Press Releases

    30 January 2002

    Addressing Security Council, Deputy Secretary-General Suggests National Reconciliation, Accountability for Atrocities Be in UN Mandates

    NEW YORK, 29 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement delivered today by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the open meeting of the Security Council on the situation in Africa:

    Let me begin by welcoming you to this house, and thanking you for all that your country does, both for the United Nations and for Africa.

    As a stable multi-party democracy with a rapidly growing economy, Mauritius is one of Africa's most striking success stories. Your example should encourage and inspire all Africans as they seek to implement the New Partnership for African Development, with its commendable emphasis on human rights, the rule of law and African self-help.

    Let me also welcome the new Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), who has the daunting responsibility of overseeing its transformation into the African Union. We all hope that this change will be reflected in a transformation of the continent's fortunes, and we look forward to an ever closer and more effective partnership between our two organizations.

    Our own Secretary-General much regrets that he cannot be here today. He welcomes the Council's sustained focus on Africa -- which still occupies on average 60 per cent of its time -- at a moment when many people's attention is focused elsewhere.

    I should also thank you, Mr. President, for the very useful set of guidelines for this meeting, which your Permanent Representative circulated earlier in the month. The clear and comprehensive list of questions it contains should help to focus all our minds.

    In my own statement, I shall concentrate on just a few of those questions, without attempting to revisit all the deep-rooted causes of conflict in Africa. These were amply covered in the Secretary-General's report of April 1998 and in subsequent reports, as well as resolutions of this Council and of the General Assembly.

    Some of them, indeed, fall outside the agenda of this Council. They should, of course, be tackled as a matter of great urgency, but in the context of other forums, such as the forthcoming world conferences on financing for development and on sustainable development.

    I must at least mention HIV/AIDS, if only because it is now the greatest single threat to Africa's social and economic development, and a factor that contributes to most, if not all, of those deep-rooted causes of conflict. The whole United Nations system is engaged, alongside the peoples of Africa, in the struggle against this terrible scourge, and this is certainly not the moment to relax our efforts.

    But today, Mr. President, I suggest that we can most usefully focus on issues where this Council has direct responsibilities and possibilities for action; and particularly that we should take advantage of Mr. Essy's presence to concentrate on building a stronger relationship between the United Nations, the OAU, and the subregional organizations that are such an encouraging feature of the African landscape.

    In this context, you ask whether the United Nations has played its role in supporting regional initiatives, especially when this Council's authorization is required for peacekeeping operations.

    The answer, in our opinion, is that consultation and cooperation between the United Nations and the various African regional arrangements have increased considerably in recent years, especially in West Africa and the Great Lakes. With the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in particular, the United Nations has worked closely on security issues in the Mano River basin. And high-level delegations from both subregions have come here for consultations, while, of course, the Council has also sent its own fact-finding missions to Africa.

    As far as the OAU is concerned, there have been regular meetings between our secretariats, both at the top and at the level of experts.

    But these contacts could definitely be strengthened further. In particular, we need to step up our cooperation with the political mechanisms that some of the subregional organizations have created, so that we can work with them in developing integrated approaches to conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace-building.

    Such approaches must involve cooperation, not only in the areas of politics and security, but also across a wide range of issues, such as human rights, humanitarian relief, the struggle against HIV/AIDS, and economic and social development.

    I hope that the establishment of the UN Office in West Africa, and the proposed International Conference on the Great Lakes, will, in their different ways, help improve institutional links, and so build confidence among the countries of those two subregions, as they seek to promote such integrated policies.

    But let us not delude ourselves. None of this will get very far unless there is real political will -- both on the part of African leaders, to pursue the quest for peace, and on the part of members of this Council, to act decisively in their support for Africa.

    It is also vital that we help our African partners to strengthen their own logistical capacities, especially in the area of peacekeeping.

    The OAU, subregional organizations and many individual African States have shown a commendable interest in assuming a bigger role in peacekeeping in Africa. But at present, their capacity to do so is severely restricted by lack of training and resources, especially shortages of equipment and of the basic supplies that any unit needs to sustain itself in a theatre of operations.

    It is, therefore, essential that the international community make a more serious and concerted effort to build up and sustain these regional capacities.

    The United Nations is already facilitating contacts between African contributors to United Nations operations, on the one hand, and donor States that can provide logistical and equipment stocks, on the other -- and we would be happy to do more in this vital area.

    We have also been working with the OAU and the subregional actors, through information-sharing, training and staff exchange, to improve their capacity for supporting peace operations. I might mention, in particular, the Inter-Agency Mission which visited West Africa in March last year, and made several recommendations for improving the capacity of ECOWAS.

    Similar considerations apply to the recovery programmes of post-conflict societies. Your guidelines, Mr. President, rightly identify the effective implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes as a vital component of post-conflict peace-building.

    Indeed, too many peace processes in Africa have been broken because this crucial aspect -- and particularly the reintegration component -- was neglected, or not sustained. In current and future cases, it must be placed on a solid, long-term financial footing.

    Other closely related aspects, and similarly crucial, are national reconciliation and accountability for atrocities. These two processes are so important to the success of our missions that I suggest the Council might wish, in the future, to include them in United Nations mandates, and to recommend that their funding be put on a more solid basis.

    In the specific case of Sierra Leone, the Secretary-General has shown great faith in the political will and commitment of Member States by agreeing to establish the Special Court mandated by this Council in spite of a shortfall, in funds so far pledged, of $1.4 million for the first year and $7.4 million for subsequent years. It is yet to be determined whether this is a satisfactory model for financing institutions of accountability in conflicts elsewhere on the continent, and indeed beyond it.

    Mr. President, your questionnaire asks how effective sanctions imposed by this Council have been, and to what extent they have served their purpose as preventive or coercive measures in African conflicts.

    Most of them, as you know, have centred on arms embargoes. Their effectiveness has been limited by various factors, including insufficient political support, porous and un-policed borders, inadequate infrastructure, lack of resources for monitoring and implementation, and -- once again -- inadequate regional and subregional capacities.

    But progress has certainly been made since the Council has taken to establishing panels of experts to investigate violations. These bodies have been able to identify criminal networks involved in "sanctions-busting", and have developed far-reaching, practical proposals for monitoring.

    In both Sierra Leone and Angola, illicit sales of diamonds and other national resources have been made more difficult, and this has significantly diminished the ability of armed groups to defy the will of the international community, as expressed by this Council.

    In its response to the events of 11 September 2001, the international community has shown a new unity and determination in dealing with those who seek to use commercial and financial transactions for illegal and violent ends -- and in resolution 1373, this Council has found a new and promising mechanism for ensuring compliance with its decisions.

    I hope the Council will now use this new-found political momentum, and perhaps invoke a similar mechanism, to reinforce its call on Member States to make the violation of arms embargoes that it has imposed a criminal offence under their national laws.

    Resolution 1373 also notes the close connection between international terrorism and transnational organized crime, illicit drugs, money-laundering, and illegal arms trafficking. All of these activities play their part in conflicts in Africa, and I hope the connection may lead the Council to focus more attention on illicit traffickers.

    More broadly, Mr. President, the events of 11 September reminded us all of the danger to international order that can arise when structures of governance anywhere break down, and a State or region becomes a zone of anarchy and refuge for outlaws. Since the risk of this happening is as great in Africa as anywhere, it would be doubly wrong to allow these events to distract us from Africa's problems. On the contrary, this Council has stronger reasons than ever to consider what it can do to strengthen State structures and encourage effective, accountable government in that part of the world.

    Mr. President, I make no claim to have given you a comprehensive list of all the actions needed to remove the causes of conflict in Africa, let alone to promote durable peace and sustainable development. As I said at the outset, many of those actions lie well outside the purview of this Council.

    But I believe I have mentioned a number of points where the Council can usefully take action.

    My colleagues and I will listen with close attention to the comments and suggestions that will be made in the course of these discussions. Rest assured that we are ready and eager to help implement the "workable set of recommendations" which I hope will indeed emerge.

    Thank you very much.

    * *** *