Secretary-General’s Special Representative Delivers Final Security Council Briefing as United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire Prepares to Draw Down

SC/12852
2 June 2017
7957th Meeting* (PM)

Secretary-General’s Special Representative Delivers Final Security Council Briefing as United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire Prepares to Draw Down

Minister for Foreign Affairs Hails ‘Symbolic Moment’ as Country Wins Election to 15-Member United Nations Organ

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire delivered her final briefing to the Security Council today amid plans to withdraw the United Nations peacekeeping mission in that country later this month after 13 years deployed there.

Aïchatou Mindaoudou, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), noted that, in December 2016, the three main political parties had participated in legislative elections for the first time in the country’s political history, a positive step towards democracy.  Côte d’Ivoire had taken responsibility to return to its place as a standard-bearer for peace and security in West Africa, she added.

However, there had also been events of concern, she said, recalling that on 22 and 23 May, former combatants had raised barricades and held street demonstrations, calling upon the Government to pay them.  That event had paralysed economic activity, she noted, adding that in in another incident, soldiers had directly attacked civilians, confirming the severity of the remaining challenges and the need for an immediate Government response.  Although much had been achieved since the mission’s deployment in 2004, challenges persisted in relation to the fragile peace, transitional justice and the training of troops.

She went on to emphasize the urgent need for those in charge to improve discipline within the armed forces and to ensure the full reintegration of former combatants into society.  It was also critical to end impunity in order to ensure justice for all, she said, adding that all those efforts would have to be stepped up because UNOCI would close its doors on 30 June.  The Government still needed to put in place responsible security forces trusted by the people.

Marcel Amon-Tanoh, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, assured the Council:  “UNOCI leaves behind it a country which is stable and has peace.”  Vowing that the mission’s closure would not slow down the pace of reconciliation and growth, he said the Government was aware of the remaining challenges, among them building an effective and professional army, a process that had been upset recently, he admitted.  Many factors had contributed to the country’s success:  the political will and high sense of responsibility demonstrated by the President, the exceptional synergy between the Government and UNOCI, and the unity and resolve of the Council and the international community.  He said today was a symbolic moment for his country, having been elected a non-permanent Council member, and hopefully, lessons learned from its experience would help other countries hoping to go down a similar road to peace.

In the ensuing debate, delegates emphasized Côte d’Ivoire’s “extraordinary progress”, with Uruguay’s representative recalling that, just over a year ago, the Council had lifted the sanctions imposed on the country.  “We can say with pride today that Côte d'Ivoire is no longer a threat to international peace and security,” he declared.

Speakers also stressed that lessons learned from UNOCI could be used to improve future missions, as Italy’s representative said the mission could offer invaluable first-hand knowledge about the success of United Nations peacekeeping for years to come.

Despite much progress, however, the international community would have to remain vigilant and continue to support Côte d’Ivoire, China’s representative said, pointing out that 9 of the 16 United Nations peacekeeping operations were in Africa.  That meant peace on the continent was imperative to international security, he emphasized.

Echoing several voices that welcomed Côte d’Ivoire’s return to its place as a standard-bearer for democracy in West Africa, Senegal’s representative spotlighted the important work carried out by the country’s security forces in combating the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism throughout the subregion.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Japan, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sweden, Ukraine, United States, Kazakhstan and Bolivia.

At the outset, Council President Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) read out a statement, on behalf of the Security Council, condemning the deadly terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, that targeted innocent civilians.  After expressing their deepest condolences to the families of those killed and their sympathy to the people and the Government of Afghanistan, members observed a moment of silence.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:36 p.m.

Briefing

AÏCHATOU MINDAOUDOU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), delivered her final brief before that mission’s withdrawal at the end of the month.  She reported that, for the first time in the political history of Côte d'Ivoire, the three main political parties had participated in legislative elections, held last December, a positive step towards democracy.  However, several challenges persisted, she said, recalling that on 22 and 23 May, combatants had raised barricades and held demonstrations in the streets, calling for payment by the Government.  Such movements had paralysed economic activities in some parts of the country, she noted.  Soldiers had also directly attacked civilians, which confirmed the remaining challenges and the need for an immediate Government response.

She went on to emphasize the urgent need for those in charge to improve discipline within the armed forces and to ensure the full reintegration of former combatants into society.  It was also critical to end impunity in order to ensure justice for all.  Recalling that Côte d’Ivoire had been “split into two” when UNOCI had first been deployed in April 2004, she said violations of ceasefires and human rights had been rampant.  Since then, the human rights and transitional justice situation had shown some improvement, but there was still need to put in place responsible security forces trusted by the people, she said, noting that UNOCI’s closure would go into effect on 30 June.  The drawdown of staff was already under way and close to completion, she added.

On lessons learned, she said she had three essential points to share with the Council.  First, a peacekeeping mission could only achieve its goals and withdraw if and when the host Government became a determined partner in serving its own people; no mission could ever be a solution to the national challenges and problems that had led to conflict in the first place; and in the case of Côte d’Ivoire, the country had taken responsibility to return to its place as a standard-bearer for peace and security in West Africa.  The second lesson was that a mandate supported by the full confidence of the Council made it possible to make the most of the mission.  And third, a United Nations peacekeeping mission had a far greater chance to succeed when it enjoyed international support.  Mediation by the African Union, the deployment of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) peacekeeping troops, the action of women in civil society and the commitment of bilateral and multilateral partners were all essential to progress.

Statements

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said it was rare for the Council to meet on the occasion of a peacekeeping mission’s closure.  UNOCI’s upcoming departure should serve as an opportunity to take stock of the past, examine the present and prepare for the future.  At its height, some 11,000 uniformed personnel had been deployed to the mission and had seen Côte d’Ivoire through a complex period marked by several acute crises.  Highlighting factors that had contributed to UNOCI’s success, he said the Council had provided clear and adaptable mandate that had facilitated the strengthening of the mission as crises arose, it had created such important tools such as the Rapid Reaction Force, and UNOCI had provided support for the Government’s political process.  In addition, the mission had benefited from the unified support of the international community and from its “high-quality relationship” and mutual trust with the host country.  In the coming transition, there would be a need to continue tackling Côte d’Ivoire’s remaining challenges, including those related to finalizing security sector reform and the reintegration of former combatants.  “Closing UNOCI does not mean the country will be left alone to tackle its challenges,” he said, adding that the country would continue to benefit from United Nations support through several key channels.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) described today’s meeting as “historic and all the more brilliant” because Côte d’Ivoire was returning to the Council as a member itself.  Senegal supported the continuing efforts of Ivoirians on the ground, including in the implementation of military programming that would prove decisive in strengthening the training and discipline of the national army.  In that regard, he called attention to the important work carried out by Côte d’Ivoire’s security forces, alongside those of neighbouring countries, in combating the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism throughout the subregion.  Moving forward, the United Nations country team, ECOWAS, African Union, United Nations and all other partners must remain watchful and continue to support Côte d’Ivoire’s efforts to “make peace permanent”.

YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) noted that UNOCI’s 13 years of activity offered a “rich storehouse of lessons” on peacekeeping, and urged the Council to continue to apply those lessons, especially in Africa.  UNOCI had demonstrated, in particular, that comprehensive and nationally owned security-sector reform and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were key tools for ensuring successful peace processes and for preventing the recurrence of conflicts.  In that regard, he warned that unresolved disarmament, demobilization and reintegration issues — including incomplete socioeconomic reintegration of former soldiers — could have a negative impact even on well-designed security sector reform programmes and improved security architecture.

PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said Côte d’Ivoire’s successful legislative elections and its 2016 constitutional referendum demonstrated its maturity and “distinct trend towards stabilization”, noting also that the Government had undertaken unprecedented measures to engage in dialogue with the political opposition.  Indeed, constitutional provisions on land, citizenship and national identity looked promising in terms of addressing the deep roots of the crisis, he said, urging the country to make further efforts in the areas of security sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and the return of refugees from Liberia.  Regarding intensified threats of terrorism, especially on the border with Mali, he emphasized the need to devote continued attention to fighting the flow of illegal weapons and enhancing regional security.  He expressed satisfaction that UNOCI’s withdrawal was being completed within the allotted time limits.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom), said the Council was meeting at a significant moment for the people and Government of Côte d’Ivoire.  “UNOCI has been an exemplary operation,” he said, noting in particular that the mission was leaving in a harmonious manner and at the right moment.  Côte d’Ivoire now had one of the world’s fastest growing economies, he said, pledging his country’s commitment to stand by as it continued down the path of development.  Calling attention to the Secretary-General’s recent report on sexual violence in armed conflict, he recalled that Côte d’Ivoire’s armed forces had been delisted from its Annex, allowing the country to begin contributing to United Nations peacekeeping operations as it had recently done in Mali.  “There can be no let-up,” he said, underlining upcoming challenges, including elections in 2020.  As illustrated by the recent unrest, peace could still be fragile if the underlying causes of conflict were not addressed, he warned.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) recalled that just over a year ago, the Council had lifted the Côte d'Ivoire sanctions regime, given the progress made.  At the same time, internal challenges persisted, including the integration of ex-combatants into society and ensuring stable economic growth.  International partners would remain crucial.  “We can say with pride today that Côte d'Ivoire is no longer a threat to international peace and security,” he declared, stressing that success would not have been possible without the commitment of the Ivorian Government.

LIU JIEYI (China) said Côte d'Ivoire had enjoyed political stability and sustained economic development in recent years.  With the lifting of sanctions last year, the Council had demonstrated its confidence in Côte d'Ivoire to maintain peace.  The international community must continue to support the country beyond the closure of UNOCI.  Any future missions must reflect the ground situation and remain open to timely adjustments in order to scale responses to challenges.  Nine of 16 United Nations missions were in Africa, meaning that peace on the continent was imperative to international security.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), noting that UNOCI’s upcoming closure would mark important day in the Council’s history, underscored the need to learn from the progress made when considering future missions.  Italy would continue to support Côte d'Ivoire bilaterally, at the United Nations and through various European Union efforts.  International and regional security trends meant that there must be a sufficient commitment to stability by the Government, he said, stressing that Côte d'Ivoire could offer invaluable first-hand knowledge about the success of a United Nations mission for years to come.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), welcoming that Côte d’Ivoire was “turning the page” towards peace, said optimism for a more prosperous future now prevailed across the country.  That success was due in part to the international community’s diligence, as well as the unified vision of Côte d’Ivoire’s regional and international partners, he said, adding that UNOCI’s closure was just the beginning of a new phase to anchor peace.  Indeed, the remaining challenges “deserve our full attention” and the international community should provide support to the Government and people of Côte d’Ivoire as they continued down the path of peace.  Emphasizing the importance of drawing lessons from UNOCI, he proposed that the Secretariat conduct a comprehensive study on the United Nations role and that of the international community — including their use of sanctions regimes — in ending the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), welcoming the leadership and commitment of Côte d’Ivoire to undertake necessary reforms, as well as its efforts to foster greater unity and national reconciliation, expressed confidence that such work would continue to advance.  “[Côte d’Ivoire] certainly needs the continued support of the international community” as it strived to consolidate gains made in recent years, he said, welcoming that the handover from UNOCI to the United Nations country team was taking place according to the established timeline.

CARL SKAU (Sweden) declared that “today is a day of transition for Côte d’Ivoire”, recalling that the Council had gathered to discuss the closure of UNOCI on the same day that the country had been elected as one of its non-permanent members.  While the Mission’s closure represented an important milestone, he, nevertheless, stressed that “this is not the end of the road for Côte d’Ivoire” as it consolidated a stable and secure society for all Ivoirians.  The Council monitor developments on the ground, including the second incidence of mutiny by soldiers, which demanded a serious response.  There was a need to restructure the armed forces, enhance cohesion and reform the security sector, he said, as well as continue international engagement.  While welcoming the robust transition plan developed by the United Nations and agreed with the Government last year, he said the Mission’s closure meant the United Nations presence was facing a “financial cliff”.  Member States had a joint responsibility to ensure that the United Nations country teams had sufficient capacity to enable their work going forward.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) underscored that a great deal of effort and resources had been invested in the stabilization of Côte d’Ivoire, which had produced encouraging results.  Significant progress had been made in restoring State authority throughout the country, rebuilding the security sector and promoting national cohesion and reconciliation.  While Côte d’Ivoire was now at peace, chronic problems persisted, which would require a cohesive and long-term action plan involving national actors, the United Nations and other stakeholders.  The recent mutinies should serve as a call to national leaders for redoubled efforts to turn peace into concrete dividends.

STEPHEN GEE (United States) said it was a momentous occasion when a peacekeeping mission could close after having completed its work in support of a country emerging from conflict.  In just four weeks, UNOCI would shut its doors after having provided critical support to the 2003 peace agreement and during the 2010 political crisis.  The mission was a success story and model for overcoming conflict and restoring peace.  The United States looked forward to Côte d'Ivoire maintaining that momentum and supporting the peace and security that had taken root.  Yet, challenges remained, including the recent mutinies that had led to a disruption of commerce, the closure of schools and unrest.  He called on the Government to transparently and inclusively accelerate and deepen security sector reforms.  The smart transition planning involving the Mission, the Government, international partners and the United Nations country team had been critical to the efficient closure of the Mission.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) welcomed the mission’s successful closure, which testified to the stability achieved by the Government and people of Côte d'Ivoire, the United Nations, the Council and troop-contributing countries.  Kazakhstan was proud to have been part of that process, having sent military observers to Côte d'Ivoire.  He commended the Government for the remarkable progress made, which was a clear demonstration of its commitment to the country’s future.  Gains must be leveraged in order to overcome the remaining challenges, including by fostering political cohesion.  Underscoring the need for resources, he called on the international community to provide strong assistance to the country.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, noting that the lessons learned from UNOCI’s deployment would contribute to other United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world.  Applauding the efforts of the Government and people of Côte d’Ivoire — particularly in the areas of national reconciliation and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration — he urged the international community to continue to help their pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals while also ensuring full respect for Côte d’Ivoire’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

MARCEL AMON-TANOH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire, noted that his country had been elected as a non-permanent Council member, while UNOCI would soon close its doors.  “This is a symbolic moment,” he added.  Expressing hope that the lessons learned from its experience would provide support for other countries hoping to go down a similar road to peace, he said that while many factors had contributed to the country’s success, political will and a high sense of responsibility on the President’s part — as well as the exceptional synergy between the Government and UNOCI, and the unity and resolve of the Council and the international community — had been particularly critical.  “UNOCI leaves behind it a country which is stable and has peace,” he said.  Côte d’Ivoire was continuing its efforts to fight poverty, he said, adding that the Government was aware of the other remaining challenges.  In particular, it had to complete the building of an effective and professional army, a process that had recently been upset, he said.  Vowing that UNOCI’s closure would not slow the pace of national reconciliation and growth, he pledged to continue to work closely with the United Nations, and requested that the Organization provide its country team with additional resources in that regard.

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*  The 7956th Meeting was closed.

For information media. Not an official record.