West Africa has taken important strides in consolidating peace and democratic governance after conflicts, but those gains are increasingly imperiled by new threats and cross-cutting threats and challenges including drug trafficking and growing youth unemployment.
Through the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), a Dakar-based political mission managed by the Department of Political Affairs, the United Nations is working with partners around the region to help countries build on progress and cope with threats. UNOWA works closely with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as other partners and UN entities to promote an integrated approach to regional issues. Its priorities include the fight against youth unemployment, food insecurity and the impact of the global economic crisis, organized crime and drug trafficking, small arms proliferation, security sector reform, human rights and democratic governance.
UNOWA is headed by Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa. The presence of a senior UN political envoy in the region has enabled the Organization to carry out timely initiatives in preventive diplomacy and to contribute to regional responses to political crises in several countries, including Guinea, Niger and Mauritania. Another key element of UNOWA’s mandate is to strengthen cooperation across the UN system in pursuit of the common objective of stabilizing and consolidating peace in West Africa.
The Special Representative also serves as Chairman of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC), which was established to facilitate the implementation of the 2002 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Cameroon-Nigeria boundary dispute. The mandate of the Mixed Commission includes supporting the delimitation and demarcation of the 1,950 kilometer-long land boundary and maritime boundary between the two countries, facilitating withdrawal and transfer of authority along the boundary, addressing the situation of affected populations and making recommendations on confidence-building measures. Resolutions and agreements on the four sections of the ICJ ruling have been reached, comprising of the withdrawal and transfer of authority in the Lake Chad area (December 2003), along the land boundary (July 2004), and in the Bakassi Peninsula (June 2006).
The peaceful completion of the transfer of authority in Bakassi from Nigeria to Cameroon, in August 2008, marked a critical milestone in the implementation of the ICJ ruling and the peaceful resolution of the boundary dispute between the two countries. Physical demarcation of the boundary is expected to be completed by 2012.
UNOWA is also hosts the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel (OSES), currently occupied by Hiroute Guebre Sellassie.