10 August 2006
In Presidential Statement, Security Council Calls for Enhanced Cooperation between UN, African Union, West African States to Consolidate Peace in Region
Speakers Stress Need to Assist West African Governments in Addressing Cross-Border Issues Such as Illegal Small Arms, Youth Unemployment, Disarming Ex-Fighters
NEW YORK, 9 August (UN Headquarters) -- Emphasizing the regional dynamics of peace and security in West Africa, and the unique interdependence of the countries in the subregion, the Security Council today called for enhanced cooperation between the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to help the region's Governments consolidate peace and address cross-border issues, such as the flow of illegal small arms, youth unemployment, disarming ex-fighters and the exploitation of natural resources.
In a statement (S/PRST/2006/38) that capped a day-long open debate on the consolidation of peace in West Africa, Nana Akufo-Addo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana, which holds the Council's presidency for the month, said the 15-nation body stressed the continued need for West African States and ECOWAS to curb illicit cross-border activities, and reiterated the importance of all West African leaders to work together for peace and security in the region.
While welcoming the transition from war to democratic rule in Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Liberia, as well as the current efforts aimed at implementing free and fair elections in Côte d'Ivoire, the Council noted that the situation in those countries remained generally stable, but fragile, and stressed the need to build the capacity of national institutions to address the root causes of conflict as an essential part of peace consolidation, especially in the areas of political and economic governance, the rule of law and the fight against impunity.
Also, according to the statement, the Council considered that illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons still posed a threat to peace and security in the region and, in that connection, welcomed the recent decision of ECOWAS to transform its moratorium on importing, exporting and manufacturing of small arms into a binding convention. It further urged all States within and outside the region to ensure compliance with existing arms embargoes, in West Africa and for the States within ECOWAS to ratify that convention as soon as possible to enable it to come into effect promptly.
The Security Council also underlined the crucial importance if the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, taking into account the special needs of child soldiers and women, and encouraged the international community to work in close partnership with the countries concerned. It also reiterated the importance of finding effective solutions to the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons in the region, and urged West African States to collaborate with relevant international organizations and donor countries to create the necessary conditions for their voluntary and safe return.
Further, according to the statement, the Council considered reform of the security sector an essential element for sustainable peace and stability in the long troubled region, and urgently called on the donor community, the international community and the international financial institutions to coordinate their effort to support the States concerned.
Setting the stage for the debate, Ghana's Foreign Affairs Minister Akufo-Addo, told the Council that West Africa was at a crossroads, and "we must get our bearings right". He noted that, though the guns were falling silent over much of the region, there remained simmering tensions in Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. Somehow, those must be resolved before they became intractable. At the same time, one must not lose sight of the need to strengthen the foundations of peace, even in those countries that had not experienced major upheavals or conflicts, particularly since all the countries in the region were in the bottom 25 per cent of the Human Development Index, he said.
In 1975, when ECOWAS was founded, there had been good reason to be optimistic about transforming the region into an economic powerhouse, he said. But, it seemed that, some 31 years later, West Africa was a mere shadow of the vision that its possibilities had inspired. It had only been a matter of time before the region had been engulfed in conflict, starting with Liberia in December 1989, and spreading rapidly to Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and, indeed, threatening to destabilize the entire region.
"Undoubtedly, we have paid dearly for the political instability that has plagued the region for much of the post-colonial era, which has seen a precipitous decline in the living standards of the people," he said, stressing that, if the partnership envisioned under the Peacebuilding Commission should materialize, a stabilized West Africa, with its rich human and material resources, would succeed in building a modern, globally competitive and progressive economy, capable of sustaining its 250 million inhabitants for the benefit of the region and the entire world.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that for peace in West Africa to prevail -- and to last -- the United Nations and the wider international community were seeking to develop meaningful peacebuilding initiatives, including reconciliation and confidence-building processes, as well as mechanisms to strengthen the rule of law. That was essential to support fragile post-conflict countries, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau.
"Too many times, in international responses to post-conflict situations, we have suffered from the same weaknesses -- shortage of funds, lack of international coordination and a tendency to leave too soon," he said, adding, "This can reverse hard-won results and undermine attempts to build solid States and societies."
Drawing attention to another serious issue, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for West Africa, said the region was in demographic transition, as almost 60 per cent of its inhabitants were under 30. And, since many of them had no chance of finding jobs, rather than becoming a source of hope, they had become a source of instability in the region. Indeed, for many years, wars had been their chief employers. This trend should be acknowledged and taken seriously by the international community.
Still, the region was working actively to integrate itself into the wider affairs of Africa and the international community, he said. The people were determined to promote democracy and peace, and the current connectivity of the world, brought about by globalization, had made it easier for the people of the region to follow the work of the Council and the wider international community on their behalf. Therefore, the Council should continue to focus on vulnerable and fragile societies.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said that from July 2004 to June 2005, the United Nations had spent an estimated $4.5 billion on peacekeeping operations, but that would not have been worthwhile without post-conflict peace consolidation efforts as backup. Indeed, if urgent steps were not taken to scale up peacebuilding initiatives, the United Nations risked "a conflict backlash".
Peace consolidation for West African countries should include four components: the rebuilding of democratic institutions, like the judiciary, parliament and the civil service; security reform and the establishment of competent and national security forces; economic support of Governments in need of rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and delivering social services to the people; and private sector development. The United Nations might also be useful in helping to mobilize the diaspora, so that the people living abroad could help develop local capacity in economic policy formulation. Liberia, for instance, had tremendous resources in North America.
The First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d'Ivoire and the Secretary-General in the Ministry of State in charge of Foreign Affairs of Guinea, also participated in the debate.
Also speaking were the representatives of Russian Federation, China, Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Peru, France, Congo, Slovakia, United States, Japan, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Guatemala, Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Namibia, Egypt, Senegal, Brazil, India, Libya, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Niger and Liberia.
The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and was suspended 1:03 p.m. It resumed at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:20 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2006/38 reads as follows:
"The Security Council, recalling its relevant resolutions and the statements of its President, stresses the importance of addressing the issue of peace consolidation in West Africa in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. It recognizes the need for such an approach for durable solutions to the conflicts in West Africa and to explore ways and means to promote sustainable peace, security and development.
"The Security Council welcomes the transition from war to democratic rule in Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Liberia, as well as current efforts aimed at implementing measures leading to free and fair elections in Cote d'Ivoire. It also notes that the security situation in those countries remains generally stable but fragile.
"The Security Council stresses the need to build the capacity of national institutions to address the root causes of conflict as an essential part of peace consolidation, especially in the areas of political and economic governance as well as the rule of law and the fight against impunity.
"The Security Council recalls the measures it has implemented on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the region and encourages ECOWAS Member States to promote transparent and sustainable exploitation of such resources.
"The Security Council stresses the primary role of each West African Government in peace consolidation for the benefit of all citizens and reiterates the importance of all leaders working together for peace and security in the region.
"The Security Council considers that illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons (SALW) still poses a threat to peace and security in the region. In this connection, it welcomes the decision of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Member States to transform the Moratorium on the Import, Export and Manufacture of Light weapons into a binding Convention on SALW, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials. It further urges all States, both within and outside the region, to ensure compliance with its existing arms embargoes in West Africa and for states within ECOWAS to ratify the Convention as soon as possible to enable it to come into effect promptly.
"The Security Council considers that civil society, including women's organizations, has a role to play in supporting peace consolidation initiatives in the region and that their efforts in this regard deserve to be supported as appropriate.
"The Security Council underlines the crucial importance of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants, taking into account the special needs of child soldiers and women, and encourages the international community to work in close partnership with the countries concerned. It further affirms the need to find lasting solutions to the problem of youth unemployment in order to prevent the recruitment of such youth by illegal armed groups.
"The Security Council considers reform of the security sector an essential element for sustainable peace and stability in West Africa and urgently calls on the donor community and the international financial institutions to co-ordinate their efforts to support the states concerned.
"The Security Council stresses the continued need for assisting West African states and ECOWAS to curb illicit cross-border activities.
"The Security Council reiterates the importance of finding effective solutions to the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region and urges the states in the region in collaboration with relevant international organizations and donor countries, to create the necessary conditions for their voluntary and safe return.
"The Security Council welcomes the positive role played by the international community and civil society in addressing the humanitarian situation in many parts of the region and urges them to provide adequate resources as part of a coordinated humanitarian response strategy to improve the human security of the people West Africa in need of such protection.
"The Security Council stresses the need to ensure improved co-ordination of donor initiative in order to make the best use of available resources, as well as encourage donor partners to redeem their pledges in a timely manner.
"The Security Council further stresses the need for continued and enhanced co-operation between the United Nations, ECOWAS and the African Union in peace consolidation initiatives, based on an integrated approach and with the aim of maximizing the use of available resources. In this connection, it commends the role of the United Nations Office in West Africa (UNOWA) and as well as other United Nations offices, missions and agencies in the region in facilitating, in close co-operation with the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat and its Member States, the achievement of peace and security priorities of the region. It further encourages the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the United Nations missions in the region to continue their efforts in coordinating United Nations activities to ensure their improved cohesion and maximum efficiency.
"The Security Council underscores the importance and the role of the Peacebuilding Commission in assisting countries emerging from conflict to achieve sustainable peace and stability.
"The Security Council emphasizes the regional dimension of peace and security in West Africa and requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with the ECOWAS Secretariat, to submit to it by the end of the year a report with recommendations on the co-operation between the United Nations missions deployed in the region and on the cross-border issues in West Africa."
The Security Council met this morning to hold an open debate on peace consolidation in West Africa.
Statement by Foreign Minister of Ghana
NANA AKUFO-ADDO, Minster of Foreign Affairs of Ghana, said that, despite the clamour of events in other regions of the world, it was appropriate that, with Ghana in the chair, the Council held at least one meeting on peace in West Africa, using the lessons of Ghana's experience and all the peacemaking tools at its disposal to meet existing and emerging challenges. The aim should not only be to preserve the region's modest achievements in the area of peace after nearly two decades of conflicts, but to address the underlying causes, with a view to finding practical solutions to chronic instability in the region.
The Council should examine all aspects of the situation, including conflict prevention, management and resolution, as well as peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding. The international community must focus less on quick fixes and more on lasting solutions to the problem of chronic instability. He welcomed the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, which should considerably enhance the prospects for realizing post-conflict recovery, and, equally important, for ensuring the long-term engagement of the world community that was so critical to its success.
"West Africa is at a crossroads, and we must get our bearings right," he said, noting that, though the guns were falling silent over much of the region, there remained simmering tensions in such countries as Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. Somehow, those must be resolved before they became intractable. At the same time, one must not lose sight of the need to strengthen the foundations of peace, even in those countries that had not experienced major upheavals or conflicts, particularly since all the countries in the region were in the bottom 25 per cent of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Index.
He said that, in July 1975, when the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had been founded, there had been good reason to be optimistic about transforming the region into an economic powerhouse. It had been envisaged that, once the artificial barriers of language, lopsided infrastructure development, backwards technology and duplicative or inefficient production services had been transcended, the region could exploit the advantages of free movement of people, goods and services across boundaries to build strong economies for the well-being of the people. But, it seemed that, some 31 years later, the region was a mere shadow of the vision that its possibilities had inspired.
"Undoubtedly, we have paid dearly for the political instability that has plagued the region for much of the post-colonial era, which has seen a precipitous decline in the living standards of the people," he said, adding that, while the situation was complex, it was now clearly understood that many of the region's problems could be rightly blamed on authoritarian rule, lack of good governance and unaccountable leadership, all of which had contributed immensely towards impoverishing and polarizing societies. Indeed, it had only been a matter of time before the region had been engulfed in conflicts, starting with Liberia in December 1989, and spreading rapidly to Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and, indeed, threatening to destabilize the entire region. The Council had stood beside the region in its darkest hours of conflict. He welcomed the role the United Nations had played in supporting ECOWAS to undertake peace missions.
While all recognized that ECOWAS and the countries of the region were faced with serious constraints, the international community's strategy should focus on resolving ongoing conflicts as quickly as possible, and at least preventing them from escalating, preventing fresh outbreaks of conflict, creating frameworks and building capacities to implement peace initiatives, and addressing underlying causes in a comprehensible manner. Those broad objectives should be translated into programmes of action. The international community should redouble its efforts to address some of the pressing issues that posed a clear and present danger for peace and security in West Africa, particularly achieving complete disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, especially child soldiers and mercenaries. Several cross-border issues needed to be addressed, including the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, exploitation of natural resources, drug smuggling, human trafficking and repatriation of refugees.
If the partnership envisioned under the Peacebuilding Commission should materialize, a stabilized West Africa, with its rich human and material resources, would succeed in building a modern, globally competitive and progressive economy, capable of sustaining its 250 million inhabitants for the benefit of the region and the entire world. He said that the silver lining to the dark clouds that had hovered over the region was the indomitable will of the West African people to create democratic Governments and promote peace and stability at local levels.
Statement by Secretary-General
KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary-General, said that political stability and prosperity continued to elude most of the West African region. The counties of the region continued to be plagued by grave and widespread shortcomings of governance, which prevented them from taking advantage of the region's rich natural resources and fulfilling its potential for social and economic development. "We all know too well the close connections between different countries in West Africa," he said. "We have learnt the hard way that we need a holistic approach to these conflicts. Insecurity has no respect for national boundaries."
For peace to prevail -- and to last -- the United Nations and the wider international community were seeking to develop meaningful peacebuilding initiatives, including reconciliation and confidence-building processes, as well as mechanisms to strengthen the rule of law, he said. That was essential to support fragile post-conflict countries, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau. "Too many times, in international responses to post-conflict situations, we have suffered from the same weaknesses -- shortage of funds, lack of international coordination and a tendency to leave too soon," he said, adding: "This can reverse hard-won results and undermine attempts to build solid States and societies."
That was why Member States at last September's United Nations World Summit had decided to create the Peacebuilding Commission, which had held its first meeting in June. And it had also been for all those reasons that the United Nations had established its Office for West Africa (UNOWA), based in Dakar, to develop a regional strategy. That work involved continuing efforts to prevent conflict, as demonstrated by the United Nations support for Nigeria and Cameroon, when they had reached an agreement in June on ways to implement a settlement of the 40-year dispute over Bakassi, he said. Through the presence of three United Nations peacekeeping missions and one peacebuilding support office in the subregion, the Organization was demonstrating its commitment to efforts to end the cycle of violence that had destroyed so many lives and infrastructure.
AMHEDOU OULD-ABDALLAH, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, said the region was in political and economic transition. It was also in demographic transition, as almost 60 per cent of its inhabitants were under 30. And, since many of them had no chance of finding jobs, rather than becoming a source of hope, they had become a source of instability in the region. Indeed, for many years, wars had been their chief employers. This trend should be acknowledged and taken seriously by the international community, as it considered ways to consolidate peace in West Africa. The region was also plagued by lagging economic and social development, and faced new troubles brought by porous borders and increased piracy on the high seas.
Still, the region was working actively to integrate itself into the wider affairs of Africa and the international community, he said. The people were determined to promote democracy and peace, and the current connectivity of the world, brought about by globalization, had made it easier for the people of the region to follow the work of the Council and the wider international community on their behalf. Therefore, the Council should continue to focus on vulnerable and fragile societies.
He told the Council that this was an important year for the region, as it was set to hold several elections, in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Mali and Sierra Leone, among others. Therefore, it was important to focus on finding solutions to critical issues, such as youth unemployment and its impact on national and regional security, informal migration and its increasing impact on local and national Governments and peaceful democratic change and its impact, as well as urban migration.
MOHAMED IBN CHAMBAS, Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said that conflict in West Africa was a serious threat to global peace and security. Furthermore, the youth crisis in West Africa, which was due partly to the prolonged conflicts in some West African countries and the debilitating economic situation there, posed serious migration challenges for countries in Europe and North America. Clearly, it was cheaper and easier to invest in peace than to contain and resolve conflicts.
He said that, from July 2004 to June 2005, it was estimated that the United Nations had spent $4.5 billion on peacekeeping operations, but that would not have been worthwhile without post-conflict peace consolidation efforts as backup. Indeed, if urgent steps were not taken to scale up peacebuilding initiatives, the United Nations risked "a conflict backlash". Peace consolidation for West African countries should include four components: the rebuilding of democratic institutions, like the judiciary, parliament and the civil service; security reform and the establishment of competent and national security forces; economic support of Governments in need of rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and delivering social services to the people; and private sector development.
Mr. Chambas went on to say that most post-conflict countries did not have the fiscal basis to raise the revenue needed for their budgetary obligations, which depended largely on foreign aid. Furthermore, infrastructure used to deliver electricity and water, as well as roads, had collapsed or were barely functional. International assistance would be useful in those instances. As for institutions central to effective governance, those, too, needed capacity-building support. In addition, conducting elections was an arduous challenge for post-conflict countries. The United Nations might also be useful in helping to mobilize the diaspora, so that the people living abroad could help develop local capacity in economic policy formulation. Liberia, for instance, had tremendous resources in North America.
The establishment of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission was a welcome development, he said. Africa, which had 8 out of the 17 United Nations peacekeeping operations, should qualify for the Commission's pilot scheme, with the continued support of different United Nations agencies, such as the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA). Support should also be given to ECOWAS, which was undertaking various peacebuilding initiatives, including accelerating the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). Among other things, ECOWAS had also established a "Peace Fund", he noted.
SHEIKH HAMAD BIN JASSIM BIN JABR AL-THANI, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said that West Africa was closer than ever to consolidating regional peace, due, in large measure, to national political will and commitment, as well as to the support of regional organizations, such as ECOWAS and the African Union. The efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General, a citizen of West Africa, had also been invaluable. Further, the Organization of the Islamic Conference Summit, scheduled to take place in Senegal in 2009, would be another opportunity to enhance the capacity of international organizations in that regard.
Yet, he said, diligence and success in politics and Government did not, by themselves, lead to the consolidation of peace and human security. It was incumbent on West Africans, alongside the international community, to open new vistas of stability and recovery. It was also essential to strive for social and economic reconstruction, and utmost care must be given to the socio-economic dimensions of peace, to prevent a recurrence of violence. The prerequisites to peace consolidation were new institutional frameworks to galvanize the national polity, particularly to inculcate a sense of civic pride and ownership in community and country; a review of human resource development that would take into account the central role of families and enhancing social integration, tackling youth unemployment, brain drain and the issue of refugees; and a creative look at educational reconstruction.
He said that enhancing coordination between regional and international peacebuilding mechanisms was also necessary. The Peacebuilding Commission and the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding would be the axis of an important partnership. Financial support from the international community was also needed in specific social sectors, such as health, education and welfare, because it was those social sectors that, when adequately financed, could address the problems of child soldiers, the disabled, female ex-combatants, orphans and refugees. Finally, it was time for the Security Council to recognize education as part and parcel of a peace and security strategy.
YOUSSOUF BAKAYOKO, Minister of Foreign Affairs of C ôte d'Ivoire, said today's debate was timely for his country, which had long been striving to emerge from a political and security crisis with the help of the Council. Peace consolidation in the subregion was necessary, so that the countries there could meet the challenges posed by globalization and technological changes, which, so far, had been made more difficult by instability and war. As for Côte d'Ivoire, the country was working hard to overcome obstacles to peace and reconciliation, and today's meeting gave him hope that the quest for economic and social development of the subregion would be met.
He said the raison d'être of the United Nations was to save succeeding generations from war, and to establish better conditions for life in greater freedom. Indeed, today's meeting attested to the will and determination of the Governments present to achieve true progress, and to properly interpret the complexities of West Africa in doing so. Indeed, peace consolidation required the simultaneous tackling of poverty and promoting good governance and democracy. Sadly, West Africa had lost its legendary tranquillity, and had become a theatre of many conflicts -- the result of ethnic and political misunderstandings, among other things, that had degenerated into civil war and torn apart neighbouring countries seeking to preserve borders inherited from the colonial era.
He said the ideals of responsibility and fairness, to protect ordinary citizens and to punish violations of their rights, must be upheld. However, a delicate balance must be maintained. In a post-conflict context, justice rendered too early could undermine the "timid confidence" among former enemies, while justice too late could prevent society from turning the page. International partners must, therefore, provide support for mechanisms to resolve disputes, so as to build respect for the rule of law in the region. Also, the proliferation and illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons was a major problem, where 90 per cent of victims were civilians. Developing a culture of peace among West African people could not be brought about by political stability alone, but also through economic development. As such, peace and prosperity must be sought on the same level as political stability.
MOHAMED LAMINE TOURE, Secretary-General in the Ministry of State in charge of Foreign Affairs of Guinea, said the ongoing hotbeds of tension in West Africa over the past 15 years were due, in large part, to the failure to establish and implement effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, poor development planning and the failure to settle simmering cross-border issues and problems, among other things. While success could be welcomed in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau, the balance of the States in the region faced troubling problems. Indeed, despite the willingness of the leaders of the region to ensure peace and security, real stability could not be achieved, unless the wider international community heeded the advice of and drew on the real experiences of the region's people.
He said that, while Guinea could not be considered a country emerging from conflict, it had nevertheless suffered greatly from the instability of four countries at its borders. Problems included environmental degradation, the spread of illnesses, pressure arising from already fragile infrastructure and large numbers of refugees. He welcomed the establishment of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and other efforts to provide assistance, but launched an appeal to the Council and the wider United Nations to help his country do more to ensure peace and stability. Indeed, without peace, development could not be achieved. With that in mind, Guinea had decided to convene a subregional conference on good neighbourliness, which would aim to promote peace and stability with a human element. Guinea would continue to work tirelessly for "its subregion in distress", to ensure the well-being of its people.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said examples had shown that the way to achieve stability in West Africa was to strengthen the rule of law, strengthen democracy and promote good governance. More than 2 million people had perished in that region because of conflicts. From its work, the Security Council had come to understand that the greatest difficulties were often encountered during the transitional period. The Council had seen examples of peace agreements not being implemented fully; newly established Governments being systematically battered; timetables not being observed; deadlines for elections violated; and efforts at disarmament, demobilization and reintegration being obstructed. Furthermore, a sense of impunity had, in some instances, led to relapses of human rights violations.
He said the new Peacebuilding Commission had a major role to play, noting that the cases of Sierra Leone and Burundi were being considered. Also, intensified cooperation between the United Nations and ECOWAS was needed. Indeed, initiatives to resolve key tasks, undertaken by member countries, deserved encouragement, but it was crucial for leading donor countries and international financial institutions to support those efforts, or else they were "doomed to failure".
Post-conflict recovery and development assistance should become important components in preventing conflict in Africa, he added. Monitoring and analysing risks of conflict arising there were important in preventing a relapse into crisis; indeed, emergency assistance must be followed up with activities to support long-term goals, such as the integration of vulnerable groups. However, those activities were subordinate to the main goal of political stability. As the current chairman of the "Group of Eight" (G-8), Russia placed great importance on settling conflicts on the African continent, a subject which had taken up a significant portion of the recent G-8 Summit in St Petersburg, Russia. Indeed, Russia believed in the importance of establishing open, equal and mutually advantageous partnerships with African countries, but he noted that external assistance should supplement, not take the place of, African States' own steps.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) noted that the majority of the conflict countries in the region had embarked on the track of post-conflict reconstruction. Improving their internal situations would have a positive impact on the region's overall stability and development. He commended the United Nations system, ECOWAS, the African Union and other organizations for their important role in that regard. In spite of such achievements, the current stability was still extremely fragile. The West African region still faced numerous challenges on the way to genuinely sustainable development. The top priority was to continue consolidating the hard-won peace and to prevent the squandering of the achievements already made, while, at the same time, exploring ways to attain development. In that regard, he supported the formulation of a comprehensive strategy for peace consolidation in West African countries. Post-war reconciliation was a tremendous endeavour, and the countries concerned should develop systematic plans, including in the areas of national reconciliation, institution-building, economic recovery and youth employment.
Post-war reconstruction should be carried out with both short- and long-term objectives, so that the vast majority of the population could benefit from the peace dividend, he said. While the international community could provide support, the key issue was the efforts of Governments of the countries concerned. International assistance should not replace their work. United Nations agencies, as well as the international financial institutions, had much to do in consolidating peace in the region. They should assist the countries concerned by doing what they did best, namely providing financial assistance and professional support.
He added that the Council should look at the root causes of turmoil and conflict, while taking into account the special concerns of the African people. It should also exercise caution when applying sanctions. The Peacebuilding Commission had opened a new forum for responding to West Africa's peaceful reconstruction and its establishment had provided an important opportunity for the formulation of policies for peace consolidation there. West African issues, like other challenges facing the African continent, boiled down to the issue of development. Realizing durable peace in West Africa not only required addressing regional hot-spot issues, but also needed substantial efforts to help the region tackle the root causes of its problems. China supported strengthened coordination among the various United Nations missions and was ready to contribute to resolving the cross-border issues of West Africa.
CESAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) noted that the West African region comprised 15 countries, with more than 250 million people living on 5 million square kilometres. The region had strategic political and economic relevance for the entire continent. Some countries, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau, had achieved a transition from conflict to constitutional rule. While each situation was different, there were common elements in many of them, including a colonial past, limited possibilities for economic growth and the need to strengthen State authority. Other challenges included the return of refugees, the need for security sector reform and the fight against impunity for past serious crimes.
He stressed the need to adopt a coordinated approach in searching for durable solutions for the conflicts in the region, including by promoting the capacity of national institutions to address the conflicts' root causes in the framework of the peace consolidation process. Also important, was to underline the valuable contribution of regional actors, such as ECOWAS, as well as the contribution of the Peacebuilding Commission, in helping to prevent nations from returning to conflict. All actors concerned should make their utmost effort for the cause of peace and national reconciliation. It was only through coordinated effort and recognition of the primary role of each Government to create the necessary conditions that the countries of the region would be to consolidate the gains of sustainable peace.
ELLEN MARGARETHE LØJ ( Denmark), associating herself with the European Union, said that the early stages of peace were fragile and needed continued nurturing. Conflicts in West Africa had taken a terrible toll on human lives, welfare and development, not only in the directly affected countries, but also in neighbouring States. She called the attention of members to three areas: more efficient peacekeeping, with a stronger focus on peacebuilding; ownership, leadership and partnership in the peace processes; and the role of women in consolidating peace.
She said that, because the need for peacekeepers often stretched over several years, it was necessary to continue looking for innovative strategies to ensure better and more efficient peacekeeping. In West Africa, cooperation in peacekeeping across borders has increased, but there was still room for improvement -- for example, through better pooling of operational resources and more flexible procedures for the transfer of troops. Ways to enable peacekeepers to monitor the flow of arms, illegally exploited resources and trafficking of humans across borders should also be explored.
More efficient peacekeeping was only the first step, she continued. To ensure a sustainable approach, national security institutions should be established early on in the transition process. Training and capacity development of national police were already part of some integrated missions, but there was scope for integrating an even broader peacebuilding perspective into many of the mandates of peacekeeping operations. On the issue of ownership, leadership and partnership, she noted that regional organizations such as the African Union and ECOWAS had become key partners, and a strengthened collaboration with civil society would enable many untapped resources to be used, from early warning to conflict resolution. Women tended to take little part in formal peace processes and negotiations, but their long history of participation in grass-roots efforts to minimize hostility should be given greater focus.
ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS ( Greece) said that post-conflict civilian and military efforts by both internal and external actors were essential to efforts to sustain peace and promote development. West Africa faced a lack of coherent peace consolidation strategies, largely due to institutional fragmentation and a lack of resources. Further, a lack of coordination of the multilateral efforts that had been mounted to help the region had often led to individuals pursuing personal interests, thus undermining the possibility of overall success. He said that, in West Africa, some 65 per cent of the population was under 30. It was a well-established fact that youth populations in the region were frequently marginalized and widely unemployed, and were, therefore, easily recruited for fighting in civil conflicts, particularly in Liberia, where civil war had turned out to be the largest youth employer. Solving that problem was a long-term challenge, which would continue to hamper peace consolidation efforts in the region.
He hoped that the newly established United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, whose overall goal was to reduce the chances of countries relapsing into violence after a peace agreement, would address many of the region's challenges. Nevertheless, it was sill important to look at the issue comprehensively, and that required an honest acknowledgement of the situation on the ground, including the speed with which fighting in one country spread to others in the region, the continued operation of armed fighters and ex-combatants in border areas, the flood of small arms and light weapons in the region, and the grinding poverty that was sapping the people of the region of hope for a better future. He, therefore, called for efforts to improve the situation to include transparent and accountable management of natural resources; provision of health, education and social services; and reform of banking and financial sectors.
RONALDO RUIZ ROSAS ( Peru) said it was important for everyone to realize that changes in the political, social and economic spheres in one West African State could have an immediate and, in some cases devastating, effect on another. The Council must not confuse "calm" with peace. Indeed, calm was only the fleeting absence of violence. Peace transcended that. With that in mind, everyone should realize that peacekeeping missions were often launched with good intentions, but were often pulled out too soon. That practice had led to a broad distrust of overall peacebuilding programmes. It was also necessary to address poverty, which was the major hindrance to ensuring lasting peace. Indeed, for West Africa, there was a need to boost institutions, infrastructure and the socio-economic sphere, which was the specific area that had received the least attention. It was his hope that the newly established Peacebuilding Commission could provide some help.
He also called for more attention to be paid to the exploitation of West Africa's vast and varied natural resources, particularly in generating funds for mercenaries and armed groups. Measures must also be adopted to strengthen public institutions, the judiciary, human rights and mechanisms for political dialogue and education. It was also necessary to quickly and effectively address curbing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. He added that ECOWAS and the African Union must also remain very active in the overall process to promote peace and security in West Africa.
MICHEL DUCLOS (France), associating himself with the European Union, said that, three years ago, Charles Taylor had still been in power, and the question had arisen on how to remove him, Sierra Leone had still been in a state of shock, with its society in chaos, and Côte d'Ivoire had been on the brink of war. Each situation and crisis had been part of a puzzle, where one or two pieces were "sick", and it was feared the sickness would spread to the entire puzzle. Three years later, things looked better. "Taylor is where he should be", and legitimate authorities had taken over; Sierra Leone was undergoing renewal, with the Peacebuilding Commission having chosen it as one of the first countries on which to focus its efforts; and in Cote d'Ivoire, progress, though slow, was being made on containing the crisis there.
He said the region had seemed to come to "the end of a cycle of disorder and violence", and today's meeting was an opportunity to discuss the new cycle that the region was about to enter. In doing so, it was important to build on the success of ECOWAS from the past three years, so that transborder and transregional problems, involving refugees, for example, could be addressed. It was also important to developing good governance, the absence of which was the origin of the region's disturbances. Finally, investing in young people and investing in globalization were equally necessary. Indeed, an African-French meeting had taken place in December 2005 on that issue. So far, the region had only experienced the negative aspects of globalization, but it was time to expose the region's youth to its positive aspects.
He went on to say that another form of partnership was required between regional and international institutions to deal with issues arising in the new cycle. Perhaps all Member States should begin giving thought to that question in the coming months. However, before entering in earnest into the new cycle of hope and promise, the current cycle must be brought to a complete end. The peace process must first be completed in Côte d'Ivoire, for instance.
BASILE IKOUEBE ( Congo) said the Council's review of the consolidation of peace in the region was a source of satisfaction, and also brought hope to countries still in conflict. For years, West Africa had been the model of economic integration and the continent's "economic lung", before sinking into horrific civil wars that had debilitated countries there. A return to constitutional rule following democratic elections was a welcome achievement in such places as Liberia, but concerns still remained over destabilizing factors in the region, such as the circulation of small arms and light weapons, child soldiers, poverty, youth unemployment, corruption, loopholes in the judicial system and lack of resources.
He said that, in seeking viable strategies and when considering problems relating to peace consolidation, Member States must turn to the Secretary-General's report on promoting lasting peace in Africa, as well as General Assembly resolution 60/223 calling for United Nations bodies, Member States and financial institutions to coordinate their efforts there. Support must also be given to the African Union, whose determination to strengthen its capacity to maintain peace and carry out peacekeeping activities and set up early warning system was admirable. The Peacebuilding Commission, too, must be given support.
He said work must be undertaken on post-conflict reconstruction, to be headed by Africans. Countries emerging from conflict required help to repatriate refugees, bolster human rights and create income-generating activities for the youth. He supported the Council's realistic and dynamic approach, as contained in its presidential statement. Other issues requiring coordination between States included child soldiers; natural resource management; and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, which also underscored the importance of having a United Nations Office in West Africa.
PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) said regional cooperation and integration was the best path to sustainable peace and stability in West Africa, and called for enhanced support for ECOWAS, particularly by increasing its cooperation and partnership with the United Nations. He added that it was also important to address critical cross-border issues in a region with borders so porous that a burning cinder in one country could almost instantly ignite a fire in another. In that regard, the international community was currently focused on the volatile situation in Côte d'Ivoire, which still had much catching up to do to be on par with many of its neighbours.
He went on to say that the West African people were among the poorest in the world. That was why it was important to address the exploitation of its vast natural resources. That phenomenon had not only helped finance wars, but had also deprived populations of critical sources of wealth and hindered wider development in the region. He said that it was impossible to address peace consolidation in the region without addressing economic consolidation. To that end, Slovakia was particularly concerned about the overall progress in Guinea-Bissau, where consolidation of peace and stability had been slow.
He went on to say that consolidating peace and economic development was closely linked to strengthening democracy, good governance and respect for human rights, and Slovakia was pleased to see that democratically elected leaders governed much of the region. The West African region must also take responsibility for its stability. Indeed, the people and Governments must be willing and ready to adopt harsh and unpopular measures to improve governance. The region must also work hard to end impunity and, in that regard, he praised the recent effort and cooperation among States in the region leading to the apprehension of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
JACKIE WOLCOTT SANDERS ( United States) said that West Africa had come along way from the fighting and social chaos that had characterized the situation in the region not so many years ago. Indeed, for many, West Africa was a better place. That had been due in large part to the efforts of the United Nations and others, who had done much to promote stability and economic development in the region. But now was not the time for complacency, for there was much work to be done. The international community should continue to help fragile countries deal with cross-border issues and encourage economic freedom.
Indeed, while emerging economic freedoms and development initiatives would surely bring much needed foreign investment to the region, such interest would only bring rewards if the region continued its efforts to improve its leadership, as well as implement good governance and the rule of law. She also called for efforts to protect and promote human rights and to end impunity, praising the courage of Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf and her efforts to help the people of that country overcome the after-effects of years of conflict. The United States would continue to work with the United Nations and regional actors to promote peace and sustainable development in West Africa.
KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said that the conflicts of West Africa occurred in a geographically compact area and shared many of the same root causes. That meant that conflicts in one country could easily spill over into another, and made solving them more complicated. National and international efforts for keeping the peace within a subregional framework of cooperation rose in importance, with ECOWAS playing a key role in conflict prevention, mediation, peacekeeping, humanitarian relief and reconstruction, as well as in tackling the problem of small arms. Japan would continue its support for such efforts by providing financial assistance to the ECOWAS Secretariat, which had amounted to $470,000 since 2000. Japan had also co-sponsored a conference on consolidation and peace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February, focusing on security, political governance and transition issues, as well as community reconstruction and socio-economic development.
He said the requirements needed for peace consolidation in West Africa differed from country to country, making it important to prioritize tasks differently for each. In Côte d'Ivoire, for example, resolving the political confrontation that led to armed conflict was the most urgent issue, whereas in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau, security sector reform and socio-economic stabilization took first priority. But, even seemingly successful outcomes of United Nations peacekeeping operations -- for example, in Sierra Leone, where determined efforts for a smooth transition from peacebuilding to sustainable development had been made -- had a chance of relapsing into chaos. The Council should be mindful of lessons from Timor-Leste, where political confrontations between supporters of the President and the former Prime Minister, a lack of transparency in the political process, security problems caused by arms, as well as a youth uprising caused by high unemployment, had resulted in destabilization.
In conducting its work, the Peacebuilding Commission should carefully prioritize the matters under its consideration, he said. It should do so by studying the peacebuilding strategies of each State, and by listening and incorporating into its recommendations the views of the States concerned, as well as those of United Nations field missions, experts and non-governmental organizations, while expecting the country to demonstrate ownership over the process. For its part, Japan, through its Tokyo International Conference on African Development, had launched the disbursement of $60 million by the end of March, to be given to West Africa, the Sudan and the Great Lakes region, and would continue to support peace consolidation efforts undertaken by both the Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.
EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) said his country had always been particularly close to the West African region, which had had a particular place on the Council's agenda. He stressed that, without a regional approach to problems in that region, sustainable peace could not be achieved, particularly because conflicts so easily spread from one country to another. And, while things were improving in the region, the United Nations and the wider international community must redouble their support for fragile countries. He particularly noted that Sierra Leone and Liberia now stood on the cusp of being West African success stories.
The international community must help those countries draw away from war once and for all. It must also assist post-conflict countries to, among other things, implement workable development strategies and develop national institutions to deliver goods and services. At the same time, the United Nations must keep a close eye on tensions simmering in places like Guinea, where a conflict stood to destabilize the entire Mano River region. It must also closely monitor and support the process leading up to elections in Côte d'Ivoire. Indeed, because all the countries of the region were so closely linked, the Council must continue to implement -- and draw on -- a regional strategy based on, among other things, ending and preventing conflict, and helping provide conditions for sustained economic development and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said there was no shortage of ideas on how to bring peace to conflict areas, or on how to maintain and consolidate peace in post-conflict situations in West Africa. What was indeed lacking, however, was the resolve and resources to effectively implement the many recommendations on the table. For its part, the Security Council had passed several resolutions and presidential statements, and had deployed peacekeeping operations and peacebuilding support offices in countries that were under conflict, resulting in a return to normalcy in Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and hopefully in Côte d'Ivoire. It had further established sanctions regimes -- covering arms, diamonds, timber and oil embargoes -- and targeted measures, such as travel bans and the freezing of assets. However, such measures could only be successful if they were closely monitored and supervised to ensure compliance.
He said West African countries themselves, in collaboration with other countries and institutions, had made recommendations on ways to prevent and manage such conflicts. But clear breaches of the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, as shown by "obstruction of the democratic process", corrupt practices and weak institutions suggested that the Protocol needed to be respected and observed. Cooperation between ECOWAS and the United Nations was welcomed, and he paid tribute to efforts that had brought Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone and transferred him to The Hague, since it had signified the international community's resolve that impunity would not be tolerated. Tribute was also paid to UNOWA for its work in preventing illegal cross-border activities.
He said West African countries must strive to strengthen their institutions of governance, fight corruption and impunity, observe the rule of law and revamp their economies to alleviate poverty and create employment. Their Governments must work with civil society to educate their populations on their civic and democratic rights. Also, the African Union, NEPAD and ECOWAS must strengthen their cooperation; international financial institutions should continue, or increase, their support; and Western countries must develop equal partnerships, rather than encourage the dependency of their former colonies. Finally, he called upon the Security Council to increase the momentum of bringing peace to Côte d'Ivoire.
JORGE SKINNER-KLEE ( Guatemala) said that, having itself survived a four-decade-long civil war, his country understood the benefits of regional development and the integration of regional institutions for the consolidation of peace. He welcomed the positive developments taking place in several of the region's countries and praised the work of ECOWAS in that regard. That important regional organization had undertaken numerous successful efforts to ensure a better future for the populations of the region. Guatemala supported the presidential statement to be adopted at the end of today's meeting, chiefly because it called for enhancing cooperation and support of regional organizations and programmes.
He said that the United Nations should also closely follow regional cooperation on the repatriation of refugees in West Africa, as well as in providing assistance to internally displaced persons. He said that international efforts must go hand in hand with efforts to build national capacities to promote peace, security and development. He joined others in expressing hope that the Peacebuilding Commission would be effective in devising country-specific policies that could be adapted quickly to address the unique circumstances in the region. Guatemala also welcomed the establishment of a United Nations support offices in Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, which would help those fragile countries move away from war and finally begin to consolidate peace and promote development.
KIRSTI LINTONEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that, notwithstanding positive developments in Liberia -- where recent elections had yielded Africa's first woman President and where the arrest of former President Charles Taylor had showed that those responsible for war crimes could not escape justice -- concerns still remained in the region. The consolidation of peace in Guinea-Bissau was slow, while reforms had stalled in neighbouring Guinea. Volatility in Côte d'Ivoire was hampering the region's peace and stability, and delays in implementing the road map there, under which elections had been scheduled to take place in October, were also cause for concern.
She said the European Union actively maintained an open dialogue with the African Union and other subregional organizations on issues related to peace and security on the continent, and actively supported institutional capacity-building through its African Peace Facility. In addition to its support to national programmes, it was also cooperating with ECOWAS and UNOWA, being well aware that national solutions alone were insufficient to address cross-border problems such as small arms, child soldiers, refugees and exploitation of natural resources.
Political dialogue between the European Union and ECOWAS took place at the ministerial level biannually, she said. Such dialogue was underpinned by projects on conflict prevention and peacebuilding, as well as an ECOWAS rapid reaction mechanism, financed by the European Development Fund. The European Union-ECOWAS dialogue also focused the economy, good governance, the rule of law and human rights. A recent dialogue with the African Union and other African organizations had touched on ways to address the root causes of migration, among which were conflict and political instability. Cooperation between the European Union and UNOWA had also been discussed, particularly to deal with cross-border issues. An action plan adopted in 2004 would have the European Union support African capacity-building in the field of peace and security, and to support African capabilities for prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.
JULIUS ZAYA SHIWEVA ( Namibia) said his country continued to participate in United Nations peacekeeping missions in West Africa, because peace and stability in that area was fundamental to achieving sustainable development not only in that subregion, but also in Africa as a whole. In that regard, serious attention should be paid to the disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants and how to deal with displaced persons and refugees -- activities that required cooperation within and among the countries of the region. Peacebuilding efforts, meanwhile, should focus on security, the rule of law and the provision of basic services and social and economic infrastructure, and he was happy to note that the Peacebuilding Commission had agreed to gear its work towards Sierra Leone and Burundi.
However, he said there were doubts regarding the peacekeeping efforts in Côte d'Ivoire, with "command relations of the United Nations peacekeeping force on one hand and the international force on the other". There were concerns, as well, regarding the elections that continued to be postponed in that country, but he was hopeful that pre-election tasks, such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and voter identification and registration would be completed in good time.
He said the key to a sustainable peace was reconciliation, which was a two-way process that should aim at forging the spirit of forgiveness, rather than focusing on vengeance. It was true that crimes committed during the conflict should be accounted for, but it was necessary to have an independent, competent judicial system and an open trial process to rehabilitate and correct mistakes, not to punish. Also, since women and children in West Africa had suffered greatly because of the conflicts, a post-conflict peacebuilding strategy should keep women, children and girls in mind, especially in the areas of education and employment creation. Finally, Africa should take the lead in finding solutions to Africa's problems; however, the Security Council should not abdicate its responsibility for maintaining peace and security. He urged the United Nations to assist the African Union and subregional organizations in their work, underscoring that greater investment in conflict prevention mechanisms, such as through an early warning system.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said past experience had proven that there were limitations to the capacity of the Council in addressing the needs of States undergoing the transition from conflict to development. It repeatedly hesitated to open channels of real and effective coordination with the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other regional and subregional organizations. As coordinator of the African Group in New York, Egypt viewed the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission -- an intergovernmental forum that could coordinate the organs and actors capable of contributing to peace consolidation -- as important.
He said West Africa had entered a new phase in the settlement of conflicts. Sierra Leone, with its achievements over the past few years, was a model for the convergence of will from among its people, neighbouring countries, the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union. Equally encouraging were steps taken by Liberia towards the path of national reconciliation. With more economic and technical support, Guinea-Bissau should see increasing political stability and sustainable development, and he was confident that the wisdom and will of the people of Côte d'Ivoire would enable the country to transcend its plight.
He said a two-tier integrated strategy for peacebuilding and peace consolidation was needed to focus on the individual needs of countries and subregional issues at the same time. Further enhancing the roles played by the African Union and ECOWAS was important to secure the borders against illicit trafficking of arms and other illegal commercial activities; to initiate an early warning system; to complete ongoing efforts to establish a standby force for peacekeeping and rapid deployment; and to enhance the exchange of information for the management of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Measures to encourage trade were also of immense significance, and would require strong support from the United Nations, financial institutions and donor countries.
PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) said that, after decades of deadly upheavals, the West African subregion had recently been experiencing a return to normalized peace, particularly with remarkable progress in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau. Moreover, in Côte d'Ivoire, which had been until recently known as one of the continent's more friendly and hospitable countries, was now undergoing national reconciliation following recent tensions. Of utmost importance was promoting and implementing effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. He called on the international community to continue and enhance its support for such efforts. He also called for more support for ECOWAS, which was playing a crucial role. There was also a need to promote the synergy between security and development, in order to ward off the dangers of small arms and light weapons and their use.
But, make no mistake, he said, poverty caused violence. Indeed, that had become shockingly evident in the aftermath of press reports and video images of desperate, poverty-stricken young West Africans who had cast off from their own country's shores in a makeshift raft, and met an awful fate on the high seas. It was necessary to establish more effective cooperation to convince young people that life was worth living in their own countries, which were so rich in opportunities for social and economic development. There was also a need to promote the rule of law, improve education facilities and opportunities and enhance Government cooperation with civil society. Equally important was the need to reform judicial sectors, particularly to end impunity. Finally, he told the Council that the peace that had been achieved in countries like Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau was not to be taken for granted, the international community must continue to support the gains that had been made there.
PIRAGIBE TARRAGO ( Brazil) said that it was in the international community's interest to contribute to the consolidation of peace in West Africa. Indeed, peace, security and development were not only crucial for the people in the region, but also helped spread such progress throughout the African continent. In that regard, Brazil considered the Zone of Peace and Cooperation in the South Atlantic, which comprised countries of West Africa and South America, a valuable instrument, through which peace and development could be fostered and cooperation could be promoted. He went on to say that, while West Africa had in the past hosted many conflicts, thanks to peace today, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau were working towards sustained economic growth, development and political stability.
But, such stability remained fragile and required continuous support. For that reason, the various United Nations missions and offices in the region should be reinforced, and cooperation among them should be enhanced dramatically to tackle new and emerging cross-border issues. United Nations activities in the region should be based on the understanding that no peace was sustainable if the root causes of conflict were not addressed. The countries of West Africa required the creation and reinforcement of capacity-building, which was essential for prosperous and stable economies. He also called for greater cooperation among the countries of the region, particularly in addressing serious concerns such as youth unemployment and exploitation of natural resources.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said hundreds of billions of dollars had been spent in efforts to stop conflict, yet, World Bank studies showed that a country's risk of falling back into conflict within the first five years was nearly 50 per cent. Coupled with the fact that armed conflict inevitably increased military expenditure in the countries involved, wars not only crowded out other public spending, but also exceeded spending on international development assistance. Low commodity prices, lack of access to international markets and the debt trap further fuelled the cycle of conflict, so that "creating" peace did not necessarily ensure lasting peace.
He said that, given such conditions, economic development -- namely through sustainable, equitable and employment-driven economic growth -- should be made an inextricable part of the peacebuilding process, and such growth needed to be internationally driven and managed institutionally. Also, efforts in conflict prevention must include preventive diplomacy, as well as structural, preventive measures to prevent crises from arising or recurring. To do so required the development of human and institutional resources, which, in turn, required increased development assistance for poor and vulnerable countries. Indeed, estimates had showed that $200 billion had been spent by the international community on interventions in the 1990s -- a preventive approach would have cost almost $130 billion less.
He went on to say that reforming and democratising international economic and monetary institutions should be a main pillar of peace consolidation. For its part, India had written off the debt of seven highly indebted poor countries and would continue economic and scientific initiatives to promote technology transfer to West Africa, including a satellite and fibre optic connectivity mission for the entire African continent. Credible institutions of governance were also needed. In addition, to help bring about the region's development, the Peacebuilding Commission must work with the Security Council, the General Assembly and other United Nations bodies, and international institutions and partners should consider providing consessional aid, debt waivers, employment generation strategies and sharing of appropriate technologies.
AHMED OWN (Libya) said strengthening international, regional and national efforts in West Africa -- friends of Libya -- was important, given the destructive nature of the conflicts that had been plaguing the region. Many had lost control over national institutions, while large death tolls among innocent civilians, the destruction of infrastructure and a displacement of the country's inhabitants had resulted in negative social and economic repercussions.
He said he was heartened to see that leaders from the region had finally acknowledged that peace was the best path forward. Indeed, the Libyan Government had worked at ministerial and higher levels to help seek the settlement of conflicts through regional and bilateral efforts. For example, it had participated in a conference in Freetown, South Africa, in 2002, under United Nations auspices, as well as in a conference to discuss the rebuilding Sierra Leone, held in Tripoli in 2002. Many millions of dollars had been donated to the cause. Work had been done on destroying small arms and light weapons in Sierra Leone, further demonstrating Libya's resolve in seeking peace in West Africa. The country also participated in peacekeeping operations and offices in a number of countries.
He said that the transition from conflict to peace, reconstruction and reconciliation was the most delicate stage of the process. He shared the sentiments of the Council President, in particular the view that weak governance prevented the widespread sharing of the benefits of peace in some countries. Such countries needed assistance in developing national institutions to maintain peace, democracy and human rights, settling the issue of displaced people and refugees; and encouraging transparency, as well as better conflict-management mechanisms. Poverty and unemployment, too, must be tackled, since they led young people to be recruited into armed forces. As such, the international community should work hard to mobilize the financial resources required to help in that regard. Libya stood ready to contribute to any such efforts, as a matter of foreign policy.
SYLVESTER ROWE ( Sierra Leone) said that peacekeeping was essential, but it was not the only element needed to create conditions for lasting peace in West Africa. Indeed, peacekeeping should be launched alongside peacebuilding efforts, which had now become synonymous with "consolidation of peace". Sierra Leone believed that the newly created United Nations Peacebuilding Commission was an acknowledgement of the necessity to build on the solid foundation laid by the Organization's peacekeepers. He was grateful that Sierra Leone had been selected as one of the two post-conflict countries placed on the Commission's agenda, and he hoped that other countries in the ECOWAS subregion, particularly Guinea-Bissau and Liberia, both also recovering from devastating armed conflicts, would also be considered by the Commission in the not too distant future.
He went on to say that the consolidation of peace in West Africa should not be seen as merely an effort to ensure that countries in the region did not slide back into conflict. Indeed, the primary objective should be to achieve sustainable development and social reconstruction: repairing infrastructure and institutional damage resulting from the conflicts. So, the consolidation of peace was a development exercise, which must be addressed in the context of regional and subregional poverty alleviation strategies. But, even without fighting, many countries in the region were already in a precarious economic situation. Indeed, they had been poverty-ridden long before they had had to deal with fighting.
He said that, while every State in the subregion had a responsibility to devise and implement policies aimed at consolidating peace and promoting sustainable development, Sierra Leone strongly believed that the United Nations and the international community could contribute tremendously by urgently mobilizing resources to support reconstruction and long-term development programmes in the subregion, and recognizing the links between the consolidation of peace and implementation of agreed guidelines and commitments in international trade and financing for development, including debt relief.
He also called for intensified efforts to eradicate the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons. It had been shameful that the Review Conference on Small Arms had collapsed last month, and that, at the end of a recent Council debate, the 15-nation body had not adopted a statement on the scourge that had devastated his region. That did not argue well for efforts to consolidate peace in West Africa, he warned.
ROY CHADERTON MATOS ( Venezuela) said lasting peace and sustainable development in West Africa would lead to freedom, growth and justice in that long-troubled region. He said that Venezuela had long worked for the consolidation of peace and development in Africa, drawing on its own African roots and experience to launch a host of programmes and initiatives, both in South America and on the African continent. He went on to say that poverty and hunger, which triggered violence, must be addressed, in order to consolidate peace in Africa.
He said that now that Venezuela was free of illiteracy and lagging development, it was free to support socio-economic growth and education in Africa. At the same time, he hoped that the General Assembly would soon create a mechanism through which countries that provided assistance to Africa, bilaterally or through global initiatives like NEPAD, could report on their efforts. He urged the wider international community to enhance its support for efforts to consolidate peace and security in West Africa.
CHOI YOUNG-JIN (Republic of Korea) said that, despite positive political developments -- such as the transition from war to constitutional Government in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau, the election of President Sirleaf in Liberia, and the establishment of a peace road map in Côte d'Ivoire -- the region still faced challenges such as massive cross-border refugee flows, slow economic growth, low inflows of foreign direct investment, high debt loads and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
He said that, to consolidate peace in the region, it was necessary to take a regional approach, as well as to address the root causes of conflict. The Republic of Korea supported the work of ECOWAS in maintaining peace and security in the region, both through its own initiatives and in collaboration with the United Nations. Also, since the first post-conflict years were the most dangerous, "as wounded societies walk the tightrope from chaos and violence to sustainable peace and stability", West Africa needed support to establish new institutions, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts and economic recovery. The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission had an important role to play in providing guidance and coordination efforts of the Security Council, ECOWAS and other regional and United Nations bodies in the area.
He went on to say that regional, ethnic and socio-economic tensions were immensely destructive to infrastructure, caused mass migration of refugees and led to the exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of combatants rather than societies. To prevent renewed conflict, long-term economic and social development strategies needed to be formulated and implemented with the help of the international community. For its part, the Republic of Korea planned to double its official development assistance (ODA) by 2009, as part of its commitment to assist African development.
AMINU BASHIR WALI ( Nigeria) said West Africa had the unenviable record of being an unstable subregion in Africa, threatened by long conflicts. He was happy to note that the record was gradually being reversed with the recent election of democratic Governments in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau. The handing over of former President Charles Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone had greatly contributed to the easing of tension and had opened a new chapter for the consolidation of peace.
He said that, in spite of those gains, the challenges remained enormous. Côte d'Ivoire remained a serious concern, and spill-over effects could not be overstated. Peace in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau remained fragile. Indeed, it was impossible to consolidate peace in West Africa without addressing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, since those weapons had proven to be a great disincentive for non-State actors to follow the path of peace through negotiations. But Nigeria, on its own, was as constrained as members of ECOWAS and the African Union in effectively countering the consequences of the proliferation of such weapons.
Also, he said opportunities for economic growth and development in the area needed to be enhanced. Like most developing countries, those in West Africa were saddled with human rights abuses and poor governance, as well as poor economies, which had worsened the level of poverty and unemployment among the youth. Those countries also required urgent support to build and strengthen their institutions of governance, dispensation of justice, protection of human rights, promotion of health and educational services. Nigeria considered the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission as a positive contribution in that regard, and looked forward to quickly turning the Commission's work into concrete action.
BERIT ENGE ( Norway) said that her delegation was pleased to see that West Africa had recently made considerable progress towards consolidating peace and security. In Liberia, for example, Africa's first woman President and her Government had taken decisive and courageous steps towards recovery and reconstruction. She commended Liberia for requesting that former President Charles Taylor be turned over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. A society that had waged war could not be healed, unless those responsible for crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law were held responsible. Sierra Leone's request to be included on the new Peacebuilding Commission's agenda was also important, as that could help speed up the recovery process ahead of the upcoming elections in that country in 2007.
She said that, while those achievements were commendable, they were also fragile, stressing that many West African countries faced enormous challenges. Here, she noted that the situation in Côte d'Ivoire was still precarious and threatened regional stability. The international community must continue to support the consolidation of peace and security in West Africa. Broad, consistent and long-term assistance to regional organizations was crucial. It was the international community's common struggle to provide financial support for Governments that struggled to enhance security, promote national reconciliation and build peace in their societies. Also crucial was to address cross-border issues that could fuel conflicts and increase tensions, and there, she welcomed the early ratification and implementation of the ECOWAS small arms Convention.
MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) said that today's discussion was relevant and timely, especially in the context of the significant strides that had been made in recent years for peace and stability in West Africa. Sadly, that could not be said when it came to some other situations around the world, such as in the Middle East. In West Africa, however, Sierra Leone was a United Nations peacekeeping success story and was now engaged in peace consolidation. Also, hopefully, the Peacebuilding Commission would reinforce that process. Liberia was on the road to recovery and stability from the horrors of the cruel conflict and crimes of three years ago. Indeed, Liberia and its leadership deserved the Council's full support to help sustain stability, revive the economy and promote respect for human rights. Such progress would hopefully be duplicated in Côte d'Ivoire.
He said that most of the situations in Africa were complex crises, which required a combination of actions: conflict prevention, and then resolution, beginning with peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The Council should continue to have a strategic overview of the interrelated issues arising in those complex crises and evolve long-term, comprehensive, integrated and composite approaches to address them. At the same time, because of the links between security and development, the Peacebuilding Commission should focus on the multifaceted aspects of recovery and peacebuilding in country-specific situations. Despite considerable progress, however, much remained to be done in West Africa, especially in addressing root causes of conflict. The Council and other United Nations organs should devote greater focus to the economic, social and cultural issues requiring attention in the region. More attention should also be paid to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as to security sector reform.
ABOUBACAR IBRAHIM ABANI ( Niger) said that peace consolidation was a challenge to West Africa. Regional economic programmes could only succeed if peace, security, good governance, human rights, the means to combat corruption and good education and health systems were solidly established. For its part, ECOWAS had enriched its arsenal by adopting texts to resolve such problems, and the situation in West Africa was presently marked by numerous signs of improvement -- for example, the successful elections in Liberia.
He said, however, that food insecurity and endemic poverty, particularly in the region's South, as well as the burden of debt, could threaten peace. Those issues had previously captured United Nations' attention during the 2005 World Summit, where broad consensus had been reached for the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission. Member States should now ensure that the Commission fully plays its role, particularly to assist affected countries in building effective national institutions. Indeed, the absence of a strong judicial system, for example, could allow frequent breaches of peace and security by warlords. A moratorium on illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, recently agreed to by the West African leaders, was a laudable example of progress in combating lawlessness.
The ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol of Democracy and Good Governance was a further instrument for strengthening peace consolidation in West Africa, by suggesting punitive actions against countries lacking good governance. In turn, the African pay-review mechanism, initiated by NEPAD, could be seen as a reward for good governance, which, coupled with the ECOWAS Protocol, could strengthen nation-building efforts. Finally, while West African countries participating in economic reform programmes appreciated the contribution of their development partners, those partners should foster a sense of ownership among the countries in which they worked. Attention must also be paid to minimize sharp increases in the price of goods, or the sudden introduction of taxes, which could cause unrest. Indeed, in countries where everything is fragile, peace is precarious. Also, the active involvement of regional economic communities should be emphasized and further refined.
JAMES Z. EESIAH ( Liberia) said that his country, which had experienced more than 14 years of civil war, welcomed today's open debate, aimed at finding equitable solutions to the many problems affecting West Africa. The conflicts killed thousands, bringing economic deprivation and political instability to the subregion. He paid tribute to ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations, as well as to the international community and non-governmental organizations for their tremendous sacrifices in bringing peace to Liberia.
He said his country was ready to support and implement the statement to be issued the end of today's meeting, which would promote sustainable economic development and mechanisms to stop cross-border recruitment of child soldiers in the region. Indeed, cross-border recruitment was the most serious problem affecting the region, and every effort must be made to bring it to an immediate end. As such, he appealed to the Council President and the members to make it a priority to stop the importation of weapons into the subregion, which had robbed the continent of its youth.
Paying tribute to the Mano River Union, ECOWAS and the African Union for their efforts to bring about peace, he requested their help in consolidating the hard-won peace by promoting economic and job opportunities for the people of West Africa.
Wrapping up the debate, AHMEDOU OULD-ABDALLAH, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, reiterated the importance of the problem of youth unemployment in West Africa. That phenomenon threatened peace and security, as well as bilateral relations between countries, particularly since the rampant unemployment often sparked youth migration. He called on the Council to actively support and monitor the numerous elections that were set to take place in the region in the coming year. The Council should spare no effort to ensure that tensions were lowered and that the countries were provided with the assistance needed to carry out fair and transparent ballots.
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