|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7213th Meeting (AM)
As New Crises Emerge in West Africa, Meeting Social Needs Presents Difficulties,
Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council
With “remarkable strides” in the stabilization of Mali and Guinea-Bissau and high economic growth in West Africa, regional actors were refocusing on development needs while dealing with Boko Haram terrorists, the Ebola virus and other emerging crises, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General told the Security Council this morning.
“The countries of West Africa continue to experience great difficulties in meeting expectations in social needs,” Said Djinnit underscored as he introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2014/442) on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), which he heads.
“Encouraging economic figures have not necessarily changed the living conditions for the population, who do not always benefit from the dividends of this economic progress,” Mr. Djinnit added, noting gaps in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in the region in the areas of extreme poverty, hunger, education and gender issues.
In addition, countries that had experienced stability crises were diverting much of their limited resources to the security sector, to the detriment of development needs, he said.
In resolving those crises, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) continued to play the primary role, he said. The organization had deployed a stabilization force in Guinea-Bissau ahead of what he called a successful transition process that had paved the way for the establishment of stable democratic institutions.
On the other hand, the crisis in Mali, where he welcomed resumed dialogues between the parties, had shown the limits of the ability of the region and the continent to respond rapidly to crises, and ECOWAS and the African Union were now working to create rapid response mechanisms.
The security situation in the Sahel, he said, remained of great concern, with violence against civilians in Nigeria continuing to escalate; 18 attacks were attributed to Boko Haram in the past two weeks alone. He commended those States that were helping to obtain the safe release of the abducted schoolgirls and he called it critical that Security Council members continue to support efforts to maintain Nigeria’s stability.
Underscoring the paramount need for the Nigerian political class to forge a unified stand in confronting persisting insecurity, Mr. Djinnit said that he would soon visit Nigeria and review implementation of the Integrated Support Package and encourage further national and regional efforts to deal with the challenges.
He noted that upcoming challenges included a new electoral cycle planned for 2015, when no less than five important elections would be organized, notably in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger and Nigeria, often in highly polarized environments. UNOWA would continue to work closely with ECOWAS and other stakeholders to prevent political differences from developing into violence.
He said UNOWA also continued to devote considerable effort to sensitizing the area’s leaders to the need for concerted regional efforts on transnational organized crime, backed by the international community, to fight drug trafficking, piracy, terrorism and other cross-border issues.
In that vein, he said his office had continued to support the implementation of the Strategy for Cross-border Security in the Mano River Union, as well as the strategic framework adopted at the 2013 Yaoundé Summit on crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.
Finally, he called the Council’s attention to the severity of the Ebola pandemic. The outbreak, identified in February in south-east Guinea, had rapidly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, resulting in at least 759 infections and 467 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“It is important that the international community pays due attention and support to this epidemic, which is adding to many other challenges to stability in the region,” he said.
The meeting opened at 10:04 a.m. and adjourned at 10:21 a.m., at which time Council members were invited into consultations on UNOWA.
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