and individual Member States took swift, concerted action to correct the situation.  One of the main lessons of the experience was that “when we get into these operations we have to be prepared for the unpredictable”.  Of overriding importance were effective preparation, adequate

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*     The 4576th meeting was closed.

resources, enough analysis and information to anticipate how the crisis was likely to develop, and the political will to stay the course until the objective was achieved.

The Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, Momodu Koroma, stressed that the uniqueness of operations in Sierra Leone lay in the recognition of the linkage between peacekeeping, peace-building, good governance, security and post-conflict concerns.  The Mission further recognized the need for cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, as well as the importance of bilateral support from other partners.  The success of UNAMSIL in achieving its objectives in Sierra Leone was due in large part to its acting in concert with other partners -- which could augur well for future United Nations peace operations in similar situations.

François Lonseny Fall, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guinea, noted the importance of creating secure conditions for UNAMSIL withdrawal and ensuring local capacity to take over.  He also recommended holding an international conference of donors for recovery and reconstruction of the country, and introducing a better policy for operating and managing the diamond sector to ensure the country’s self-sufficiency.  The international community must remain vigilant in monitoring developments in Liberia.  The maintenance of sanctions was justified, and they should only be lifted when the Government had discharged all its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions.

Underlining the fragility of peace in Sierra Leone, which was threatened by general instability in the region, including the conflict in Liberia, most speakers agreed that the international community should not wait for the situation there to further deteriorate, but should take action to address it.  Other issues that emerged in the debate were the need for early international action; a regional strategy; properly coordinated intervention; rapid agreement on an appropriate and robust mandate for any United Nations peacekeeping force; the critical role of humanitarian action; and security sector and judicial reform in the post-conflict arena.  The important role that could be played by a lead country, as well as the flexibility required to adapt to changed circumstances, was also highlighted.

Speakers also recognized the importance of the new United Nations Office in West Africa as a focal point for international efforts, which should be closely coordinated with initiatives undertaken by the African Union, the Mano River Union countries and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  The physical presence of the United Nations on the ground was critical, it was agreed.

Participating in today's workshop were Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; Carolyn McAskie, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator; Ivan Simonovic, President of the Economic and Social Council; Sylvian Ngung, Deputy Permanent Observer for the African Union; Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Director for West Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); General Chekh Diarra, Deputy Executive Secretary of ECOWAS; and Florian Fichtl, Senior Social Protection Specialist for Regional Human Development of the World Bank.

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Statements were also made by the representatives of Mexico, United States, Cameroon, Japan, Colombia, Bulgaria, Syria, Mauritius, Singapore, Morocco, France, China, Russian Federation, Denmark (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Ireland and Norway.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and was suspended at 1:10 p.m.  It then resumed at 3:06 p.m. and adjourned at 5:25 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met today to consider the situation in Africa and hold a workshop on the Mano River Union.  The workshop, to be chaired by Baroness Amos (United Kingdom), President of the Council, will be opened by the Secretary-General.  Also addressing the Council will be foreign ministers and representatives of Member States.  The topic of the morning session is “Lessons learned in Sierra Leone”, while the afternoon session will focus on “The way forward for the Mano River Union”.

Statements

Council President Baroness AMOS (United Kingdom) said that the international community had brought peace to Sierra Leone.  Now there was a Sierra Leone that was stable and democratic, with peaceful elections held last May.  In addition, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) was carrying out its mandate confidently and effectively.

The objectives of the workshop, she said, were to learn lessons from the United Nations experience in Sierra Leone, which might be relevant to other conflict situations; to consider how the United Nations could focus more on peace-building in Sierra Leone; and to examine what more the United Nations could do to help reduce subregional instability and end fighting in Liberia.  Conflicts were complex and there were no easy solutions. 

The Mano River Union was an inherently unstable region with significant refugee flows between countries.  It was necessary to consider how to work with the countries in the region on a regional approach, and how the United Nations could raise its profile and coordinate and facilitate a peace process.

Opening Remarks by Secretary-General

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that the prospects for Sierra Leone looked much more promising today than two years ago, in large measure due to the timely intervention by the United Kingdom, which had helped to stabilize the situation.  Today’s Council meeting came at a critical juncture, with UNAMSIL about to begin the new phase of its operations in Sierra Leone, but with the escalating conflict in Liberia threatening to destabilize the whole area anew. 

The United Nations peacekeeping experience in Sierra Leone offered invaluable lessons, he continued, not only because of the success achieved so far, but also because of the trials encountered in the early stages of the Mission.  They had included the combination of early command-and-control challenges experienced by the Mission, mistakes made in taking over from a subregional peacekeeping operation, lack of adequate preparation, and an attempt to implement an ambitious mandate without adequate resources.

“Lessons were learned the hard way” from that experience, he continued.  But the international community did not give up.  The United Nations, troop contributors, regional partners and individual Member States took swift, concerted action to correct the situation.  One of the main lessons of the experience was that “when we get into these operations we have to be prepared for the unpredictable”.  Of overriding importance were effective preparation, adequate resources, enough analysis and information to anticipate how the crisis was likely to develop, and the political will to stay the course until the objective was achieved.

As UNAMSIL entered the new phase of its operations, he said, the international community continued to learn and apply important lessons.  The experience of UNAMSIL could provide a model for other peacekeeping operations and inspire a new cooperation towards peace in the region.

MOMODU KOROMA, Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, said that today's meeting came at the end of a historic and successful phase in the search for peace and stability, not only in the Mano River Union countries but also in the West African subregion as a whole.  The meeting was also timely, since dark clouds could now be seen floating around the radiance of the success being celebrated in Sierra Leone.

The United Nations peace mission in Sierra Leone was in many ways unique, he said.  One of its lessons was that in deciding to deploy a peace operation, the United Nations should take into account the particular circumstances of the conflict it was about to help manage or contain.  It should also take into account the surrounding political climate; the capacity of the regional or subregional organization to perform peacekeeping activities; and the humanitarian dimension of the conflict and the role of natural resources in fuelling it.

The uniqueness of operations in Sierra Leone lay in the recognition of the linkage between peacekeeping, peace-building, good governance, security and post-conflict concerns, he said.  The mission further recognized the need for cooperation between the United Nations, regional organizations and bilateral support from other partners.  The success of UNAMSIL in achieving its objectives in Sierra Leone was due in large part to its acting in concert with other partners -- which could augur well for future United Nations peace operations in similar situations.

Nevertheless, he continued, the gains already achieved in Sierra Leone would be temporary without peace, security and stability within the region.  The current situation in the Mano River Union subregion was indeed cause for concern, as the escalating violence in Liberia was overshadowing the recent successful gains in the Sierra Leone peace process.  It was now widely accepted that peace and stability in the Mano River Union was a key factor for security and development in West Africa.  Modalities were being worked out to revitalize the Union and to expand its scope to include cooperation in the areas of politics, security, foreign affairs and defence.

Baroness AMOS asked the Minister in what areas mistakes were made by the international community.  Also, what should the international community be doing to support Sierra Leone and the countries in the region with respect to refugees?

Mr. KOROMA replied that one of the first problems encountered was that the United Nations had underestimated the ability of the combatants and their scope for creating havoc.  Afterwards, the United Nations evolved a more comprehensive approach.  Sierra Leone should not be treated as an island.  The lessons learned from Sierra Leone should be used to achieve peace and stability in the region. 

Sierra Leone, he added, did not have the funds to contain the refugee situation at the current time.  Its infrastructures were not up to meeting current needs.  There must be a continued United Nations humanitarian presence in Sierra Leone to ensure the handling of the refugee situation, which was not just a humanitarian situation but a security issue. 

FRANÇOIS LONSENY FALL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guinea, said that the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone was correctly considered an unquestionable success, which had become possible only through the resolve of the international community and the resources made available to address the situation.  A clear and precise mandate and appropriate resources were essential, and what had been done in Sierra Leone was possible in other parts of Africa, in particular, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The situation in Sierra Leone still remained fragile, however, and the United Nations must continue its efforts in the country.  A restructuring of the army and the police was needed to ensure their multi-ethnic nature.  The withdrawal of UNAMSIL should be carried out under conditions of security, and local capacity to take over must be ensured.  Among other important issues, he emphasized the need for decentralization, the primary role of women in the peace process, good governance, restructuring of the judiciary and promotion of human rights.  An international conference of donors for recovery and reconstruction of the country was required.  A better policy for operating and managing the diamond sector was also needed in order to ensure the country’s self-sufficiency, he said.  Poverty alleviation programmes could not be overestimated. 

Despite the encouraging results achieved, the situation in Liberia was still extremely worrying, he continued.  The end of the war there had not been accompanied by a real exit strategy.  There had been no effective disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and rehabilitation (DDRR) process, and the country’s economic situation after 10 years of fighting remained dire.  Immense sacrifices made by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in its efforts to improve the situation had not been really followed up on.  The Liberian Government had been called upon to carry out a constructive dialogue with the opposition.  While that had not been achieved so far, he hoped that all the parties would attend an upcoming meeting in Dakar.

Among the measures to be taken, he mentioned a ceasefire, continuing inter-Liberian dialogue, adoption of a genuine DDRR programme, economic recovery efforts, using income from lumber and maritime registry for the benefit of peace, and external assistance in financing the economic recovery.  Liberian government authority should be extended to the whole country.  The international community must remain vigilant in monitoring developments in Liberia.  The maintenance of sanctions was justified.  They should be lifted only when the Government had discharged all its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions.

Following the meeting of the Mano River Union in Rabat, he said, a meeting held last February had been attended by the Presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.  Several other meetings had taken place, making recommendations for the approval of a protocol on relations between the countries and rapid deployment of border units.  Thorny issues of small arms and dissidents living in the three countries were among the problems remaining.  Return of refugees was also among the key issues.  His country advocated trust-building measures along the borders and free circulation of persons and goods among the three countries.  A second Mano River Union summit was being planned, and ECOWAS was working to ensure follow-up on the remaining issues.  Delay in the opening of the United Nations office in Dakar was regrettable, for it could speed up the peace process in the region.

Baroness AMOS asked about the effect of developments in Sierra Leone on other countries of the region, and wondered if Guinea could have been more proactive in getting international help for the region.

Mr. FALL responded that, as a neighbouring country, Guinea was the first one to suffer from the crisis in Sierra Leone.  For a long time, it had been asking the international community to stabilize the situation there.  Bearing the burden of refugees from Sierra Leone, it had started sounding alarms early in the crisis.  The influx of refugees had resulted in environmental, financial and security problems in his country, which had also been attacked by rebels.

Guinea had always advocated restoration of peace and security in the region, he said.  It had also participated in interventions by the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) in an attempt to stabilize the situation. 

JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that if Sierra Leone was today moving away from war and towards peace, the major credit for that achievement belonged to the Sierra Leonean Government and people, whose efforts were the foundation of any success that the United Nations might claim there.  The key lessons learned from such a complex operation could be found by looking at three aspects of the experience:  the adjustment of UNAMSIL’s mandate; the provision of the means to achieve the new mandate; and the management of the Mission to implement the mandate and consolidate the gains made.

Today, he noted, the fundamental lesson drawn was that, with sufficient resolve, the Council, the troop-contributing countries, ECOWAS and the Secretary-General were able to work together with UNAMSIL to turn the situation around.  Though formidable challenges still remained, Sierra Leone was firmly on the right path towards peace and stability.  Central to that turnaround was the willingness of the Security Council to radically strengthen UNAMSIL’s mandate, troop levels and structure.  The new mandate provided the basis for a robust UNAMSIL peacekeeping force.  The necessary resources were then put in place to accomplish the mandate.

He emphasized that unity among key actors was a sine qua non for complex peacekeeping operations.  That translated into clarity of purpose regarding the Mission’s political objectives and its operational activity.  Also, peace operations should be prepared for the worst-case contingency.  Planning and resources must take into account all potentialities.

The early gaps in UNAMSIL’s strength and capacity deserved close attention, he said.  The operational and logistic capabilities of various contingents were enhanced through innovative measures, and training was provided under various bilateral arrangements.  That experience underlined the fact that the means available to the Mission must be seen as more than simply the numbers of personnel.  Their quality, the training and support provided to them, and the political guidance behind the Mission would all determine whether a mission had the means to implement its mandate.

The role played by the United Kingdom must also be highlighted as a key element of the international community’s response to May 2000, he noted.  There were important lessons to be drawn from that experience, and, undoubtedly, in specific circumstances, the need for a lead nation with the capacity to project its forces quickly and convincingly would arise again.  However, the approach taken for UNAMSIL would not necessarily be applicable in all future situations.  It was equally important to recognize that, while the United Kingdom so ably filled an urgent need for credible force projection, that need might not have arisen if UNAMSIL itself had the requisite resources from the outset.

In the next stages of the Mission, a strategy must be developed to allow the Government and other partners to progressively take on UNAMSIL’s responsibilities in a sustainable manner, while consolidating the gains made.  A progressive, staged drawdown of United Nations forces must be accompanied by a build-up of Sierra Leonean capacity.  The exit strategy for UNAMSIL lay in ensuring that the Government could carry out the functions that the peacekeepers and the international community had fulfilled.

Baroness AMOS asked about integration in the United Nations between its peacekeeping, political and humanitarian wings.  “Should we be looking for a single model or learning from each country and adapting to each context”? she asked.  Also, collectively as the Security Council, what could be done to get a sense of urgency into a situation early on in the process?

Mr. GUÉHENNO replied that there were degrees of integration and that would vary from one mission to another.  In any peacekeeping and peace-building operation, there must be unity in the efforts of the international community.  The international community weakened its hand when it went into a crisis in a “scattered” way.  Part of the success achieved in the Afghan mission was linked to its integrated nature.  In the case of war-torn Angola, there would have to be a major effort by the international community to support reconstruction.  There too, an integrated model would be in order.  For areas such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the link between the political, economic, military and humanitarian could very easily be seen.  Integration with different degrees was the right answer.

As to the need for urgency, the Secretariat had a responsibility to alert the Council to unfolding crises.  It was also the responsibility of Member States to call the attention of the Council to an unfolding situation.

CAROLYN McASKIE, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, focused on issues related to the protection of civilians who had become not only indirect victims, but also direct targets during the war in the area.  Tactics of intimidation had been used to control the illegal exploitation of natural resources in Sierra Leone, terrorizing the population.  The war in Sierra Leone had been characterized by murders, mutilations, and massive population displacement.  Women and children were disproportionately represented among the victims.  Access to vulnerable populations and human rights abuses were among the issues brought to the fore by the crisis, as well as the need to bring to justice the perpetrators of atrocities.

Measures to protect civilians needed to be taken in the deployment of peacekeeping missions, she continued.  The level of support that UNAMSIL was able to provide had been determined by its strength.  Because of the complexity of United Nations peacekeeping tasks, it was important for the Organization to adopt integrated approach to crises.  In the early days of the Sierra Leone mission, there had been concerns in the humanitarian community.  Among the issues discussed was the need to appoint a Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the country.  Many of those fears had been proved groundless.  The humanitarian coordinator under the current structure was in a good position to carry out his mandate.

Stressing the importance of taking into account the lessons learned from the mission, she said that today’s workshop could facilitate due consideration of protection of civilians in various stages of conflict.  In contrast with previous missions, UNAMSIL’s mandate included protection of civilians.  In the process of the mission’s operation, such issues as the need for accurate management of information, had been highlighted.  Establishment of an information centre following the Kosovo model had played an important role in Sierra Leone.

Important lessons also came from demobilization of combatants, including almost 7,000 child soldiers, she said.  In that connection, it was important that the Lomé Accord of 1999 had recognized the special needs of children in the peace process.  As the mission’s mandate had developed and matured, peacekeepers had accelerated access to remote areas, trying to provide security for humanitarian workers and returning refugees.  Many internally displaced persons had been transported from western camps, having received resettlement packages. 

Turning to the effect of the conflict on women and girls, she said they had suffered an extraordinary level of rape and abuse.  Special protection and assistance needs had to be taken into account.  Much had been said about the abduction of boys as forced combatants, but little was known about the fact that girls had also been taken, held as sexual slaves, and forced to bear the children of combatants.   Also, much information had been provided about the horrors of amputations in Sierra Leone, but for every amputation, dozens of girls had been forced to become partners of commanders.  Many still remained with their abusers.  To address the situation, a coordinating committee on sexual exploitation and abuse had been formed in Sierra Leone, and an inter-agency report on the matter was being prepared.

Also important was the issue of justice and reconciliation, and the role of the special court remained important, she continued.  Of special significance was the question of funding for that body.  Rape should be recognized as a war crime, and special measures were needed to make women come forward.  Witness protection should receive special attention in that regard.

The cross-border activities and the situation in Liberia now posed a significant risk to Sierra Leone, she said.  Due consideration must be given to the Government’s capacity to maintain security of its borders and screen incoming refugee populations.  In support of the regional approach, the United Nations regional office was now being established in the area.  Also of great importance was the issue of resources.  In his recent report, the Secretary-General had highlighted the fact that only one third of the funding had been collected from the consolidated appeals for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.  That fact could seriously hamper efforts in the area.  It was particularly critical as the international community moved from relief to reconstruction and development.

Responding to the statement, Baroness AMOS sought further information about the donor response to the humanitarian crisis.

Ms. McASKIE said that the international community had been very generous all over the world, but there were serious shortfalls in many countries.  Much could have been achieved much sooner if more resources had been available from the start.  The lesson learned from the Sierra Leone experience was that the situation should not be allowed to drag on before there was an international response to it.  Initially, the response in Sierra Leone had been very slow.

ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico), Chairman of the Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee, said that all national efforts to achieve peace must be accompanied by regional efforts.  What was needed was an “international/regional” approach.  If the international community failed to give proper attention to the humanitarian situation in Liberia, gains made in other countries such as Sierra Leone might be lost.

The factors for success in Sierra Leone had already been described by other speakers, he noted.  Clarity of objectives was among the most important.  Also important were the emphasis on establishing a United Nations commitment commensurate with the level of the crisis, as well as the provision of adequate funds.  The integrated nature of efforts was another key factor.  The comments made on sustained efforts to reintegrate ex-combatants should also be taken into account.  Coordination and cooperation among all the agencies concerned was vital.  In the case of Sierra Leone, the Security Council must put greater stress on its communications with personnel of agencies working in the field.

He then listed to some of the lessons learned regarding the sanctions imposed by the Council.  First, the population must perceive sanctions as instruments to contribute to peace and security, not as a form of reprisal.  The United Nations must explain the nature of the sanctions imposed to the population, whose support was vital.  Secondly, in Sierra Leone, the arms embargo had had a limited impact, because the actual presence of UNAMSIL and successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) had led to a reduction of arms in the country. 

Accordingly, he continued, emphasis must be on compliance with sanctions by third parties.  Additional efforts were needed by the international community to determine the origin of the weapons found in the Mano River Union.  The commitment of States both inside and outside the region was necessary to enforce the ECOWAS moratorium and apply international measures to stem the flow of small arms.  Sanctions regimes had a temporary purpose, which was to achieve the goals set by the Council.

The lessons learned in the diamond embargo showed that, in themselves, they could have undesired results and limited impact.  Such an embargo should be the starting point for regional efforts to regulate the diamond industry for the benefit of the economic development of the populations concerned.  Furthermore, the list of individuals on the United Nations travel ban should be reviewed regularly.  Former rebels who had disarmed and regrouped in political organizations should benefit from such reviews. 

IVAN SIMONOVIC, President of the Economic and Social Council, welcomed the convening of the workshop, saying that the level of cooperation between the Security Council and Economic and Social Council had been unprecedented during the United Kingdom presidency.  The Economic and Social Council had established its ad hoc advisory group on African countries this week.  It was envisaged that ad hoc groups of the two Councils would work closely together.  This week, the Presidents of the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and Security Council had held a meeting, and he hoped that such cooperation would continue. 

As far as the situation in Sierra Leone was concerned, he said, it was quite clear from the point of view of the Economic and Social Council, that even the most difficult situations were soluble.  Conflict prevention was much cheaper than peacekeeping in conflict situations.  For peace to be sustainable, there was a need for a comprehensive approach and efforts at both regional and subregional levels.  Peacekeeping should be accompanied by political and humanitarian measures, and followed by strengthening of security and the rule of law.  Job opportunities, reintegration of combatants, and rehabilitation of infrastructure should be addressed along with military issues.

Civilians who had been deliberately targeted during hostilities needed assurances of safety to return home.  Truth and reconciliation commissions, which were being launched in Sierra Leone, were very encouraging in that respect.  Bilateral and multilateral assistance and measures to attract foreign investments acquired special significance in the peace-building stage.  The Economic and Social Council could play an important role in that respect.

RICHARD WILLIAMSON (United States) said that the wars and instability in the Mano River Union had brought terrible costs in lost lives and lost opportunities.  He asked whether there were overarching lessons that could be learned from Sierra Leone and how the Council could use them to bring peace to other countries in the region.  There were a number of variables present in any conflict situation.  The United Nations and the Council rarely had the ability in and of themselves to achieve a successful peace process.  Over-promising or overextending the capacity of the United Nations to deliver would not contribute to resolving conflict situations.  The United Nations must stand ready to support the parties’ own efforts to achieve peace and foster an environment in which peace could take root. 

The success in Sierra Leone could be attributed to a range of factors, from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)’s military weakness to the United Kingdom’s involvement to the courage and dedication of the people of Sierra Leone, he said.  All external factors had come together to provide an environment in which UNAMSIL could play an assisting role.  It would be a mistake, however, to overstate the extent of which the Sierra Leone situation had created lessons universally applicable to other situations.  What could be learned from Sierra Leone was how the United Nations and the Security Council might support peace processes in conflict situations where there existed a commitment to peace among the parties concerned.

He emphasized the need for a level of commitment in peacekeeping missions commensurate with needs, as well as for frequent consultations with troop-contributing countries.  It was necessary to ensure coordination of humanitarian efforts between the United Nations and other members of the humanitarian community.  Also important was the need for a strong Special Representative of the Secretary-General to ensure good coordination.

MARTIN CHUNGONG AYAFOR (Cameroon) said that the Mano River basin was one of the most unstable areas on the planet, and he appreciated the solidarity extended by the international community to the countries of the region.  Much progress had been achieved at a great cost, but the situation in the area was still unstable.  The three Mano River Union States shared cultural, social and historical similarities, and the conflict could not be treated as an isolated issue relating to just one country.  The overall situation in Sierra Leone remained volatile, and the crisis in Liberia was affecting that situation. 

Continuing, he stressed the importance of the Liberian Government adhering to the Council’s demands under the sanctions.  The situation in Sierra Leone and Liberia was interrelated.  The peace efforts in Sierra Leone could not be sustained, unless the situation in Liberia was addressed.

In that connection, he said, Cameroon would like to ask several questions, including those related to the fate of Liberian soldiers and other groups that had crossed into Sierra Leone.  Was there a danger of their regrouping to destabilize the situation in Sierra Leone?  How best could the dialogue on ECOWAS efforts be promoted in the future?  What role should the United Nations play in normalizing the situation in the area?  Should the Security Council condemn any attempt by an armed group in Liberia to take over by force?  What was the role of key international actors and partners to promote dialogue and stabilization in Liberia?  A coherent approach needed to be forged in the region.

YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said that in order to ensure stability in western Africa, every effort should be made to encourage confidence-building among the countries concerned.  He welcomed the efforts which ECOWAS, Morocco and other countries were making towards that end.  A smooth transition from a post-conflict situation to development was also essential for regional stability.  That would require support from the international community.  In that connection, Japan had decided to extend, through the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, assistance in the amount of some $3.09 million to the project for the reintegration of ex-combatants in Sierra Leone. 

He also emphasized the importance of a system of justice in post-conflict situations.  His Government strongly supported the activities of the Special Court in Sierra Leone, having contributed some $500,000 towards its operations.  Japan had recently announced a new strategy entitled “Solidarity between Japan and Africa –- Concrete Actions”.  Japan would extend some $2 billion over the next five years in assistance for education to low-income countries.  In cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it was also promoting the development and dissemination of NERICA rice -– the product of hybridization between African and Asian rice strains -- which was expected to help solve the problem of food shortages.  Under the new strategy, Japan would provide support for the conflict-prevention and peace-building efforts of the African countries themselves.  He was confident that those efforts would make a genuine contribution to the stability and development of the region.

ANDRES FRANCO (Colombia) said that, in the political area, there were a number of lessons to be learned.  First, it would be difficult to resolve conflict without taking a regional approach.  The second lesson was the importance of a “leader country”, which had political influence in the region.  That would help mobilize resources, as well as heighten awareness of the situation.  The third lesson was the potential of subregional organizations.  The dilemma for the Security Council was what to do when there were political differences between the viewpoints of the subregional organizations and those of the Council.  The fourth political lesson had to do with armed groups.  It was necessary to understand the political agenda of those non-State actors and to create a space for them. 

There were also three lessons to be learned in the humanitarian area, he continued.  The first had to do with the management of refugees and internally displaced persons.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should play a pragmatic role in the field, meeting the needs of those groups even if there was not a formal mandate to do so.  The second lesson concerned what to do when sanctions were applied but resulted in the reduction of resources that could be used for humanitarian purposes.  Regarding the role of women and children, he said they were not merely victims of conflicts, but could be major actors in peace-building.  An additional lesson was that international assistance in the humanitarian field and rebuilding process was vital.

SYLVIAN NGUNG, Deputy Permanent Observer for the African Union, said that for over a decade West Africa, and specifically the Mano River Union subregion, had been the theatre for bloody conflict.  The war in Liberia and Sierra Leone had always caused serious concern for the Organization of African Unity (OAU).  He recalled the evolution of the peace process in Sierra Leone and the role of the OAU in that regard.  Completing the disarmament in Sierra Leone had served to facilitate the deployment of the United Nations in that country, thereby improving the security situation, particularly along the border areas. 

The humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone was tragic, he noted, as the country emerged from a long, protracted war and confronted multiple challenges.  The other major problem was the rehabilitation and reintegration of a large number of ex-combatants into society.  The African Union appealed to the international community to provide more sustained support for reintegration of ex-combatants, and to provide greater assistance for rehabilitation, as well as training of police, who would be taking over security in the country.  The African Union would continue to cooperate with the Government of Sierra Leone, ECOWAS, the European Union and others to promote peace and stability in Sierra Leone and throughout West Africa.

STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) welcomed today’s discussion, saying that it attested to an emerging new regional approach to conflicts.  Such an approach was particularly appropriate in relation to the Mano River Union countries.  The success of the mission in Sierra Leone had, in large part, been made possible with the help of resolute participation of the United Kingdom and united action by the Security Council.  One thing was definite:  an integrated approach was a means of reaching greater effectiveness on various levels, including the level of humanitarian assistance.  As had been stated, a clear mandate had been essential for the success of the mission, and it was important that the investment made had been commensurate with the tasks in Sierra Leone.  Due to the small size of Sierra Leone and Liberia, however, the resources required were much smaller than those that might be needed in other –- bigger -– countries.

In Sierra Leone, the international community had realized that diamonds were the engine of war, he continued.  That issue went beyond the subregion, however. The lessons of Sierra Leone might not be of universal application, but they could be applied to many African countries, where the wealth of natural resources contributed to conflict.

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said that the May elections in Sierra Leone were a major landmark on the road to peace.  The people of the country and its elected Government deserved congratulations for the success of those elections, and various United Nations agencies deserved to be commended for their assistance.  The lessons of Sierra Leone could be successfully applied in other countries of the continent, in particular, in Somalia.  The completion of DDRR proved that the determination and political will of the international community, through clear Council resolutions and Mission mandates, were key to success, as was the provision of adequate resources.

Now, it was important to reintegrate the combatants in the economy, and resources were needed to achieve that goal, he continued.  The current, final stage of the peace process represented a transition to rehabilitation and rebuilding of the economy.  The country still required international assistance, however.  It was necessary to find regional solutions to the remaining chronic problems of the region and reverse the destructive fighting in Liberia.  The waves of refugees fleeing the fighting there could destabilize the situation throughout the region.  The question that remained was what the Council would do to address the crisis in Liberia.  Should the international community wait for the crisis to further escalate before it took action?

Mr. KOROMA, Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, said that important lessons from the experience in Sierra Leone could be applied in a subregional context.  The job of UNAMSIL was not yet complete, and several issues still needed to be adequately addressed in order to assure that the country did not slide back into conflict.  Reintegration of ex-combatants and good governance were among the remaining concerns.  Another important aspect was that with UNAMSIL already in place, it would be cost-effective to review its mandate to include the subregional situation.

Mr. FALL, Foreign Minister of Guinea, added that almost all members of the Council this morning had recognized that a clear and precise mandate had facilitated the success of the Mission.  Of great importance was the role of the United Kingdom.  The role of UNAMSIL was not over, however.  It must support efforts to build lasting peace in Sierra Leone.  The international community

should back up efforts already made to date.  The example of innovative efforts in Sierra Leone could be applied to other parts of Africa.

Mr. GUÉHENNO said that the challenge now was to move from peacekeeping to peace-building.  That was where the international community had to stay the course.  Development would require voluntary contributions.  The future of the peace process in Sierra Leone now very much depended on the sustained effort of the international community in partnership with the Government and people of Sierra Leone. 

Ms. McASKIE emphasized the need to keep a close eye on the humanitarian and political situation in the surrounding countries, especially in terms of maintaining the peace and stability achieved in Sierra Leone.

Baroness AMOS identified the key themes that had emerged during the morning session, namely, the need for early international action; a regional strategy; properly coordinated intervention; rapid agreement to an appropriate and robust mandate for any United Nations peacekeeping force; the critical role of humanitarian action; and security sector and judicial reform in the post-conflict arena.  Also mentioned were the important role that could be played by a lead country and the flexibility required to adapt to changed circumstances.

When the meeting resumed this afternoon, KIERAN PRENDERGAST, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that the situation in Liberia had come “full circle” for the United Nations, with the end of the war, the signing of a ceasefire and peace operations.  However, now the country had plunged back into civil strife.  The international community, particularly the Government of Liberia, needed to learn lessons from the experience in that country. 

He went on to say that unless the situation was urgently addressed, instability in Liberia could negatively affect the gains made in the peace process in Sierra Leone.  The international community needed to encourage and support the efforts by ECOWAS and by Liberian civil society organizations to put pressure on President Taylor to carry out reform and facilitate national reconciliation.  He hoped that Guinea, as a Council member and neighbour, would also be able to play a role.  In that connection, he commended Morocco for its King’s efforts to convene a follow-up Rabat summit with the countries of the Mano River Union. 

Turning to cooperation with subregional organizations, he noted that such cooperation had proved to be indispensable in achieving peace and security, not only in the Mano River Union but also elsewhere in the world.  The United Nations could benefit from the many comparative advantages of those organizations.  It was precisely in view of the linkages between the countries in the region that the Secretary-General had decided to establish a high-level United Nations office in West Africa.  He was sure that Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Mano River Union would feature high on the agenda of the director of that office.

Baroness AMOS, recalling that presidential elections were to be held next year, asked what the Council and others in the international community could do to foster a democratically based dialogue in Liberia.

Mr. PRENDERGAST said the first step in making a situation better was to recognize the problem and accept advice.  For a while, the peace-building office in Liberia did not have a head.  Rectifying that situation would give the United Nations some leverage.  It was also necessary to encourage elements within Liberian society seeking an improvement in the situation, particularly the church and other elements of civil society.  Another positive factor would be improved relations between Liberia and its neighbours.

ABDOULAYE MAR DIEYE, UNDP Director for West Africa, said that, after almost 10 years of conflict, the region had lost some 25 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in real terms, with more than 50 per cent lost in Liberia and Sierra Leone.  Other sources of concern were the alarming rate of HIV/AIDS and the region’s low ranking in the human development scale.  Given the resumption of peace in Sierra Leone, it was also a region with promising development opportunities.  Now, it was important to help transform the emerging glimmers of hope into real development.

To undo the destructive consequences of war, he said, the international community needed not only to act immediately but also to set its actions in a longer time frame, integrating regional progress into the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  The United Nations system was actively engaged in that process, implementing various strategic initiatives and programmes on the ground to support the reconstruction and recovery process.  Those included United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks in Guinea and Liberia, poverty reduction strategies in Guinea and Sierra Leone, and the United Nations strategy to support recovery and peace-building in Sierra Leone.

Among the constraints on the way forward, however, he listed insufficient financial resources; weak institutional capacities; the lack of adequate infrastructure, including roads, schools and health facilities; and absence of a coordinating policy mechanism at the regional level.  To address those challenges, it was necessary to secure programme funding at the national level through donor support, and revive the project of organizing a special consultation on Guinea to address the impact of the conflicts.

He said that the Donor Forum for Sierra Leone recovery and peace-building was scheduled for the last quarter of this year.  It was expected to build on the in-country round table, which would take place in Freetown on 31 July, dealing with governance issues.  It was also necessary to implement a policy of “constructive engagement” in Liberia by addressing the humanitarian crisis there on a wider scale, as well as by launching community development programmes. 

In association with the Mano River Union secretariat and ECOWAS, together with United Nations country teams, the United Nations Office for West Africa had a mandate to prepare an integrated assistance framework and development strategy for the region, which was expected to back the Rabat Peace Process on the development side.  Such a strategy must initially focus on joint actions on such issues as initiatives on HIV/AIDS, fishing rights and cross-border trade.  Support for civil society and entrepreneurs on the ground was also important.

Baroness AMOS asked if the UNDP had the right kind of machinery in place for institutional development at the subregional level.

Mr. MAR DIEYE said that the UNDP already had a regional cooperation framework in place.  In particular, it was supporting ECOWAS in implementing a moratorium on small arms.  Among other programmes in place were projects in support of women entrepreneurs.  With the creation of the United Nations office in Dakar, he hoped more progress could be achieved.

To Baroness Amos’ question on efforts to attract investment to the region, he added that investment would follow where peace and security were.  Those had been lacking in the region, and now it was important to build investors’ confidence.

General CHEKH DIARRA, Deputy Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, said that the meeting was very timely since it sought to consolidate the peace won at such great cost in Sierra Leone.  Sierra Leone was an example of the excellent partnership between ECOWAS and the United Nations.  It was thanks to the combined efforts of all concerned that the results now being celebrated were achieved.  The States of the Mano River Union, particularly Sierra Leone and Liberia, had always given special attention to peace and security matters. 

He first stressed the need for internal peace in Sierra Leone, in the Mano River Union and the entire subregion.  Regarding peace in Sierra Leone, ECOWAS believed that it was necessary to continue disarmament and reintegration, to strengthen State institutions, to continue rebuilding and reconstruction, and to pursue national reconciliation.  The support of the international community in all of those areas was crucial.  In addition, peace in the Mano River Union involved peace in each State of the Union. 

Nor, could there be peace in that area without peace in Liberia, he said.  The ECOWAS had taken a number of steps in that regard, including the latest meeting of leaders of political parties and civil society leaders.  The Security Council should bolster and compliment the efforts of ECOWAS.  Only then would it be possible to restore peace in Liberia.

Baroness AMOS asked whether ECOWAS had the financial and institutional capacity to meet the needs of the subregion.  Also, what could the Council do specifically to support ECOWAS?

Mr. DIARRA noted that ECOWAS was a subregional organization, which aimed for economic integration and development.  Development could only take place if there was peace.  With respect to integration, ECOWAS had specific programmes linked to various issues.  The organization had the willingness, although not all the necessary resources, to move forward.  The Council could assist by strengthening the credibility of the decisions taken by ECOWAS, such as the rejection of the taking of power by unconstitutional means. 

JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius), Chairman of the Council’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, said that one of the tasks of the Group was promotion of confidence-building measures in the Mano River Union region in order to promote durable and sustainable peace and security there.  The Group had had a preliminary exchange of views on that issue with the contribution of the OAU and International Crisis Group.  In the future, the Working Group also intended to invite the countries of the region and subregional organizations. 

The question of peace and stability had to be viewed from a regional perspective, for the situations in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea were interrelated.  Any efforts should be closely coordinated with initiatives undertaken by the African Union, the Mano River Union countries and ECOWAS.  Inconsistencies in the policies of the Council, the African Union and subregional organizations would not be in the best interests of the region.  The launching of the African Union and the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) process represented a new dynamic for bringing peace and stability in Africa. 

The new situation in Sierra Leone would no doubt be a catalyst in helping the region move away from conflict, he said.  But it was clear that instability in Liberia would have an adverse effect on the situation in the region, and it was important to find ways to engage constructively with that country instead of alienating it further.  The elections to take place in Liberia next year called for constructive dialogue with that country.  Indeed, the success of any action plan for the Mano River Union rested on the degree of confidence of its members.  It was important to reduce tension and rebuild confidence there.  Initiatives to revive social and economic integration in the region should be encouraged, as well as serious bilateral talks between the countries.  The Mano River Union States should be encouraged not to support rebel activities in neighbouring countries, and the international community should support their peaceful initiatives.

The idea, which called for the United Nations West Africa Office to assist in the audit of the armed groups in the region, should be implemented as soon as possible, for it would help to complete the DDRR process.  In the post-conflict stage, international support should focus on capacity building.  The UNDP and Bretton Woods institutions should adapt flexible instruments to achieve macroeconomic stability and support the peace efforts of the governments involved.  The international community should not overlook the need to find long-term solutions to refugee problems.

Among the destabilizing factors in the area were the illicit flow of arms and illegal exploitation of natural resources, he said, and it was, therefore, important to support diamond certification regimes.  The ECOWAS moratorium on small arms also needed support.  A contact group on the region could be created, which would help bring together all stakeholders of the conflict to discuss the means of advancing durable peace.  It was significant that non-governmental organizations, including a Mano River women’s network, were already playing an important role in the region.  The private sector should be given a greater role in regional integration.

KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore), speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1343 (2001) concerning Liberia, said that in looking forward it was necessary to consider problem areas.  The first was the question of resources, particularly in moving smoothly from peacekeeping to peace-building.  A fundamental structural problem was that peacekeeping operations had scales of assessments and budgets.  However, once peacekeeping operations were concluded, resources were not always forthcoming for peace-building efforts.  It was a problem affecting all peacekeeping operations, but particularly UNAMSIL.

He said the need to raise $13.5 million for DDR, mentioned this morning, was among the challenges.  If that was not done, there was the risk of ex-combatants returning to combat.  Why was it so difficult to find a secure system for funding?  There had been arguments previously on why there could not be assessed contributions for peace-building.  Those countries which had the greatest investment in UNAMSIL had the most interest in ensuring peace and peace-building in Sierra Leone.

He also noted that Sierra Leone had a truth and reconciliation commission, as well as a court.  Finding a balance between them would be a challenge, as would be ensuring sufficient resources for them.  Regarding refugees, he wondered whether the Council could begin to look at refugees not only as a humanitarian problem, but also as an indicator of impending conflict.

MOHAMED BENNOUNA(Morocco) said that today’s workshop could prove to be a laboratory of ideas for dealing with the problems of the region.  He welcomed the United Kingdom’s role in the Mano River Union and said that, as an African country, Morocco was particularly interested and involved in the future of Africa.  Morocco had close relations with the countries of western Africa.  Referring to the first Summit of the Heads of State of the Mano River Union, which had taken place in Rabat, he said that the Mano River Union countries were aware of the regional aspect of the situation.  They had turned to Morocco because they felt that it could help them find solutions to the problems and achieve regional progress.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations also strongly encouraged the regional process, he continued.  The Rabat Summit, which had begun the dialogue in February, had broken the ice between the heads of State who spoke to each other, recognizing the need to undertake concrete measures to ensure security in the area.  After that, several ministerial meetings had taken place. 

Not every idea had been a success, he said.  The “caravan project”, which had been intended to restore confidence in the region, had not yet taken place, for instance, but it was still on the table.  Steps had been taken to make borders more secure and improve the possibility of establishing patrols at the borders.  Now, it was important to go further, and the second summit was being prepared.  Morocco wanted some decisive steps to be taken to bring countries closer together, and further progress in peacekeeping was needed before the second summit could take place.  The event should not be of a purely protocol nature. 

Recent developments in Liberia were worrisome, and new flows of refugees could lead to new destabilization at the borders, he said.  The United Nations needed to strengthen its presence in Liberia, and ECOWAS had an important role to play, as well.  Efforts to bring about the meeting of stakeholders in order to restore peace in Liberia were also linked to the Rabat Summit.  The international community should exert pressure on Liberia if matters were to progress in a satisfactory manner.  For its part, Morocco was always ready to provide assistance to its brothers in western Africa in order to restore peace in the region.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) noted that personal relations between heads of State were a key factor for peace in the region.  Restoring good relations between the three presidents of the Mano River Union was a priority.  That was why France welcomed the role played by the Rabat process.  In addition, there could be no peace in the region without peace among the three countries and within those three countries.  Today, there was a clear strategy that was working for Sierra Leone.  However, there was no such strategy for Liberia.  The Sanctions Committee was not enough to provide a strategy for Liberia. 

In addition, he continued, the political parties in Liberia must be helped to prepare for the elections to be held in 2003.  It was necessary to elaborate a true strategy for Liberia, as had been done for Sierra Leone.  He believed that ECOWAS deserved encouragement in its efforts.  The United Nations should help ECOWAS to set up the four regional centres for early warning.

It was also necessary, he said, to set up the contact group of interested countries for the Mano River Union.  The group should be small and established as a matter of urgency.  He also emphasized the need to have a special representative of the Secretary-General in Liberia, as well as to strengthen the United Nations office there.  He asked Mr. Prendergast about progress regarding the appointment of a Special Representative.  If the Rabat process made good progress in the coming months, he wondered whether it would be possible to take advantage of the opening of the General Assembly to invite the foreign ministers of the three countries of the Mano River Union to a meeting of the Council, in order to crystallize the progress that would have taken place in the intervening period and give additional momentum to the peace process in the Union. 

FLORIAN FICHTL, Senior Social Protection Specialist for Regional Human Development of the World Bank, said that some important lessons could be drawn from the experience of Sierra Leone and applied to the situation in all Mano River Union countries, including Liberia.  Immediate priorities included DDRR, rehabilitation of the social and economic infrastructure, access to social services, and reconciliation.  The major challenge of the Government was to address the needs of the youth, for up to 46 per cent of the population were under the age of 15.  That would depend on creating the environment conducive to economic growth and creation of jobs.

From the point of view of the World Bank, early engagement of development partners in support of the lead role of United Nations, ECOWAS and the United Kingdom was of utmost importance, he continued.  Coordinated and complementary efforts focusing on humanitarian assistance, political mediation, security, social reform and development could dramatically increase the effectiveness of the international response.  DDRR efforts, as important as they were, could not be used to break a political impasse or guarantee security.  They were more likely to succeed if they were anchored in the wider peace process. 

Civil society understood that the large majority of former combatants in Sierra Leone were both perpetrators and victims, and that their reintegration was key to rapid and sustainable recovery and reconciliation.  In that regard, the international community had pursued a two-pronged approach, focusing on both the reintegration of individual combatants and support for communities.  The nascent Truth and Conciliation Commission had an important role to play, and its efforts deserved to be fully funded.

Encouraging partners to support a comprehensive recovery framework in Sierra Leone, the Bank currently focused on new financial assistance to ensure transition out of conflict, supporting key government functions, disarmament of ex-combatants and their reintegration, he said.  The focus was on community-oriented rehabilitation.  The Bank was trying to widen an initially narrow donor base through the establishment of a fund for social development in the country.  In particular, it had been able to raise some $31 million in support of DDRR programme.  In addition to that, it had facilitated regular donor meetings and was planning to convene a consultative meeting in Paris in October. 

In summary, the Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) assistance had been building on the ongoing humanitarian efforts, focusing on early development assistance to complement the efforts in the political field, he said.  Timeliness and flexibility of financial and technical support had been key in a rapidly evolving post-conflict situation.  As for the challenges ahead, stability in Sierra Leone was linked to that in neighbouring countries.  International, regional and subregional efforts were needed to secure the situation.  The root causes of conflict needed to be effectively addressed in the future.  If resources were not used equitably and transparently, including those from the use of natural resources, they could undermine stability.  Economic growth and employment creation would determine the sustainability of peace.

The Bank’s future efforts would be focused on consolidating peace and security via resettlement, rehabilitation and reintegration, promotion of good governance and expanding access of the poor to financial services.  Sierra Leone had reached the decision point under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative in March 2002.  HIPC relief in the amount of $600 million would be provided.

Baroness AMOS asked whether the Bank was prepared to move into peace-building activities before the conflict was fully over.

If opportunities were missed, all would suffer, Mr. FICHTL replied.  He might not be the right person to answer questions regarding the mandate, but he could say that development issues needed to be addressed in such a way as to reduce the risk of conflict.  Development partners needed to be involved at as early a stage as possible.

WANG YINGFAN (China) said that the right and wrong between the Government and the RUF in Sierra Leone had been clear.  In addition, the parties to the conflict were few, and ECOWAS had a united position on the conflict.  Also, the timely dispatch of troops by the United Kingdom had played an important role in that situation.  The United Nations had to face more complicated situations in areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where there were a greater number of actors. 

The success of peacekeeping operations depended on a variety of internal and external factors in the host country, he noted.  Peace in Sierra Leone could not be separated from the situation in the Mano River Union.  Sanctions against Liberia had played an important role in the peace process in Sierra Leone.  If the situation in Liberia further deteriorated, it could have a spillover effect on Sierra Leone and Guinea.  Presently, there were a number of initiatives to work towards a resolution of the crisis in Liberia.  Those efforts should be coordinated to ensure results. 

GEMMADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said that his country was deeply concerned over the complex situation which had emerged in the Mano River Union subregion, in particular, volatility in the border area between Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.  He supported strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and ECOWAS, including in the area of conflict prevention.  In that connection, he believed that the Council’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Africa should serve as a link between the Council and subregional organizations.  He commended the efforts of Morocco to bring about the ceasefire and to increase confidence between the heads of State in the region.

Stability there was increasingly linked to the progress in Sierra Leone, and the elections last May had represented an important step forward in that regard.  The new Government had started working on the priority tasks of re-establishing peace.  With the assistance of UNAMSIL, a total of almost 6,500 ex-combatants had been reintegrated, and some 20,600 others were currently participating in that process. It was well known that the Government was experiencing difficulties in conducting DDRR, and emergency targeted assistance was required in that connection.  Post-conflict peace-building depended on that, to a large extent.

Ongoing bloody conflict in Liberia remained a serious threat, he said, for the uncontrolled flow of refugees into neighbouring countries could destablize the situation in the region.  International humanitarian organizations continued to give assistance to refugees in dire need of assistance.  But the top priority now was providing free access for humanitarian workers to places where refugees were massed and creation of the environment for their safe return.  Liberia should fully comply with the demands of the Security Council, and all States should carry out their obligations to deny use of their territories for attacks on other countries.

ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that she wanted to focus her remarks on the contribution of the European Union to the Mano River Union peace process and on the way forward.  The European Union’s engagement in efforts to foster peace in the Mano River Union were well known.  Among other things, it had sent electoral observers to monitor the 2002 presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone.  It strongly supported ongoing international efforts to foster peace in the region.

In looking forward, the Union would continue to support the peace process in the region, she said.  She shared the view that it was essential to focus on finding a regional solution.  There was also a need for improved coordination and dialogue among all international actors involved in the region.  She noted the proposal to establish a contact group for the Mano River Union peace process.  It was also necessary to explore ways to strengthen support to ECOWAS.  Internal conflicts in Liberia and Guinea must not be allowed to destabilize the entire region by spilling over into Sierra Leone.  Just as the European Union would not hesitate to suggest actions that could be taken, it would also welcome suggestions from others as to the most helpful actions it could undertake.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said that the work of UNAMSIL could not be folded until peace and stability had been reached in the country.  The imposition of targeted sanctions against Liberia, until it had verifiably severed its links with the RUF, had contributed to progress in the region -- but was it enough?  In truth, no single course of action would produce a solution, which instead required concerted action on behalf of all stakeholders.  Regional and subregional organizations could also play an important part.  Efforts by ECOWAS and civil society needed international support.  The new United Nations Office for West Africa should make a strong effort to assist in peace-building measures.  The highly commendable Rabat process needed to continue.

Addressing impunity in Sierra Leone would have relevance in the whole area, he said.  The process of justice should take into account cultural practice and traditions, however. 

Turning to the need to “stay the course” and display tenacity in peace-building, he noted that it relied more on assessed funds than voluntary contributions.  The United Nations must be present in Sierra Leone on the basis of assessed funds.  The mandate of UNAMSIL was a clear example of such a conclusion.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that UNAMSIL was the main guarantor of security in Sierra Leone, and learning from past lessons, a premature withdrawal must be avoided.  Downsizing of UNAMSIL must be tied to a corresponding capacity increase in the Sierra Leonean military, police and justice system.  Stability in Sierra Leone was fundamental to improving the humanitarian situation and protecting refugees and internally displaced persons.  A regional preventive strategy must take into account the serious forced displacement situation. 

A main concern was the danger of the conflict in Liberia spilling into neighbouring countries, he said.  Sierra Leone must be supported in order to be capable of defending its own borders.  The sanctions on Liberia must be as effective as possible to prevent Mr. Taylor from continuing his destabilizing activities and minimizing the impact of humanitarian efforts.  Liberia’s problems were complex, involving political, economic and military aspects.  The security situation was precarious, and humanitarian organizations had difficulties operating.  That must be taken seriously by the international community. 

Responding to questions, Mr. PRENDERGAST said that discussions on reviewing the terms of reference for United Nations efforts in Liberia were under way.  They concerned expanded involvement in national reconciliation, higher profile in public information and more emphasis on human rights.  The discussions with Liberia were at a delicate point, and he did not want to expand on that.  A coherent and well thought-out policy for Liberia was needed. 

So far, efforts had been hampered, to a large extent, by the lack of funds, he continued.  When moving from peacekeeping to peace-building, the international community often moved from a feast to a fast.  The investment made should not be allowed to slip away.  The root causes of conflict needed to be addressed, and the Organization needed to “stay the course” in that respect.

It was important to deal with all the countries of the region, and it was for that reason that the Secretary-General had proposed establishing the United Nations office in the region, he said.  The precise role of the office in relation to Liberia had still to be determined.  Resources would be needed to successfully pursue the policies discussed today.  It was important not to succumb to "bipolar disorder", prescribing grand policies but denying the resources for their implementation.  Transfer from peacekeeping to peace-building was like a relay race, and the next runner had to start running before the first one had arrived.

Mr. MAR DIEYE said that, to some extent, the UNDP had anticipated the recent events, having funded several posts in the area and upscaling its efforts in Sierra Leone.  Resources for the regional office would be provided in order to conduct analysis of the situation, which could help to avoid crises in the future.  The UNDP would support the peace-building process in the area, he said.

General DIARRA said that the Council must now develop a unique strategy for Liberia, as it had done for Sierra Leone.  Also, how could that strategy be coordinated with the one to be developed by ECOWAS?  Another issue was how to support the strategy in the field so that it did not seem that the Council and ECOWAS held different positions. 

Mr. FALL said that the question of refugees could not be separated from the whole issue of stability in the subregion, and it was important that the Council continue to devote attention to that matter.  In that connection, establishing the conditions for reintegration of refugees to their countries of origin could facilitate their return.  Also, there was a need to organize dialogue within Liberia so that free elections could be held next year.  The timeline for those elections was very important.  On the need to relaunch contacts between the three heads of State, what Morocco was doing complemented the efforts of ECOWAS.  Perhaps in the coming weeks or months, there would be a meeting of the three heads of State.

Mr. KOROMA said that, while United Nations intervention in Sierra Leone was clearly a success, a few things needed to be done to ensure that the success was sustainable.  One of them was continued assistance for peace-building, including reintegration of ex-combatants and return of refugees.  Any UNAMSIL withdrawal must be accompanied by a build-up of Sierra Leone's internal security sector.  Secondly, the Security Council had many resources at its disposal, all of which could be brought to bear on the process to ensure that the lessons learned in Sierra Leone were applied on a regional scale.  A comprehensive solution was needed and the United Nations had the resources for that.

Thirdly, he said, on Liberia, there could be a conference similar to the one held for Sierra Leone between the Government and the RUF.  Such a conference must be backed by the United Nations, ECOWAS and the African Union.  Fourthly, a conference on Liberia should include provisions for a timetable for the 2003 elections in that country, tied in with a strong United Nations presence. 

Mr. RYAN (Ireland) added that the case of Sierra Leone, like that of East Timor, demonstrated the utility of clear mandates in the interest of efficiency, transparency and accountability.  The international community must continue to develop the thinking and good practices in that regard.  For budgetary reasons, it must not allow the components of relapse to reassemble themselves.  The transition

from peacekeeping to peace-building was a continuum, which went far beyond the security and peace spheres alone.

Closing Remarks by Council President

Summarizing the day’s discussion, Baroness AMOS (United Kingdom) said that many important ideas had been presented, demonstrating that the situation in Sierra Leone must not be looked at in isolation.  The instability in the region must be taken into account, and regional reconciliation efforts must be encouraged.  Coordination between initiatives was essential, as well as confidence-building and security measures. 

The speakers had recognized the importance of the new United Nations Office in West Africa as a focal point for international efforts, she continued.  The physical presence of the United Nations on the ground was critical.  Also recognized in the discussion was the need to reinforce efforts to stop illegal flow of arms and exploitation of natural resources.  Another aspect raised was the need to reconcile possible differences between the Security Council and others regarding sanctions against Liberia.  The mediation and conflict prevention role of ECOWAS should be emphasized, as well as the need to mobilize resources for peace-building and peacekeeping. 

There was a general view that, despite the difficulties, it was important for the international community to engage with Liberia, facilitate the dialogue within the country and look for new solutions there.  Great importance was attached to sustained efforts of the United Nations on the ground.  Central to the discussion was the issue of refugees and the need to look at refugee flows at an early stage.  The final important point was that the Council was a good place to bring key players together, not only in respect of the Mano River Union, but of other conflicts, as well.

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For information media. Not an official record.