15 May 2001


NEW YORK, 14 May (UN Headquarters) -- To stem the cycle of instability, insecurity and displacement in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, an integrated, regional approach was crucial, said Ibrahima Fall, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, as Secretariat officials briefed the Security Council today on developments in West Africa.

In an open meeting on the question, Council members were also briefed by two other Secretariat officials: Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; and Carolyn McAskie, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Despite attempts to resolve the current impasse in the subregion known as the Mano River Union, Mr. Fall said that the situation had deteriorated further in those three countries, and the prospects for an end to hostilities appeared bleak.

Mr. Fall, highlighting the 2 May report of the inter-agency mission to West Africa, which he headed, said that the West Africa project was at its most critical stage, namely implementation of recommendations. The Secretary-General had guided the mission to consider a regional and subregional integrated approach to the multitude of security and humanitarian challenges to those countries.

The mission had proposed the creation of a United Nations Office for West Africa, as well as the expansion of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to Guinea and Liberia, he said. However controversial, the proposal to expand the Mission was in line with an integrated subregional approach. Moreover, an expanded UNAMSIL would not only help address problems in Sierra Leone but could create the circumstances for monitoring the other borders as well.

Carolyn McAskie, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, amplified the call for an integrated approach to the region's problems. She led an additional mission to the subregion, from 17 to 25 April, to assess the humanitarian situation there and evaluate the humanitarian coordination mechanisms in the area.

Ms. McAskie said that Guinea, after years of dealing with the spillover from the war in Sierra Leone, was now facing a humanitarian crisis of its own. There was some improvement in Sierra Leone, but reintegration of ex-combatants would be crucial, and large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons would now have to be resettled. Meanwhile, new refugees were threatening to pour in from Liberia, where the situation was one of growing despair, with high concern that the country could fall back into civil war. In all of those areas, humanitarian resources were already severely overextended and Government capacity was almost non-existent.

At the core of a regional humanitarian approach, she proposed a sub-regional capacity for the exchange and analysis of strategic information, support to regional civil society organizations such as the Mano River Women’s Peace Network, and a stronger presence of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, hailed as a recent major development the meeting in Abuja on 2 May between the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations, the Government of Sierra Leone, and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). There, the parties had pledged to observe the ceasefire, remove rebel-controlled roadblocks, disarm rebel forces and develop, at a further meeting this month, a firm timetable and modalities for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants. The Abuja meeting was a "step in the right direction", which, if properly implemented, could lead to further progress, he said.

In the exchange of views that followed the Secretariat briefing, members agreed on the need for an integrated, regional approach to problems, and on many of the recommendations of the inter-agency report, including the establishment of a United Nations Office in West Africa and measures to strengthen the ECOWAS role in the region, which had been extremely beneficial to date.

The representative of Mali said that ECOWAS had made a commitment to work towards the peaceful resolution of problems in the region, including the implementation of the Abuja cease-fire agreement, which needed to be implemented by all parties. But peace was not only the absence of war. There had to be good governance as well, and the promotion of development. Local conflict-prevention capability also needed to be strengthened, including ECOWAS early-warning mechanisms and small arms embargoes.

The representative of the United States said that everyone agreed on the need for coordination and integration, but the right arrangements needed to be found. It was doubtful that an extension of UNAMSIL’s mandate was the right approach. Meanwhile, it was important to see concrete results on the ground, such as security and the safe return of refugees.

Statements were also made by the representatives of the United Kingdom, Tunisia, Ireland, Bangladesh, Russian Federation, Colombia, France, Jamaica, Singapore, China, Ukraine, Mauritius and Norway.

Report of Inter-Agency Mission to West Africa

Before the Council was the report of the inter-agency mission to West Africa (document S/2001/434) dated 2 May and entitled "Towards a comprehensive approach to durable and sustainable solutions to priority needs and challenges in West Africa". The mission visited the subregion between 7 and 27 March. Led by Ibrahima Fall, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, it visited Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Mali.

The mission was dispatched after the Secretary-General decided last December to establish an inter-agency task force on the West African subregion coordinated by the Department of Political Affairs. The creation of the task force followed the Security Council's own mission to Sierra Leone between 7 and 14 October 2000, which also visited Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Liberia. The Council concluded in its report (document S/2001/992) that only a concerted, interlocking approach would fulfil the subregion's potential to emerge from crisis and to tackle the current instability, particularly in the Mano River Union countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone).

Terms of reference for the inter-agency mission were: to take stock of subregional priority needs in peace and security, humanitarian affairs and economic and social development; to consult with governments and with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on enhancing cooperation with the United Nations in addressing those needs; to recommend elements of a subregional strategy to help address the challenges identified; and to make recommendations on mobilizing international support and assistance for the proposed strategy.

According to the mission's report, most interlocutors foresaw a deterioration of the situations in the Mano River Union countries, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal's Casamance region, with serious implications for the whole subregion in the absence of urgent progress in addressing the political, economic and social dimensions of the problems faced. The possibility of a "domino effect" was a source of deep and widespread concern.

The report says that interlocutors stressed the importance of approaching conflict prevention and resolution from a regional rather than a national perspective. It was repeatedly noted that the subregion's problems had been compounded by a lack of political dialogue among leaders. Also cited were the lack of national reconciliation; persistent economic decline and high poverty levels; the arms trade and proliferation of militias; narcotics trafficking; disease; resource scarcity; and violent attempts at transnational control of natural resources by State and non-State actors.

Conflicts have been marked by widespread human rights abuses which have left families dispossessed, individuals traumatized and communities in a state of virtual collapse, according to the report. While ethnic affinities, which transcend national boundaries, have helped somewhat to mitigate the humanitarian effects of conflicts, they have also contributed to the rapid spread of conflicts in the border areas, especially where militia groups and other actors have carved out their own territories, with tragic implications for civilians.

Noting the wide concern over rising tensions in the Mano River Union and possible escalation of the conflict between Guinea and Liberia, the report says that emphasis was placed on the importance of efforts by ECOWAS and the United Nations to promote reconciliation between the leaders of the three countries and on the need for a concerted approach by the three Governments to area conflicts. Concern was also expressed at alleged support for Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) by governments within and outside the subregion and by dealers in conflict diamonds, mercenaries and international arms dealers.

In Côte d'Ivoire, the report notes, political and social turmoil since the December 1999 overthrow of President Henri Konan Bedie, exacerbated by disputes over national identity and rising intolerance, have resulted in the departure of thousands of West African workers, with far-reaching repercussions for the country and the subregion. Elsewhere, the democratic transition in Guinea-Bissau has yet to yield tangible results, the report adds.

It states that the Guinea-Bissau situation is very fragile, noting the dearth of technical expertise within government institutions, deep poverty, an undeveloped private sector with few prospects for inward investment, few employment avenues and an oversized army depending on the State for resources. Without national political will to overcome internal divisions and without concerted international support, the situation may lead to the collapse of the State, with tremendous security and humanitarian implications for the neighbouring countries.

Regarding Senegal's Casamance province, the mission welcomes the signing in March of a peace agreement between the Government and representatives of the Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance and the Gambia's re-involvement in the peace process. However, splits in the Mouvement are likely to complicate the implementation of the agreement, despite the Government's efforts to bridge those divisions, the report says.

On Nigeria, it states that concerns were expressed regarding the impact of continuing religious and ethnic strife and support for the country's nascent democracy. Concerns also remained over the possible resurgence of security threats in the Sahara strip from northern Mali and northern Niger to Chad -- mainly because of unresolved reintegration and development problems -- although armed rebellions in Mali and Niger have been resolved.

Among its recommendations on peace and security issues, the mission proposes expanding the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to cover all three Mano River Union countries, taking into account the interrelations between the implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement, the implementation of United Nations sanctions on Liberia and the monitoring of the borders between the three countries. The mission also recommends an international conference to mobilize donor support to enable Guinea to cope with the current humanitarian crisis, which also poses a threat to its sovereignty, territorial integrity and political stability.

Regarding conflict prevention and resolution, the mission recommends that the United Nations system and the international community strengthen the ECOWAS Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security. It also recommends the enhancement of cooperation with the United Nations system to develop the ECOWAS early-warning system.

A further recommendation is that Guinea-Bissau's international development partners provide urgent financial and capacity-building assistance to prevent the recurrence of conflict in that country, where the political and security situation remains volatile. The Bretton Woods institutions, the United Nations Department of Political Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) should organize a round-table conference to mobilize resources for the country as a follow-up to the May 1999 conference held in Geneva.

On governance and human rights, the mission recommends strong support for social and economic programmes to help prevent levels of social discontent that would jeopardize the democratic process in States in transition. It also proposes the further development of education programmes on the fundamentals of the democratic process. The mission further recommends a close examination of the role of the business sector in zones of conflict and steps to hold such entities accountable for illicit activities that exacerbate conflict.

Regarding humanitarian assistance, the mission proposes the continued removal of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in Guinea's "parrot's beak" zone to safer areas, as well as timely and adequate support to ensure the smooth implementation of that process. Another recommendation is that Sierra Leone should ensure adequate preparations for the reception of refugees opting for voluntary repatriation, including through the identification of safe repatriation zones. Guinea should do its utmost to guarantee safe haven to refugees, with the international community providing necessary assistance and support, the mission further proposes.

It also recommends that United Nations agencies and concerned governments should design and implement area-development programmes to cover basic social services including the health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation needs of returning refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities. In addition, effective reintegration and resettlement of the internally displaced should be treated as an important component of any peace process in accordance with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

Regarding economic development and regional integration, the mission recommends strategic intervention programmes focusing on economic growth and debt reduction as a critical means to create an enabling environment for growth and development. Poverty reduction can only occur as a direct result of accelerated and equitable economic growth in a relatively debt-free environment.

Another recommendation proposes socio-economic programmes geared towards alleviating the growing youth unemployment crisis. The mission also recommends that the international community should support efforts by ECOWAS and other subregional institutions to create an integration framework with ECOWAS at its centre.

The mission concludes that following successful implementation in West Africa, comprehensive subregional approaches should be explored in other parts of the continent in close cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and relevant African subregional organizations.

Communiqué from Economic Community of West African States

Also before the Council was a letter to the Council President dated 12 April, from the permanent representative of Mali (document S/2001/353), annexed to which is the final communiqué of the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, held in Abuja, Nigeria, on 11 April.

In that communiqué, ECOWAS expressed great concern at the continuing tension along the common boundary areas of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the presence of several irregular unarmed groups in the region. They repeated their resolve to build a peaceful, progressive and stable West Africa, and called on the governments of countries concerned to disarm the irregulars on the their territory, and refrain from making any statements that the other parties may consider as a hostile act. It also called on the three Governments to take necessary measures to stop armed attacks being launched from their territories against their neighbours, and to open their borders without delay.

The ECOWAS reaffirmed its desire to deploy the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) troops along the borders, and called on the Governments of Liberia and Guinea to sign the ECOMOG status of forces agreement. It also called on the Security Council to authorize and assist the deployment of those troops.

Liberia was asked to rescind its expulsion the Guinean and Sierra Leonean ambassadors, and the communiqué states that President Taylor of Liberia agreed to do that. It also called for Foreign Ministers to reappraise the ECOWAS Agreement on Non-Aggression of 22 April 1978, with a view to ensuring its effective application.

In the communiqué, ECOWAS noted the need to establish safe corridors to ensure better protection for refugees against rebel attacks, and to enable them to be repatriated without danger. The three Governments were called on to protect refugees and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was asked to improve their situation.

Addressing the situation in Sierra Leone, ECOWAS reaffirmed its support for the 10 November 2000 ceasefire agreement between the Government and the RUF. It also took note of the Government's decision to work with the newly formed Political and Peace Council.

On Liberia, ECOWAS stated that it decided to establish a monitoring mechanism to monitor implementation of Security Council sanctions, and to deploy a mediation and Security Council mission comprising Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Togo and the ECOWAS Secretariat to Liberia in April.

Comments were also made in the communiqué about Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, the implementation of a moratorium on light weapons, measures for lasting peace in the sub-region and the financing of ECOWAS institutions.


JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that since his last briefing to the Council, the major development had been the meeting in Abuja on 2 May of ECOWAS, the United Nations, the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF to review the implementation of the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement. The meeting was preceded on 1 May by a meeting of the United Nations-ECOWAS-Government of Sierra Leone Coordination Mechanism. At the 2 May meeting, a number of important conclusions and decisions had resulted.

Among them, he said, was that the Ceasefire Agreement had been "largely observed", but the Civil Defence Force had violated it by attacking the RUF in Tongo on 19 April. The Government of Sierra Leone should exert the necessary control over the Civil Defence Force in order to avert future attacks which could jeopardize the peace process. The Government of Sierra Leone was called upon to extend its authority throughout the country in the wake of UNAMSIL’s deployment. There was a renewed commitment by the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF to remove all roadblocks in areas under their control. The RUF pledged to return, by 30 May, all weapons and equipment seized from UNAMSIL and ECOMOG.

Continuing, he said that the meeting had called for the simultaneous disarmament of the Civil Defence Force and RUF, and decided to set up a joint committee comprising UNAMSIL, the Government of Sierra Leone and RUF to meet in Freetown on 15 May to develop a firm timetable and modalities for the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. The meeting also called on the RUF to release all abductees, in particular child combatants, and called on the two parties to create an atmosphere conducive to the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons. It was also decided that the RUF would withdraw all its combatants from the Kambia district and allow the Sierra Leone Army to deploy there to stop the incursions and Guinean attacks. Confidence-building measures included the Government of Sierra Leone’s declared intention and preparedness to address the RUF’s political concerns, including releasing detained RUF officials, facilitating the complete certification of the RUF as a political party, and providing land or office space to the party in Freetown and in the provinces.

The Abuja meeting was a "step in the right direction", he said. If properly implemented by both sides in good faith, it had the potential to create the confidence needed to make further progress. During the period under review, ECOWAS leaders pursued efforts to advance the peace process in Sierra Leone. On 11 April, an extraordinary meeting of ECOWAS heads of State was held in Abuja, which called on the Security Council to authorize and assist the deployment of ECOMOG forces along the borders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It also set up a mediation committee comprising the Presidents of Mali, Nigeria and Togo to encourage dialogue between the heads of State of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. An ECOWAS mission was to have been dispatched to Liberia on 18 April to assess that country’s compliance with the Council’s demands, as contained in resolution 1343 (2001).

He said that follow-up actions by the parties and UNAMSIL included the unanimous endorsement of the Abuja decisions by the RUF military leaders at a meeting on 6 May; committees were established to oversee implementation of those decisions. In keeping with its concept of operations, UNAMSIL carried out forward deployment into RUF-held areas between 7 and 23 April. UNAMSIL had continued to conduct long-range patrols in those areas, which had been warmly welcomed by the local population. Reports of clashes between the Civil Defence Force and the RUF near Tongo fields on 19 April, and at Talia, had been received. The mission’s investigations of the first report of ceasefire violation determined that the RUF had repelled an attack by CDF forces. The RUF had claimed that the Civil Defence Force’s attacks on their position in the Kono district had been carried out with the assistance of Guinean forces. The UNAMSIL had also received reports of artillery and helicopter gunship attacks by Guinean forces on RUF positions near the Sierra Leone-Guinea border. Hopefully, the withdrawal of the RUF from Kambia would end attacks in that area. Meanwhile, all parties should exercise maximum restraint.

Despite calls to restore the Government’s authority throughout Sierra Leone, the lack of resources and capacity on the part of the Government remained a major constraint in the efforts to extend civil administration, he said. The first human rights office had been opened upcountry in Kenema, as part of the efforts to establish a permanent human rights presence in the provinces. Significant progress had been made towards establishing a truth and reconciliation commission. Meanwhile, the High Commissioner for Human Rights had identified three persons considered suitable as international members of the Commission and was currently checking their availability. The UNAMSIL was also working with human rights non-governmental organizations to reinforce the feeling of local ownership. A sensitization campaign was also under way.

On the topic of HIV/AIDS, he said the United Nations was stepping up efforts to raise awareness of the troops on the ground concerning the risks. The UNAMSIL had conducted sensitization seminars for its troops and had distributed condoms throughout the force. It would soon distribute HIV/AIDS awareness cards specifically designed for peacekeepers, in coordination with UNAIDS.

CAROLYN MCASKIE, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, reported on her mission to the countries of the Mano River Union from 17 to 25 April. She said that the primary objective of her mission was to make an assessment of the humanitarian situation in the subregion and evaluate the humanitarian coordination mechanisms among and within the three countries involved. Overall, it was obvious that an integrated approach to the region must be developed.

She said that Guinea, after years of dealing with the spill-over from the war in Sierra Leone, was facing a humanitarian crisis of its own, with somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 internally displaced persons that may increase because of events in Liberia. There was a dearth of information of the situation in neighbouring countries. Conditions for a return of refugees to Sierra Leone or Liberia did not exist. The Government, and the mission, supported the two-track approach of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which would attempt to ensure the safety of refugees in Guinea through relocation to areas away from Languette and other border areas, while assisting those who wanted to return home voluntarily.

After a virtual suspension of such operations, she said, UNHCR began transferring refugees by truck on 3 May and anticipated completing the operation by 25 May. Over 40,000 refugees had been relocated so far. However that relocation had also spurred an increase in attempts to return to southern Sierra Leone through areas held by the RUF. That placed an enormous burden on the humanitarian community.

In Sierra Leone, she said, major issues included the return of at least 100,000 refugees from both Guinea and Liberia; the resettlement of some 50,000 internally displaced persons from safe areas; the expected internal displacement of up to 30,000 people due to planned RUF withdrawals; continued relief to around 40,000 internally displaced persons coming from unsafe areas and the increasing influx of refugees from northern Liberia into areas already overburdened by internally displaced persons.

She said that structural changes in United Nations operations in Sierra Leone had had positive effects on humanitarian operations there. Correspondingly, humanitarian access and presence were expected to increase. Meeting with RUF leaders, the mission had requested safe access in areas where they had a presence, requesting also proof of good will in the form of the release of child soldiers, with an emphasis on the girls that had been abducted. A first release of 97 children had taken place.

Though there were improvements in Sierra Leone, she said, reintegration of ex-combatants would be crucial. The Government had extremely low capacity, and the humanitarian community was badly overextended. In addition, with internally displaced persons camps already overburdened, refugees were threatening to pour in from Liberia.

In Liberia itself, the situation was one of growing despair. The mission itself remained in Monrovia because it was unsafe to travel outside the city. Meetings with Government officials, civil society, humanitarian partners, opposition parties and others all brought out high concern that the country could fall back into civil war, with rebel attacks already occurring. Up to 80,000 internally displaced persons had already been reported, with 162,000 Liberian refugees in the region. A lack of resources and hindered access was seriously hampering the ability to provide much-needed assistance to them.

She concluded by reiterating the need for the United Nations to address the situation in the subregion from a perspective fully informed by the regional dynamics, and with coordinated information and analysis. For that purpose, a subregional capacity for the exchange and analysis of strategic information needed to be established. There was also an urgent need for more funding for relief aid to internally displaced persons, and to support civil society organizations such as the Mano River Women’s Peace Network. In addition, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) should reinforce its presence in Guinea and Liberia, and the two-track approach for Sierra Leone refugees in Guinea should be supported. In Sierra Leone, donors should increase their support for the logistics operations of the World Food Programme (WFP). For Liberia and the entire region, urgent assistance must be provided to counter the conditions of extreme poverty, low government capacity and other serious hindrances to peace.

IBRAHIMA FALL, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, recalled that in his earlier briefing to the Council on 10 April, he had listed the issues requiring urgent action. In that context, he had called for the United Nations, in cooperation with ECOWAS, to develop, urgently, a focused and joint plan of action aimed at addressing the current cross-border conflict among the Mano River Union States and the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. In that regard, the most urgent requirement was the facilitation of dialogue among the three heads of State of the Mano River Union countries. Despite attempts to resolve the current impasse in that part of the subregion, the conflict had deteriorated even further and the prospects for a cessation of hostilities had "appeared bleak". The Council might wish to again call on those countries to exercise restraint.

He said that the West Africa "project" consisted of three essential phases: the mission itself, the report and the implementation of its recommendations. Presently, participants were at the "most critical stage" of the project, namely the effective implementation of the recommendations, and the time had come to do so. Concerning the situation in Sierra Leone, he re-emphasized the need to reopen a window of opportunity for re-launching the peace process. The war inflicted on Guinea by the armed incursion had further eroded the fragile economic base just when the country was establishing more effective programmes for economic recovery. That country deserved help also because of the huge responsibility it had borne for so long on behalf of the world community. Ten per cent of the country’s population were refugees, who had been hosted for a long time by the local communities, and a fast-growing population of some 300,000 internally displaced persons.

Regarding Guinea-Bissau, which was geographically outside the Mano River Union area, the long crisis had left its mark on the country’s economic and social structure, in particular, destabilizing the political and economic base, he said. Moreover, donors had not followed up on the commitment they made in 1998 to assist that country, and the situation was extremely fragile. Thus, it was important to organize an international conference to fund development and urgent humanitarian needs there. In Côte d’Ivoire, the mission had felt that the economic situation there should be taken into account, bearing in mind the impact on other countries in the region. The mission had proposed that, along with pressure and influence by the Government, it was important to see to it that the economic and financial crisis of Côte d’Ivoire did not worsen. In that respect, it proposed assistance by the international community.

Concerning institutional arrangements, the proposal to establish a United Nations Office in West Africa was the logical result of the general approval of the idea initiated by the Council as a result of its trip to the region last October. The mission had received from the Secretary-General guidelines to consider a regional and subregional integrated approach, rather than continue to react in a sectoral manner, on a country-by-country basis. Thus, his mission had proposed the establishment of a United Nations Office for West Africa, the competence of which was clearly specified in the report and its recommendations. Since the mission, the report had been shared with potential partners to include their views and observations about the proposals. The risk of bureaucratization of that Office had been expressed, but it should be able to harmonize efforts with a minimal staff.

Under transport priority questions, he said that the mission's first recommendation concerned peacekeeping and security operations in the Mano River Union area. During the mission, concerns had been expressed by the heads of State of ECOWAS on the need to consider, in the overall context of peacekeeping and security operations, the proposal made by several interlocutors to expand UNAMSIL's mandate to Guinea and Liberia. That would not only help the mission face problems in Sierra Leone but could create circumstances for monitoring the respective borders. His own mission had not doubt about the "very controversial" nature of the proposal, but felt duty-bound to report on it. Once again, that the proposal was in the overall context of the integrated subregional approach, which was why his mission had been sent to the field.

Another recommendation had concerned national reconciliation. Many had thought that the absence of dialogue or national reconciliation would create situations in which many would be sidelined, leading to new crises and possibly worsening existing ones. The United Nations Office for West Africa should see to it that its prevention and settlement of conflict activities focused on national reconciliation. He was struck by the decisive contribution made by women’s movements to promote negotiated settlements, especially among member States of the Mano River Union. Those organizations were severely lacking in funds and capacity, but given their impact in conflict prevention and settlement, the international community, in general, and the Council, in particular, should seek consistent support for those movements.

He said the mission had been impressed by the criticism made in West Africa about the United Nations -- that it was coming in too late, adopting irrelevant mandates and withdrawing hastily upon the conclusion of peace agreements. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was very often "botched" because of a lack of financial resources. Whether in Liberia or Sierra Leone, the absence of any real disarmament and demobilization had been one of the reasons for the extension or worsening of conflict in West Africa. Against a completely impoverished environment, former combatants, most of them young, had no choice after a few months of waiting but to take up arms again. Appeals for promoting disarmament, demobilization and reintegration should be considered in a much broader geographic context and reinsertion means for young combatants should be contemplated.

He said that in light of the moratorium in West Africa against the flow of small arms, the mission had proposed that United Nations and Security Council Member States become more involved in the process. It had proposed the possible imposition of sanctions against States, which contravened the moratorium, either within or outside the region. When taking part in peacekeeping operations, it was up to countries to provide troops and up to the United Nations to provide equipment. That was known as a "dry lease". Experience in Sierra Leone had shown that those countries that had opted for "dry leasing" instead of "wet leasing" had been unable to comply with their obligations regarding equipment. Since his arrival, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had considered that issue. Hopefully, future proposals might finally solve that problem.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said the problems facing West Africa were not only national problems, but transnational problems. Special attention needed to be paid to the problem of refugees and displaced persons. It was imperative to ensure safe access to refugees and to promote conditions for their return. He supported strengthening the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs presence for that reason. He also called for international support to UNHCR for the return of refugees in Guinea.

There was a need for peace, he said. The ECOWAS had made a commitment to work towards that end. The peaceful implementation of the Abuja ceasefire agreement needed to be implemented by all parties. But peace was not only the absence of war. There had to be good governance as well, with development promoted. Local conflict prevention capability needed to be strengthened, as well as the ECOWAS early warning mechanisms and small arms embargoes.

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs, he said, were also needed. They had been particularly valuable in Mali. He supported opening a United Nations Office in West Africa, for information gathering and coordination, especially towards a true partnership with ECOWAS. Broadening UNAMSIL’s mandate and expanding its presence were desirable in that context. International assistance for ECOWAS activities, and enforcement of sanctions would also be valuable. The ECOWAS was ready to play its part in all efforts in the region.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said his country remained absolutely committed to bringing peace to Sierra Leone and its neighbours. It had already committed several hundred million dollars and would not stop seeking a favourable result, for which good governance throughout the region was key. He welcomed the RUF’s renewed commitment made at "Abuja 2" to comply with the terms of the ceasefire agreement, including its withdrawal from Kambia. That was an important step in protecting the territorial integrity of Sierra Leone and in calming the situation in the south-west of Guinea. Hopefully, there would be an immediate reinvigoration of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration there.

He said he looked forward to the outcome of the meeting on 15 May in Freetown, which should lead to immediate results on the ground. The onus was on the RUF to prove to the international community that it was genuinely committed to peace. Hopefully, immediate disarmament and the return of the arms and ammunition seized last year would be completed by 30 May. He had some questions for the Secretary-General: did he think that trend in Sierra Leone with those agreements and their hoped for implementation was in line with expectations that there would be sufficient progress leading to the holding of elections within the next 10 months? Regarding the alleged Civil Defence Force attacks on RUF positions, was it clear whether the Civil Defence Force was responsible, because there was some doubt about those events? Indeed, RUF had consistently failed to implement the ceasefire agreement.

He said he was grateful to Ms. McAskie for her report. His country remained very concerned about coordinating a response to the humanitarian crisis in Guinea. Was there a date for the appointment of a representative in Conakry, and a clear idea of the number of refugees as well as a timetable for the completion of related efforts? he asked.

The idea of creating a subregional office for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was interesting. In that respect, he wanted to know if there was a specific timetable for its establishment. He noted her reference to the impressive and senior membership of the Mano River Union Women’s Peace Network; the link between national and such civil society organizations was crucial.

He thanked Assistant Secretary-General Fall for the mission’s report, which presented a vivid illustration of the need for a stepped up United Nations effort and a real regional strategy for West Africa. Many of his recommendations had reinforced the general findings of the Brahimi report and built on the recommendations outlined in the report on the Council’s mission to Sierra Leone. He supported the creation of an integrated mission task force for the subregion, which required urgent follow-up.

There was more and more evidence of the need to strengthen regional and subregional institutions in preventing conflicts and developing responses to shore up peace-building efforts. The mission’s report contained a number of recommendations affecting the operations arm of the United Nations effort. Those merited careful consideration. Hopefully, the important analysis of coordination and strategy efforts would be matched by serious efforts by the United Nations intergovernmental machinery in determining the best response to the challenges.

The ECOWAS’ capacity as "the regional institution" was an essential aspect, he said. The report called for its strengthening that driving force in the subregion. Consideration should be given to how the Council might develop a more operational relationship within ECOWAS. Hopefully, the European Union would pay careful attention to the recommendations in that area. It was also time for individual donors to consider regenerating ECOWAS as a regional institution. He supported the recommendation to create an Office in West Africa, but that should not reduce the flexibility of UNAMSIL’s response.

Concerning the appalling humanitarian situation, the report had recommended expanding the functions and mandate of UNAMSIL, he noted. Presently, there was no representative of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in the mission. Given its history and the need for expanded security in Sierra Leone, expanding UNAMSIL’s mandate "probably was not a good idea at present". Intensive diplomacy was needed to restore relations between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone before an expanded operation could be considered. Such intensified efforts should take place within the ECOWAS framework.

He said that the situation in Liberia was "fast deteriorating". Compliance with the relevant Security Council resolution was urgent, as was energetic follow-up. He was not yet confident that President Taylor had gotten the message of the need for 100 per cent compliance with that resolution. Sanctions would be lifted as soon as the Council’s demands had been met. He welcomed the start of work by the United Nations expert panel on Liberia. In that regard, he looked forward to an independent and authoritative report. The Liberian President had invited the United Nations and ECOWAS to send border monitors to Liberia, but that might not be effective, as the borders were difficult to seal. Once the Panel’s mandate had expired, he would be ready to search options on a system of checks of that country’s ports and airfields.

NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said that destabilization might spread if not dealt with urgently, in the sub-region. He endorsed the regional approach advocated by the inter-agency mission. Dialogue among the heads of State was also needed. Supporting the report of the inter-agency mission, he said that its recommendations should be implemented quickly, and that ECOWAS should be fully involved in any activity in the sub-region. Assistance should be provided to it for that purpose. Valuable activities of ECOWAS could include the deployment of forces along the border between the three countries.

The territorial integrity of countries in the region needed to be respected, and armed groups needed to be disarmed to begin to build confidence in the area, he said. The humanitarian crisis, especially regarding Liberian refugees, needed to be urgently addressed. In addition, sanctions, such as those recently applied in Liberia, needed to be carefully monitored and constantly re-evaluated. Finally, donor support needed to be mobilized. He supported an international conference for that purpose, to aid efforts in the three countries involved, especially Guinea.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said the inter-agency mission report provided an important framework for addressing the inter-related problems of the West-African subregion. It showed that political and developmental issues faced by the peoples of West Africa were inextricably linked and needed a coherent approach. At a minimum, an entry point for the longer-term development perspective both on the ground at the regional level and at Headquarters must be ensured. Ireland had significantly increased its support of funds and programmes because their role and that of Resident Coordinator were crucial for a coherent approach. As noted in the report, international financial institutions should review the conditionalities related to financing arrangements for crisis countries.

He noted the report’s recommendation that UNAMSIL’s mandate be expanded, stating that a substantial change to the mandate of a peacekeeping force already in operation presented practical problems. However, he supported the mission’s recommendation that the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone maintain the two-track approach to resolving the Sierra Leone conflict. While the further deployment of UNAMSIL and the pledges of cooperation from the RUF interim leader were encouraging, RUF’s history of reneging on agreements made it advisable to remain cautious and watchful.

Finally, he said coordination was improving between the United Nations peacemakers in Sierra Leone and the development and humanitarian parts of the system. The appointment of a Deputy Special Representative drawn from the development community was working well. Governments in the region should be given assistance to develop their capacities for absorbing returning refugees and internally displaced persons while governments should cooperate with humanitarian agencies working in the region.

SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh) said that without an integrated approach, sustained development and economic stability could not be achieved. Dialogue among the leaders was essential, as well as continued military pressure on the RUF, to the achievement of regional peace. On 2 May, the RUF agreed to a troop withdrawal and the return of all weapons to UNAMSIL by 30 May. The force must make good on that process; its past record had not really been "straight". Also of concern were reports of continued fighting and ceasefire violations. The UNAMSIL’s deployment to areas of Sierra Leone occupied by rebels was satisfying. Clearly, the Government needed assistance in accomplishing such tasks. The countries of the Mano River Union should also be engaged in the search for peace.

He said he greatly appreciated the role played by ECOWAS in promoting regional peace and stability at the recent meetings in Abuja. He supported the establishment of international monitors, through the provision of necessary financial and technical assistance to ECOWAS. Despite recent efforts, the leaders of the three countries had so far failed to meet the desired objectives. The role of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in that context could not be overemphasized. In that regard, specific actions were needed by countries and donors. Particular emphasis should rest on the careful reintegration of child combatants. Concerning the humanitarian situation, a two-track approach to the refugees in Guinea, as described by Ms. McAskie, had his support.

Today’s briefings had made clear that enhancing the focus on post-conflict economic reconstruction was absolutely vital, he said. The international community should adopt long-term development strategies for Sierra Leone and assist the Government in finding options for former combatants. The setting up of a United Nations Office in West Africa was a proposal worthy of further discussion.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) supported efforts undertaken by ECOWAS to settle the security problem in the region. A solution of that problem would lead to amelioration of the refugee problem. The personal meeting of the leaders of the three countries would also be valuable, as would a deployment of ECOWAS troops along the borders mentioned in the inter-agency report, with the agreement of all States whose territories were implicated. Russia supported strengthening the overall cooperation between the United Nations and ECOWAS and the recommendations of the inter-agency report in that regard.

Praising the performance of UNAMSIL, he said there had been a turn for the better in Sierra Leone. The combination of forceful pressure and political negotiation was working. He expected that the Government would, in those efforts, support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities, along with greater such efforts in the region in general. Whether that should come through an expansion of UNAMSIL’s mandate was questionable, however.

Compliance by Liberia in ending its support for the Revolutionary United Front was crucial, though the two entities should keep contacts for the purpose of peace. The monitoring of Liberian sanctions was important in that regard. He finally called for the countries involved to respect each others' territorial integrity in all the ways prescribed by various United Nations resolutions, which included not allowing armed groups, who were attacking across borders, to base themselves in a country.

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said the report had convinced him of the need for a subregional approach by the United Nations system to the promotion of peace and economic development in West Africa. The wealth of ideas and proposals should be fully analysed by the Council and studied by other agencies of the Organization and related institutions. A regional approach to United Nations operations in West Africa required broad and dynamic interaction with ECOWAS. Several recommendations made by the inter-agency mission were geared towards strengthening the institutional capacities of regional organizations in various areas, including electoral assistance and conflict management.

He then asked the following questions of the Secretariat officials. What could they report about the levels of coordination between each Secretariat Department and ECOWAS? How could the dialogue with ECOWAS be made more productive? Concerning the illegal arms trafficking in the region and the destabilizing effect of their broad circulation, what contribution was being made by arms exporting countries in support of the moratorium on small arms and light weapons in West Africa? Specifically, would it help to draw up a list of international arms traffickers or traders? Would not international weapons control measures avoid future expenditures for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration? With respect to the "donor and asylum" fatigue in connection with humanitarian relief, could a regional strategy be devised to counter them? Also, what was the local capability to provide humanitarian relief, and was it a viable option to consider a rapid response capability there to deal with the humanitarian crisis?

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said all aspects of the regional situation were indeed interrelated and enmeshed. The cross-border refugee situation was particularly complex. An integrated approach to all those problems must be considered. To help establish such an approach, a United Nations regional office was a good idea, with a corresponding office in New York. He welcomed many ECOWAS efforts, including that to bring the three heads of State together.

He supported other peace initiatives in the region as well, including those that related to the Côte d’Ivoire. Though there had been recent positive developments in Sierra Leone, implementation of other activities was now demanded. He asked Mr. Guéhenno how UNAMSIL would be used in regard to various issues of refugee return. Regarding the displaced person situation in Guinea, international assistance needed to be provided, but above and beyond that was the question of the return of refugees, which needed to be safe and voluntary. Recently, questionable conditions may have been attached to refugee relocations. He also wondered if transportation to bring back refugees to Sierra Leone was now less available.

M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said the report had been ably complemented by today’s presentations. Both had emphasized the need for integrated and holistic strategies aimed at achieving a sustained and lasting solution to the problems in the region. Such an approach was urgently needed to help prevent the further emergence of conflicts, to restore peace and security and promote economic and social development. The convening of a meeting between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council could usefully focus attention on the West African situation. Today’s meeting was also timely.

She said she hoped that commitments made by the RUF at the Abuja meeting would be carried out. She had heard from Assistant Secretary-General Fall about criticism of United Nations operations. She again emphasized the importance of UNAMSIL in sensitizing the population about its mandate. The proposal to expand its mandate into neighbouring countries deserved the Council’s serious consideration. She supported the establishment of a mechanism for systematic conversation among United Nations entities for harmonizing subregional policies. Frequent consultation with ECOWAS was critical to developing cohesive strategies. There should also be close collaboration between the Council and ECOWAS.

The establishment of a United Nations political office for West Africa would be a step in the right direction and could send a positive signal to the region that the United Nations was serious about enhancing its capacity and collaboration in the subregion. It must be fully staffed to tackle the wide cross-section of issues. She also supported, as an interim measure, the creation of an integrated mission task force. In light of the escalating conflict in the region, dialogue among heads of State was of paramount importance. Mediation efforts among the leaders of Mali, Togo and Nigeria, recently appointed by ECOWAS, should also be encouraged.

Noting that the situation in Sierra Leone had escalated into a humanitarian crisis, she said she supported, in principle, the establishment of an inter-positional force along the shared borders of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. She welcomed the ECOWAS initiative at its meetings last December and April to address such mounting concerns and noted the concrete steps being proposed. In particular, she recognized the dire need for equipment and logistical support to mount a successful operation. Conflict prevention strategies of the Council should seek to strengthen ECOWAS’ capacity for conflict resolution and security. The early warning mechanism was also important. Civil society played a pivotal role in conflict prevention and should be encouraged.

She said that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was an essential component of post-conflict peace-building. Regrettably, those programmes had been thwarted recently, primarily because of lack of funding. War was a lucrative business, and any incentive to curb it must be met with alternative sources of gainful employment. Of particular concern were the ex-combatants and child soldiers, whose situation required adequate and sustained funding. Also, arms manufacturers must cease the export of small arms to conflict areas.

KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) emphasized that the Council must coordinate its efforts in the region with those of ECOWAS. He noted that even though there had been a lot of positive reports on the region, many such reports contained dire warnings of a possible worsening conflict, providing a paradox. Hopefully, looking at the overall trends region-wide, would resolve that paradox. Also past decisions in the region needed to be examined in order to make progress in the region, and Security Council working methods should have continuity.

Short-term work needed, as well, to be balanced by long-term objectives, he said. West Africa was clearly a high-priority region, but that concern would be best demonstrated by the amount of money provided to the region. This year, for example, $800 million would go to various efforts in the region. Resources should be examined to make sure that the allocations were being provided on the basis of need and not the basis of some other considerations.

WANG DONGHUA (China) said that the international community, including the United Nations, had done tremendous work in bringing peace and stability to West Africa. He was very grateful to the efforts of ECOWAS. The report of the inter-agency mission was yet another effort by the United Nations to find a solution to the problems in that region. It contained many excellent and operable recommendations, which merited serious study and adoption by the Council and "real" actions as a follow-up. Presently, the Council should focus its attention on the security situation in the border areas of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. It should also study ways and means of supporting the deployment of ECOWAS forces along those borders and verify Liberia’s compliance with relevant Council resolutions.

He said that the establishment of a United Nations Office in West Africa was a good idea, whose tasks should be fully coordinated with ECOWAS. The head of the Office, in dealing with day-to-day responsibilities, should focus his attention on the long-term and overall resolution to the regional problem. He also supported the presence of humanitarian relief agencies in the area, as the humanitarian problems were inextricably linked with the security situation there. Finding a solution to the increased security threats was imperative. More should be done to tackle the humanitarian problems.

VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said he agreed with the Security Council mission’s conclusion that resolution of the conflicts in the Mano River Union was crucial in any approach towards addressing the priority needs and challenges of the subregion. A coordinated strategy for Sierra Leone should engage the Government, the region and the international community in an integrated approach. The two-track approach combining military deterrence and special attention to the political dialogue between parties to the Abuja Agreement was important from the perspective of his country, a UNAMISIL participant.

The report could constitute important parts of a framework for a subregional approach to the problems faced by West Africa, he continued. In developing a comprehensive subregional strategy, there should be an effective coordination mechanism within the region to implement it. A United Nations Office for West Africa would be a welcome step towards intensifying collaboration among relevant actors. The activities and initiatives of ECOWAS should be supported, particularly the capacity-building of its Secretariat and its various mechanisms such as its early warning and conflict prevention capabilities.

ANUND PRIYAY NEEWOOR (Mauritius) fully endorsed the recommendations of the inter-agency mission report, as well as an integrated approach to the region. He inquired about an implementation plan for the mission report. In addition, he commended ECOWAS for its vision for the maintenance of peace and security in the region. That organization must be fully supported by the international community for those efforts. Finally, he expressed disappointment that the tribunal for Sierra Leone had still not been established. He called for international support for that purpose.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that given ECOWAS’ important role, efforts should be encouraged to strengthen it. Adequate funding was needed for the United Nations to fulfil its obligations in the region. Of great concern was the lack of much needed donor support in response to appeals made for Sierra Leone and the entire West African region. His country would continue to support humanitarian efforts there and appealed to all Member States to contribute in that regard.

He said that preventing the proliferation of small arms was of paramount concern. Several countries in the region, including Mali, had shown a strong commitment to reducing the number of those weapons. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was a precondition for a successful completion of UNAMSIL’s mandate, but in Sierra Leone, that process was not progressing as expected. His country was prepared to consider providing additional support to the mission, particularly in the field of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Adherence to the ceasefire would provide hope for a revitalized disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. It was crucial for local governments to take steps to improve the security of returnees and humanitarian relief workers. Sierra Leonean refugees who had originating from areas declared secure must receive assistance. At the same time, the demobilization process there was moving at too slow a pace.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) speaking in his national capacity, said that it was important to remember that, in speaking of the region, the Council was not talking about a natural disaster but rather a man-made disaster. The United States supported ECOWAS, and wanted to see concrete results on the ground, such as security and the safe return of refugees. For those purposes, UNAMSIL needed to be made credible, and the extension of the authority of the Government in Sierra Leone was a priority.

In the overall approach to the region, all agreed on the need for coordination and integration, but the right arrangements needed to be found. He was doubtful that an extension of UNAMSIL’s mandate was the right approach. He noted that the United States would not treat victims and aggressors in the same manner. That applied to President Taylor of Liberia. He called for early implementation of sanctions for the purpose of stemming Liberia’s harmful activities within and outside its borders.

Response by Secretariat

Mr. GUÉHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, in responding to questions, described ceasefire violations and addressed the question about being on the right track in Sierra Leone. With concrete peace-building progress on the ground, along with comprehensive disarmament and the extension of Government administration, elections could be held as anticipated.

Coordination with ECOWAS, he said, occurred at two levels: at the level of the representative of the Secretary-General and also through the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York. He stressed how important cooperation with ECOWAS was, and expressed how important ECOWAS’s efforts had been in securing the cooperation of the key players in the region. Successes of UNAMSIL had, indeed, been based on that kind of coordination.

Measures were being taken for the safe return of refugees to the RUF-controlled zone, including stepped-up patrolling there. Future security would be the responsibility of the army of Sierra Leone, and assisted by UNAMSIL and humanitarian agencies. On the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, it did continue; however, at the moment it continued as a trickle. The idea was to make it substantial enough to meet the requirements of the ceasefire. For real reintegration, greater funding was needed. The World Bank was likely to convene a conference for that purpose in the near future.

Ms. MCASKIE, responding to a question about the appointment of a humanitarian coordinator, said she was working towards establishing a small unit in Aubja to foster the operation of an early warning mechanism, and the appointment of a humanitarian coordinator was under discussion with the concerned agencies. Hopefully, that would be done quickly. Responding to a question about relations with ECOWAS, she said that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was working very closely with its members on early warning.

To a question the movement of refugees out of the "parrot’s beak", she said that 40,000 had already moved out, and another 30,000 would be moved out in the next two weeks. Responding to other question about the return of refugees, she agreed that was a major concern. There was also agreement on the basic principle of voluntary concern, including on the part of the asylum country. The situation that had arisen in the "parrot’s beak" had proved useful in providing particular guidance. Moving refugees away from the border had been going on since early May. Plans had included walking the able-bodied people, and arrangements had also been made to drive people to the new camps. A major obstacle had been finding the trucks to do so, which was why the exercise was taking slightly longer than expected.

Asked if UNHCR would no longer assist refugees in the "parrot's beak", she said that it would not. That had not meant, however, that those in need of humanitarian assistance in those areas would not receive some. A number of non-governmental organizations would continue to operate there, with the support of Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Very few candidates were returning by boat, she said to another question. The Guinean Government was encouraging refugees to stay away from Conakry because of the overcrowding there.

She said that the report on operative paragraph 9 was being prepared by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations with the support of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and should be ready in a few days. In terms of humanitarian aid to the region, the funds collected on the appeal for Sierra Leone and the region, overall, had totaled approximately $25 million. So, additional support was actively being sought.

She said she was pleased to hear support for a regional approach, but that should not blind everyone to the fact that solutions should also play out on a country level. The situation in Sierra Leone was a classic example of where the international community and United Nations institutions should work together to avoid a humanitarian gap.

In Guinea, she said, the lesson learned had been that it was not enough to assist refugees and countries in crisis without also assisting the host country. In Liberia, the deteriorating humanitarian situation was only the "tip of the iceberg". When conditions permitted, a long-term and in-depth approach would be needed there.

Mr. FALL, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, agreed that the regional approach would not substitute for a national approach. As for the extension of the UNAMSIL mandate, he was merely expressing concerns of regional

leaders. Regarding increasing cooperation with ECOWAS, he advocated making better use of existing frameworks and the establishment of a United Nations Office in West Africa. In regard to countries that traded in arms in West Africa, he called for identification of those involved in that illicit trade and for stemming their activities.

Addressing the double fatigue of host countries and international donors, he said that international agencies were already trying to help host countries within their refugee assistance. On implementation, the inter-agency task force was now working and financial contributions were being solicited. The Secretary-General had been asked to oversee the implementation of all recommendations. He did not further address sanctions, because his report was based on previous activity in that area.

* * * * *