Press Releases

    26 January 2004

    Speakers in Security Council Stress Importance of Regional Approach to Resolving Interrelated West Africa Conflicts

    NEW YORK, 23 January (UN Headquarters) -- Members of the Security Council agreed this morning on the importance of a regional approach to resolving the interrelated conflicts ravaging West Africa, as they considered the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

    Taking up the Secretary-General’s progress report on the recommendations of the Security Council mission that visited West Africa in mid-2003, Council members focused on elements common to the subregion’s conflicts:  the use of child soldiers; mercenary forces crossing national borders at will; sexual violence against women and children; displacement of peoples; the culture of impunity; and illicit trafficking in small arms and natural resources.

    Speakers also emphasized the importance of greater international support for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which had spearheaded peacekeeping operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and led mediation efforts in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of Ireland said that, while recognizing the regional causes of conflicts in West Africa, it would be wrong not also to recognize the regional contribution to their solution.  Most notably in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, the assertive action by ECOWAS had been critical to the restoration of peace.

    Ghana’s representative, speaking on behalf of the 15-member ECOWAS, called for the accelerated deployment of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) throughout the country to promote security and facilitate successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Liberia, like its conflict-affected neighbours, was not yet out of the woods, and would continue to need international assistance and support for some time, he said.  He urged the international community to ensure a successful outcome of the International Conference for the Reconstruction in Liberia, to be held at United Nations Headquarters from 5 to 6 February.

    The representative of Côte d’Ivoire urged the Security Council to help make his country’s peace process irreversible by authorizing a full-fledged peacekeeping operation to replace the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI). Sierra Leone’s representative cautioned against a withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) -- projected for the end of 2004 -- before the country’s security forces had the capacity to take up their responsibilities.

    Introducing the Secretary-General’s progress report, Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, noted that the Council had recently approved measures concerning the Secretary-General’s proposal to send an assessment mission to Sierra Leone in February.

    Other speakers today included the representatives of United Kingdom, France, Benin, Germany, Algeria, Philippines, Romania, Brazil, Spain, Russian Federation, Angola, United States, Pakistan, China, Chile, Syria, Mexico, Egypt, Japan and Nigeria.

    The meeting began at 10:18 a.m. and adjourned at 1:30 p.m.


    Council members had before them the Secretary-General’s progress report on the recommendations of the Security Council mission to West Africa (document S/2003/1147), which states that cross-border issues are at the core of instability in the subregion. In order to appraise their complexity and multidimensional nature, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa plans to draw from consultations with the other United Nations political and peacekeeping presences in the subregion, as well as with other partners, the substantive elements that could form part of a strategy to address those issues. Such a strategy would include the maximization of the comparative advantages of all the organizations concerned and the possibility of developing cooperative arrangements between them and the United Nations Office for West Africa.

    The Secretary-General observes that appreciable progress has been achieved in implementing the recommendations of the mission concerning Sierra Leone and Liberia. In the case of Guinea-Bissau and Côte d’Ivoire, it is hoped that the recent initiatives taken by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other international players will help the two countries take the steps necessary to achieve sustainable peace and stability. Encouraging steps have also been taken to address the cross-cutting regional issues. However, several obstacles still stand in the way of efforts to stabilize the subregion and promote good governance and development.

    Welcoming the declared commitment of the newly formed transitional Government of Guinea-Bissau to restore legality and hold legislative elections by the end of March 2004, the Secretary-General emphasizes that it is essential for the international community to remain fully engaged with Guinea-Bissau, including by providing urgent financial and other support to help the authorities follow through on their commitments.

    Regarding the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire, however, he expresses regret that the significant progress made in August 2003 was interrupted by the recent stand-off between the Government and the Forces nouvelles over the procedure followed in appointing the Ministers of Defence and National Security. The Secretary-General calls upon the Ivorian parties to recommit to implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, in particular, to facilitate the operation of the Government of National Reconciliation with the participation of all signatories. At the same time, he expresses his fervent hope that the Security Council will consider fully the pressing call by ECOWAS leaders for an increase in the troop strength of United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI) and for its transformation into a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

    On the Liberian peace process, the report states that the early and resolute steps taken augur well not only for that country’s stability, but also for the consolidation of peace in Sierra Leone. However, stabilizing Liberia remains a challenge and is contingent upon the timely mobilization and deployment of the required troops throughout the country, especially as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) begins to disarm and demobilize combatants, a critical stage in the peace process. The Secretary-General urges Member States that had promised troops for UNMIL to redeem their pledges as soon as possible and expresses the hope that the international community will create the conditions necessary to ensure the success of the forthcoming donor conference on the reconstruction of Liberia.

    Regarding the consolidation of peace in Sierra Leone, the report notes that while significant progress has been achieved so far, much work remains in ensuring that the planned gradual withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) continues to take into account the Government’s ability to assume its primary responsibility for internal and external security, to enhance control over natural resources and to consolidate civil administration throughout the country. Potential destabilizing factors identified as essential benchmarks for determining the timing and pace of UNAMSIL’s withdrawal include the possible return of Sierra Leonean ex-combatants from Liberia and a precarious situation in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons.

    In order to address the dilemma relating to the drawdown of UNAMSIL and the still fragile peace in Sierra Leone, the Secretary-General proposes to dispatch an assessment mission early in 2004 to evaluate the progress made in accomplishing the benchmarks that should guide the Mission’s drawdown.  Meanwhile, in the context of the regional approach to peace and stability, it is vital that UNAMSIL continue to monitor movements of armed elements along Liberia’s borders in order to prevent incursions, a particularly important task at a time when UNMIL is preparing to launch that country’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.

    The report notes that, in response to a Council request for an effective contingency plan for preventing cross-border movements of foreign combatants and a mechanism to harmonize activities in areas of mutual concern, UNAMSIL convened a meeting of United Nations missions in West Africa, which was held in Freetown on 14 November. The meeting, chaired by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, considered those cross-border and related issues and adopted specific mechanisms for harmonization among the United Nations missions in the subregion.

    Introduction of Report

    TULIAMENI KALOMOH, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, introducing the Secretary-General’s progress report, said it provided initial assessments of how to address cross-cutting issues identified by the Security Council’s mission to West Africa in 2003.  It also covered developments in Guinea-Bissau since the mission.

    He said the political process in Guinea-Bissau was back on track after the handover of power by the military junta to a civilian committee.  Legislative elections were scheduled for 28 March 2004, to be followed by presidential elections in 2005. Financial resources were in place and a number of the country’s development partners were providing assistance to tackle social and economic problems.

    Regarding Côte d’Ivoire, he said the report indicated that the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement continued to be hampered by the unwillingness of the parties to adhere fully to its provisions. The peace process had been stalled from September to early December over protests by the Forces nouvelles regarding the selection of ministers.  However, the Forces nouvelles ministers had returned to their posts, which demonstrated the commitment of the Ivorians, as well as that of ECOWAS, to keep the peace process on track. The Council was still considering a proposal to transform the United Nations presence in the country into a peacekeeping mission for an initial 12 months.

    On Liberia, he said UNAMIL was yet to attain its full troop strength, so that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme could begin. The report called upon those countries that had pledged troops to fulfil their commitments within the next few months in order to enhance security and open the country to humanitarian assistance. Progress was also being made in Sierra Leone despite residual security constraints. The Council had recently approved measures proposed by the Secretary-General to send an assessment mission to Sierra Leone in February.


    EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that much had changed in West Africa since the Council’s mission there last summer. Among other things, the Council was in the midst of approving a peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire, and there was a new government in Guinea-Bissau. All of which provided hope for building lasting peace in the region. However, building lasting peace would require the sustained commitment and support of the Security Council and the international community.

    What was being seen gradually was the Council’s emphasis on a regional approach being implemented on the ground, he noted. That was being done in three ways. The first was in tackling cross-border issues effectively. Regional approaches were needed to address such problems as small arms. The Secretary-General had recommended that the Council pursue broader measures, such as subregional arms embargoes. Second, there was a more effective use of United Nations assets across the region. He was pleased that the Secretary-General had appointed a Special Representative for West Africa.  Also, the Secretariat was using the resources of various peacekeeping missions, which made for cost-effectiveness and better results. Third, there were closer links between subregional organizations, which would prove vital for building lasting peace, especially once United Nations peacekeeping operations had left.

    Sierra Leone, he said, was now at peace thanks to the enormous resources invested there.  That investment must not be wasted. If the benchmarks were not fully met, the Council must consider what residual United Nations presence would be required after UNAMSIL’s departure in December. In Liberia, the next challenges for UNMIL were well known.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration would be the most important factor in that situation. In Côte d’Ivoire, thanks to the sterling work of French forces, ECOWAS and the United Nations, progress was improving.  But, to continue progress in implementing the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, a peacekeeping operation should be approved soon.

    JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France), associating himself with the European Union, noted that the situation in each country had changed considerably in the right direction since the Council mission in July 2003. In Liberia, a political transition was under way and a new government was working with more troops deployed under UNMIL. The deployment was changing the situation with regard to the gradual improvement in the security situation, the provision of humanitarian assistance and the prospect of disarming combatants.

    Security was also gaining ground in Sierra Leone and the country was on the right track, he said. In Guinea-Bissau, the Government was making efforts to promote national reconciliation and good governance, in general. There had also been major progress in Côte d’Ivoire since December, with the return of the Forces nouvelles and the cantonment of heavy weapons.

    West Africa, while at a turning point, had not solved all its problems and must be extremely vigilant, he said. Liberia faced an absolutely immense task that would require time, resources and commitment. Yet, some fighters were refusing to give up their weapons and were seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly Sierra Leone.  Arms transfers were taking place even now. In Sierra Leone, it was up to the authorities to guarantee security, which, in turn, depended on developments in Liberia.

    He said a consensus was emerging in the Council on a regional approach. There was also a need to support the considerable efforts being made by ECOWAS. It had played an essential and decisive role in Sierra Leone and Liberia and had spearheaded UNMIL. In Côte d’Ivoire, alongside French forces, it was doing sterling work. However, ECOWAS was reaching the limits of its resources and it was up to the international community to strengthen its capacity.

    JOEL WASSI ADECHI (Benin) said he hoped Security Council missions would continue and would be more inclusive. In deciding to go to West Africa, the Council showed that it was trying to find ways and means to consolidate peace in the subregion. While progress had been achieved since the mission, the situation remained fragile. West Africa had difficulties which required coordination by the Security Council with the Economic and Social Council. “We have managed to reduce the fever, but have not been able to cure the disease”, he said. The enemies of West Africa were well known. Historically, it was a short period of time to build a State in the post-colonial period. Internally, there was bad governance; lack of democracy; political, economic and social exclusion; and violation of human rights.

    In building that horrendous architecture, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, as well as the use of child soldiers, could be seen, he said. The United Nations must act to dismantle that architecture by consolidating the peace that was being seen today. It was necessary to strengthen the capacity of ECOWAS to restore peace in the subregion. The dynamics for lasting peace required building an alliance for lasting peace and cooperation among the States in the region. Peace also required military, human and financial support. A truce or peace agreement was only as good as its implementation.  An important challenge today was consolidating the momentum for peace in Côte d’Ivoire, by rapidly deploying United Nations forces to maintain peace. In doing so, the Council would help to stabilize the subregion and promote development in an environment of peace and security.

    GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said a regional approach required a multidimensional strategy. Cross-border issues must not be treated in isolation. A multidimensional strategy required a coordinated approach on the part of the United Nations, the donor community and other partners.  It was necessary to identify areas of cooperation and to reduce duplication.

    Emphasizing the need to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and ECOWAS, he said that the subregional organization’s role in West Africa could not be overestimated. Mediation by ECOWAS at the highest level had prevented major crises in Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. The United Nations was certain to benefit from its intricate knowledge of the subregion. In addition, cooperation among the United Nations missions must be further developed. The peacekeeping missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as the United Nations Office in Côte d’Ivoire, must develop a common approach to common issues.

    He stressed the need to revitalize political dialogue in the Mano River Union States, welcoming the recent visits by Liberian President Gyude Bryant. The United Nations, the donor community, the European Union and others must accompany and support those efforts. However, no efforts by third parties could be a substitute for the full and unequivocal commitment of national governments in the subregion to national reconciliation, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.

    ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said he was happy to note that the concerns expressed by the Council mission to West Africa and its recommendations were beginning to be addressed. The Secretary-General’s report showed that meaningful progress had been achieved in the last six months regarding the stabilization of conflicts in the subregion. Peace was taking root in Sierra Leone, and there were promising developments in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. The United Nations needed to strengthen its presence in Côte d’Ivoire to assist the peace process.

    The observations in the Secretary-General’s report on cross-border issues confirmed the need for subregional strategies in the future, he said. The viability of peace processes at the national level depended on the regional situation. The international community had the tools to define a framework for peace in the subregion. Among other things, there was broad consensus on the need to support peace processes in Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. The ECOWAS had become a ready and credible partner. Its capacities to restore peace were an asset that the international community must support and encourage.  And yet, he noted that the assistance provided thus far by the United Nations was not worthy of the sacrifices made by ECOWAS on behalf of the Organization.

    It was important for the international community and the Council to craft and set in motion a modus operandi for a subregional approach, which was no longer optional, but had become indispensable, he stated. Strengthening coordination among United Nations bodies, joint Security Council-Economic and Social Council missions and closer association with the Bretton Woods institutions were all relevant elements in that regard.  Lasting peace called for equally lasting economic development. The consolidation of peace depended on successful economic and social reintegration. The international community invested considerably to restore peace, but was averse to funding socio-economic projects, which were less expensive but crucial for lasting peace. He stressed again how important it was for the Council to craft a doctrine on a subregional approach that was clear and action-oriented.

    LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines) said that since the issuance of the Secretary-General’s 1998 report on conflict and peace in Africa, Africans had taken significant strides to mobilize their own strengths and resources to address their conflicts, specifically through regional cooperation. Interlocutors in the region had been engaged in the formulation of homegrown solutions. The regional approach had even greater significance in West Africa.  Its regional group, ECOWAS, had survived 26 years, despite its members’ political and cultural divisions and economic disparities.  But more than that, ECOWAS had managed to overcome those obstacles to establish one of the world’s first subregional security mechanisms, creating an indigenous system for managing its own conflicts.

    He said that cross-border issues remained daunting challenges that threatened the stability of neighbouring countries in the same manner as dominoes toppling over each other. He highlighted the need to strengthen cooperation with ECOWAS, with a view to enhancing its effectiveness. The ECOWAS could only be effective if its member States had sufficient technical, human and financial resources to monitor and prevent conflicts in the subregion. He was prepared to endorse the proposal for an increase in the troop strength of MINUCI and its transformation into a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

    He also supported the projected assessment mission to Sierra Leone to evaluate the progress made in accomplishing the benchmarks that should guide the UNAMSIL drawdown.  Further, he was awaiting the recommendations of the joint United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/United Nations Office for West Africa/European Commission mission which would visit ECOWAS headquarters in Abuja to assess the capacity of ECOWAS. and at the same time suggest ways to enhance its effectiveness through external assistance and structural improvements. Lastly, he welcomed the plan of the Special Representative for West Africa to develop a strategy to address those issues that were at the core of instability in the subregion and looked forward to his report on practical ways to address them.

    MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania), associating himself with the European Union, said that only by addressing cross-cutting regional issues could a lasting solution be found to the core of instability that continued to threaten and undermine not only peace in West Africa, but also any hope of overcoming pervasive underdevelopment in the foreseeable future.  There was a particular pattern of instability and common challenges in the West African subregion -- a sizeable population of heavily armed youth capable of moving without restraint from one country to another, carrying over porous borders not only weapons and the culture of violence, but also instability and destruction.

    He said the proliferation of small arms and small weapons and the exploitation and illegal trade in natural resources further compounded the difficulties in a subregion generally faced with a deficit of good governance. Given the complex and interrelated nature of the sources of instability in West Africa, an integrated approach covering the whole region and addressing challenges at their core was required. The United Nations Office for West Africa should be given the responsibility to ensure regional coordination of all organizations involved, thus making their impact more significant. Beyond that role, the Office could provide ideas and suggestions to regional issues, in parallel with the support for meaningful and constructive dialogue on the bilateral and subreginal level.

    RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said, while it was clear the Security Council should give individual and specific attention to each situation in the West African countries under its review, it was also evident that a regional approach could contribute to the solution of problems that affected, in a similar way, all countries of the region and which required common and concerted solutions. A number of interrelated cross-border problems underlay conflict and instability in the subregion. Among them were the use of child soldiers, the resort to mercenaries, the existence of refuge flows, the repatriation of ex-combatants, the proliferation of small arms, and the need to strengthen the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes. All West African countries could benefit from a determined effort to tackle those problems, he said.

    In his opinion, the revitalization of the Mano River Union was also a positive step towards subregional stability, as proven by the early involvement of ECOWAS, which had turned out to be crucial to containing the extension of humanitarian calamities in the region. Thus, full cooperation among countries and their cooperation with the United Nations were essential in consolidating the progress made in each peace process, as well as in drawing up an effective strategy to deal with those cross-border issues.  Addressing of the causes of conflict was a matter of utmost concern. Without it, no sustainable peace and stability could be attained.

    Appreciating that the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was an African-born initiative based on a profound understanding of the daily realities of that continent, he said Brazil had consistently advocated the importance of Africa’s own initiatives and ownership, as well as of the partnership between the continent and the international community. As such, he was confident that the initiative would contribute to the creation of a virtuous circle of socio-political inclusion, development and peace in Africa. He added that he was convinced that there would be no real political stability and economic prosperity in the world in the twenty-first century unless all countries could benefit from them. He urged the international community to work with Africa to make that possible, not only by assisting countries to overcome their present difficulties, but also by providing the political conditions for effective recovery and sustainable development.

    INOCENCIO ARIAS (Spain) said that the added value of the Council’s missions largely depended on good follow-up to the recommendations that ensued.  When concrete undertakings had been made by the authorities of the countries visited, it was essential for the Council to follow up on those undertakings very closely to see if they were followed through. There were opportunities for stabilization in Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. There was already a date for legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau.  In Liberia, UNMIL was deploying throughout the country and had launched a public-awareness campaign on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. In Côte d’Ivoire, the return of the Forces nouvelles to the Government and the prospects for a United Nations peacekeeping mission there, which he supported, were positive developments.

    In Sierra Leone, he noted progress in stabilizing the country and he awaited the forthcoming recommendations of the Secretary-General on the final phases of UNAMSIL’s drawdown and the possibility of a residual United Nations presence. On the regional dimension, important progress had been achieved since the Council’s mission. He particularly supported efforts at coordination among the peacekeeping operations in the region. He also awaited the publication of the Secretary-General’s report on cross-border issues in West Africa, which would serve as the basis for the Council’s consideration of measures to comprehensively tackle those issues in the region as a whole.

    ALEXANDER KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said it was important to monitor how parties to conflicts in the subregion were receiving the Security Council’s signals regarding good governance, human rights and international humanitarian efforts. The coup d’état in Guinea-Bissau in September 2003 had reaffirmed the Council mission’s misgivings about the irresponsible behaviour of that country’s previous leadership. It was important that the present leadership restore the constitutional order, as promised.

    He said the recent positive changes in Côte d’Ivoire had breathed new life into the process and there was reason to hope that the goals laid out in the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement could be achieved. However, progress had not been made in some of those goals, and there was a need to intensify international cooperation, including a peacekeeping mission.

    The long-standing situation in Liberia could be considered the core of instability in the entire subregion, he said. While the basic recommendations of the mission had already been carried out, or were in the process of being implemented, impunity for crimes, including the use of child soldiers, continued.

    He said the Sierra Leone peace process was satisfactory on the whole. Nevertheless, the authorities had much to do before the withdrawal of the peacekeeping mission.  Their task included strengthening internal security, expanding State authority over the whole country and exerting control over natural resources, including diamonds.

    ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that a good number of positive changes had taken place since the Council’s mission to the region. The mission and its recommendations had contributed significantly to those changes. The changes were a testament to the usefulness of the missions and the need to continue them, although they should be improved to render them more effective. The region had never been so close to peace as it was now. The international community should seize the present opportunity.  Despite progress, each country required particular attention.

    In Côte d’Ivoire, sustainable peace required the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation as soon as possible, he said. Everything should be done to deploy a sufficient number of peacekeepers in a timely way, which was one of the main guarantees for a successful peace process. The expectations of the Ivorian people at the current stage were very high. The decision to be taken by the Council would have significant impact on the ground.

    In Guinea-Bissau, he said efforts by the new authorities to restore legality must be reinforced with international support.  Guinea-Bissau had become a good example of common efforts by the Council, ECOWAS, United Nations agencies and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP). That experience could be extended to Burundi and to countries in West Africa such as Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. He welcomed the assessment to be undertaken by the Council of conditions in Sierra Leone before the withdrawal of UNAMSIL. The useful lessons learned in Sierra Leone could be the subject of a public debate in the Council held with the participation of those directly involved in UNAMSIL’s work.  That meeting could take place following UNAMSIL’s withdrawal. 

    Cross-border issues required a collective response, he said.  He hoped the Secretary-General’s report on cross-border issues would provide clear recommendations for the role of regional organizations in establishing a mechanism to address such issues. The Peace Council of the African Union could be utilized to address cross-border issues. The West African region had created an important mechanism to address regional issues, such as the moratorium on small arms and light weapons. The region would be able to render that moratorium more effective if more resources were made available.

    STUART HOLLIDAY (United States) welcomed the recommendations on Liberia, particularly the urging that donors respond to Liberia’s continuing humanitarian crisis. On Sierra Leone, the report rightly highlighted the serious problems that must be addressed before the drawdown of UNAMSIL. In addition, the Special Court for Sierra Leone needed urgent support. The report had been overtaken by the French proposal for the establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Côte d’Ivoire.

    He said the Permanent Mission of the United States had met with ECOWAS ambassadors yesterday and, while understanding their concerns, it was important to continue supporting the grouping’s capability and sustainability. Regarding regional and cross-border issues, there was potential for inter-mission support, and the United States would like to hear more details about the scope of such support. Council discussions on small arms had only mentioned proliferation, and the United States would like to hear concrete ideas on that issue.

    MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that at the time of the Council’s mission, the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire was facing difficulties, Guinea-Bissau was mired in political uncertainties, security in Liberia was deteriorating rapidly, and Sierra Leone provided the only reference for hope for relative stability. The recommendations of the mission were relevant in subsequent months, which witnessed a significant evolution in the countries concerned. Among other things, the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire was getting back on track and the situation in Liberia was being turned around.

    Sustainable peace and stability in West Africa could only be achieved if the underlying causes of conflict were addressed, including the exclusion of regional, ethnic or religious groups from participating in political power-sharing. Sanctions or even disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes would not yield results if the incentives for armed groups to continue in their way were not removed. Also, there was an obvious link between the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the fuelling of conflicts in the region. In addition, peace and security was inextricably linked to sustainable development. West African crises arose from poverty and scarcity. Without a focus on development, no policy was comprehensive. The countries of the region must be given the opportunity to develop and progress.

    In Liberia, reconstruction and development would form a major element for sustainable security and peace, he said. A comprehensive approach to the region was essential.  Peacekeeping was an important tool in the hands of the Council. A peacekeeping operation was required in Côte d’Ivoire, and a cautious approach needed for the drawdown and withdrawal of UNAMSIL. Also, a regional approach would have to rely on regional partnership. He hoped that the United Nations would respond to the appeals for capacity-building within ECOWAS. Greater coordination and synergy was needed among the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly in addressing the complex issues facing the region.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that since the Council’s mission, even though there had been ups and down in each country, the overall situation had been encouraging.  Sierra Leone had an improved army and greater control over its natural resources; and Liberia had embarked on the road to reconstruction.  The peace process in Côte d’Ivoire was taking a turn for the better, after some setbacks.

    He said that, while fully acknowledging such progress in the subregion, it was also vulnerable in a certain way, as problems in one country could easily spread to others. The Council must, therefore, vigorously help the African Union, ECOWAS and the countries concerned to enhance their capacity to prevent and solve conflicts.

    Council President HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile), speaking in his national capacity, said he was satisfied with the implementation of the recommendations of the West Africa mission.  Regional approaches were increasingly necessary. Among other things, he hoped it would be possible to establish a peacekeeping operation soon in Côte d’Ivoire. Also, the peace process in Liberia was entering a phase which he hoped would be irreversible. To ensure that it was so, UNMIL should be deployed throughout the interior of the country.  In Sierra Leone, growing stability had made it possible to drawdown UNAMSIL and transfer responsibility to the local police and army.  The international community must continue to provide financial resources in that regard.

    RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that West Africa had suffered years of violence, population displacement, human rights abuses of the most heinous kind, and economic depression. The conflicts at the core of the suffering had been exacerbated by regional rivalries and insecurities that had appeared at times to be motivated more by individual greed than by any real security threat.

    Today the situation was considerably improved, he said. In Sierra Leone, the international community was considering how UNAMSIL could disengage while, concurrently, building the country’s national capacity in such areas as security and reconstruction. The Special Court for Sierra Leone was playing an important role in re-establishing the rule of law and promoting national reconciliation. In Liberia, the United Nations, week by week, was bringing security and hope to the people of that shattered country, and formerly warring parties were participating in an effort to rebuild a national capacity for governance.  In Côte d’Ivoire, the parties to the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement were making progress towards fully implementing the programme for national reconciliation, and the Council was considering the authorization of a new peacekeeping force.

    While recognizing the regional causes of conflicts in West Africa, it would be wrong not also to recognize the regional contribution to their solution, he said. That was most notably the case in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, where the assertive action by ECOWAS had been critical to the restoration of peace. Regional cooperation and dialogue would only strengthen the security of West Africa. The conflicts of West Africa, and the circumstances of their genesis, had resulted in common challenges across the subregion. There must be a regional approach as the international community addressed such issues as the reintegration of child soldiers; disarming and demobilizing irregular and sometimes mercenary forces that did not respect national borders; protecting women and children from sexual violence; facilitating the return and resettlement of displaced persons and refugees; tackling the culture of impunity; restoring the rule of law; overcoming environmental degradation; and stemming the proliferation of small arms.

    FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said he was satisfied with the restoration of calm in Guinea-Bissau and the decision by the authorities to hold legislative elections. He supported the Secretary-General’s call for the pressing need for the international community to provide financial assistance to allow local authorities to fulfil their obligations. In Côte d’Ivoire, he agreed that the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement must be implemented as expeditiously as possible. He supported the call of the Secretary-General for a recommitment to that Agreement and paid tribute to the role played by France in that country.

    He was concerned over the situation in Liberia, particularly the violations of the ceasefire and sporadic hostilities. He hoped the work of the Monitoring Commission would be successful, and commended the role played by the ECOWAS mission in that country before the United Nations took over. While welcoming progress in Sierra Leone, he echoed the need for further efforts to ensure stability until the withdrawal of UNAMSIL.

    He supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for the development of an emergency plan to avoid cross-border movement of combatants, a key reason for instability in the region.  Syria was keen to follow developments in Africa, in general, and the region, in particular.  He stressed that the United Nations missions and peacekeeping operations in the region had a great role to play in restoring security and stability.  It was also important to underline the importance of indigenous solutions to ensure stability in the region, and the need to support measures by regional bodies.

    ENRIQUE BERRUGA (Mexico) said the Council had maintained constant vigilance on West Africa, where conflicts constituted a threat to international peace and stability.  Mexico had participated in the Council’s decisions with regard to the reintegration of combatants and trafficking of small arms in contravention of embargoes imposed by the Council.

    He said his country would continue to promote the implementation of a regional strategy, including through the Mano River Union, to enhance security. The lessons learned from reintegration in Sierra Leone could be applied in Liberia. It was hoped that the required financial resources elicited to reintegrate young combatants would prevent a situation where they took up arms again.

    Mexico looked forward to the Secretary-General’s recommendations on cross-border issues, he said. They should include a recommendation for the institution of confidence-building measures on the model of what was known as the Rabat process to bring together the leaders of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire.

    AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that increasing the capacity of ECOWAS was the cornerstone of a regional approach to peace and security in the West African region. The ECOWAS had shown itself to be a model for stabilizing the situation in several countries.  He agreed with the Secretary-General on the need to find a formula to overcome drawbacks in preventing and settling armed conflict.  He looked forward to the recommendations to be submitted by the joint European Union/UNDP mission for the consolidation of peace in West Africa. He agreed with the Secretary-General on the central role of the circulation of small arms and light weapons, which fuelled conflicts in that part of the world.  He hoped it would be possible to find a framework for action, in cooperation with regional partners, to take effective steps to stem the proliferation of those weapons.

    The current trends in the coordination of the peacekeeping missions in the countries of the region deserved encouragement, he said. The drawdown of UNAMSIL was of crucial importance. That drawdown should be gradual and accompanied by a careful follow-up of the situation in Liberia, due to the interrelatedness of the situations in those two countries. In dealing with peace and security, it was necessary to address economic and social development. The forthcoming conference on Liberia’s reconstruction would serve as a model for the consolidation of peace.

    SYLVESTER E. ROWE (Sierra Leone) touched on two of the recommendations concerning his country. The first was the link between the drawdown/withdrawal of UNAMSIL and the capacity of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to assume their responsibilities for the security and safety of the country. The question was what would happen as UNAMSIL phased out its operation, and what would happen when it left. The Council mission had recommended that the Government should intensify its efforts to develop the capacity of the army and police to ensure security when UNAMSIL left, as projected by the end of 2004.

    He stated that the people of Sierra Leone never expected the West African Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, to stay in the country indefinitely. However, they were shocked and dismayed to see ECOMOG leave at a particular point in time when there was concern about an emerging security vacuum. Sierra Leone now had a restructured, professional, disciplined and loyal army and police force. He shared the Secretary-General’s conclusion that progress had been made in the gradual handover of responsibility for the national security of Sierra Leone to the Sierra Leone police and army.

    Second, the Security Council mission suggested that the Council should recognize the importance of the link between establishing peace in neighbouring Liberia, and consolidating stability in Sierra Leone and the Mano River Union subregion. Trends towards peace and stability in Liberia augured well for the consolidation of peace in Sierra Leone.  “However, we must have the capacity to deter any repetition of the 1991 rebel invasion from across our eastern border”, he said.

    At the current stage, he noted, the prospects for assuming full responsibility for the country’s national security and safety when UNAMSIL left were good. However, there were a number of outstanding problems that needed urgent attention. First and foremost was the need for additional resources to enhance the overall capacity of the army and police to assume their responsibilities. In that connection, he commended the Secretary-General’s decision to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the benchmarks for the drawdown and withdrawal plan, as well as the progress made in consolidating peace and stability in the country.

    NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana), speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the  15-member ECOWAS, said that it was evident that Guinea-Bissau needed adequate resources to get back on its feet and on track. Holding legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau was a high priority, and international assistance was urgently needed in that regard.

    On Liberia, he endorsed the proposal for the accelerated deployment of UNMIL throughout the country to promote security and facilitate the successful implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  Liberia, like the rest of the conflict-affected areas in West Africa, was not yet out of the woods, and would continue to need international assistance and support for some time.  He urged the international community to generously support the peace process in Liberia by ensuring a successful outcome of the International Conference for the Reconstruction in Liberia, to be held from 5 to 6 February at Headquarters.

    While he shared the optimism generated by the progress being made in consolidating peace in Sierra Leone, he recognized the need to ensure that UNAMSIL’s withdrawal continued to take into account the Government’s ability to assume its primary responsibility for the nation’s overall security, to enhance control over natural resources and to consolidate civil administration throughout the country.

    Turning to Côte d’Ivoire, he said the major preoccupation there was to ensure the restoration of peace and security. That could best be done if the Council heeded the call for an increase in the troop strength of MINUCI and its early transformation into a full-fledged United Nations peacekeeping mission that would include troops already serving with the ECOWAS mission in Côte d’Ivoire.

    He shared the view that, although encouraging steps had been taken to address cross-cutting regional issues, several obstacles still stood in the way of efforts to stabilize the West African subregion and promote good governance and development. Particular attention should be focused on the prevalence of armed groups, which moved from one country to another; the existence of huge amounts of small arms and light weapons; the use of mercenaries and child soldiers; and youth unemployment.

    KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire was at a critical stage, and it was important for the Council to maintain the momentum it had generated in implementing the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement. Regarding the consideration of establishing a peacekeeping operation in the country, before the Council made a decision the Secretariat should explain to non-members of the Council why it considered appropriate the number of troops that had been proposed to fulfil the mandates of the possible mission. He made the same request regarding the number of civilian police personnel, which would be suggested later.

    As for Liberia, he welcomed efforts to prepare for the reconstruction conference in February. He also welcomed progress in the peace process, and hoped Liberia would become a good example in West Africa of how to restore human security in a post-conflict area. On the other hand, he was concerned about the violent incidents that took place last December in the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. To prevent the recurrence of such incidents, it was important that the soldiers to be disarmed understood the content and procedures of the programme through enhanced public information activities.

    He believed that all peacekeeping operations should have clear exit strategies at their launching.  In that connection, it was important that UNAMSIL be completed by the end of 2004, as planned.  There were ongoing efforts to strengthen the Sierra Leone army and police and to establish the effective authority of the Government in the areas where diamond-mining activities were under way.  Those efforts would help achieve the consolidation of peace in the country.  The international community and the Government needed to promote such efforts further to create the conditions in which UNAMSIL would be able to complete its mandate.

    DJESSAN PHILIPPE DJANGONE-BI (Côte d’Ivoire), endorsing the ECOWAS statement, said that peace could not be consolidated without a subregional approach. The Ivorian parties to the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement were determined to achieve peace, and the Government hoped it could count on the Council to help them make the peace process irreversible by authorizing the transformation of the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire into a full-fledged peacekeeping operation.

    Since the beginning of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, he said, the question of helicopters and combat aircraft acquired by the Ivorian armed forces seemed to have become a source of concern to parts of the international community. It was important to bear in mind that, as a sovereign State, Côte d’Ivoire had a right to acquire any arms of its choice for self-defence. It was important that the country’s sovereignty be respected.

    He said that in view of the fact that unarmed helicopters and other combat aircraft could be used for civil police functions such as surveillance of the national territory, their systematic grounding would be harmful to national police and gendarmerie operations. That would affect national security. Furthermore, in the present difficult situation, republican institutions had not initiated any actions. Helicopters and aircraft had not been put to military use, except in response to attacks, and had remained on the ground. They would remain so, as long as there were no attacks.

    NDEKHEDEHE E. NDEKHEDEHE (Nigeria) said that some encouraging information had been received on the progress being made in Guinea-Bissau on the electoral process and the possible provision of financial and technical assistance by some donors.  Given the serious economic decline in the country, he urged the Council to come up with a robust, comprehensive economic rescue package for the country.  That could be done with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.  He also urged the Council to urgently finalize the necessary arrangements and adopt the resolution to establish a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Côte d’Ivoire.

    He commended the early establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Liberia. With the ceasefire now in effect and the interim Government in place, the security situation was sufficiently stable for the resumption of humanitarian operations. He urged continued strong United Nations engagement in Liberia, so that the mistakes of the past would not be repeated. On Sierra Leone, he noted with satisfaction the consolidation of peace with the active support of the United Nations.  However, he would continue to urge that extreme caution be applied in the implementation of the drawdown of UNAMSIL, in order not to negate the gains of stability.

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