Press Releases

    15 August 2002


    NEW YORK, 14 August (UN Headquarters) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued the following remarks at the opening of the Security Council workshop on the situation in the Mano River Union sub-region on 18 July:

    Let me begin by welcoming you to the United Nations Headquarters. I am very glad that you are with us today as we review the situation in Africa and in the Mano River sub-region and the lessons to be learned from our experiences in Sierra Leone.

    Indeed, if the prospects for Sierra Leone look so much more promising today than they did two years ago, that is in large measure due to the timely intervention by your own country, which helped to stabilize the situation.

    I would also be very brief because I see the head of Peacekeeping Operations is joining you in this seminar and if I say too much he will either have to repeat what I have said or will have nothing to say. So I intend to be very brief.

    I think your initiative today, in organizing a workshop on lessons learned in Sierra Leone and on how to develop a coordinated approach to the situation in that part of Africa, is no less timely, and extremely welcome. It comes at a critical juncture, when the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) is about to begin the new phase of its operations in Sierra Leone, but at the same time the escalating conflict in Liberia threatens to destabilize the whole area.

    The United Nations peacekeeping experience in Sierra Leone offers invaluable lessons, not only because of the success achieved so far, but also, particularly, because of the trials encountered in the early stages of the Mission, and how they were dealt with.

    The combination of early command-and-control challenges experienced by the Mission, mistakes made in taking over from a sub-regional peacekeeping operation, lack of adequate preparation, and an attempt to implement an ambitious mandate without adequate resources resulted in a costly crisis in May 2000.

    Lessons were learned the hard way from that tragic experience. But, thank goodness, the international community did not give up.

    The Security Council, the Secretariat, and the troop contributors, as well as regional partners and individual Member States -- in particular, the United Kingdom -- took swift, concerted action to correct the situation. And I think one of the main lessons we also learned from this is that when we get into these operations we have to be prepared for the unpredictable, we will be managing a fluid and ambiguous situation and indeed we should go in prepared for developments on the ground and have the stamina and the will to stay the course, and I think in Sierra Leone we did, and this has lessons for us and in other areas. Effective preparation, adequate resources, enough analysis and information to anticipate [what] is likely to be developed and resources and political will to stay the course until we achieve our objectives

    Thank you very much Madame President, I want to follow your lead.

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    * Issuance delayed due to technical difficulties.