Press Releases

                                                                                        19 July 2004

    Speakers in Security Council Urge Continued, Coordinated Investment of Peacekeeping, Development Assistance in West Africa

    NEW YORK, 16 July (UN Headquarters) -- In a public meeting of the Security Council today on its recent mission to West Africa, speakers, including from seven countries in the subregion, stressed that the continued investment of United Nations’ peacekeeping and international development assistance offered a way out of the cycle of conflict and poverty, and an opportunity to forge sustainable peace and development in the affected subregion.

    When Emyr Jones Parry (United Kingdom) first briefed the Council on 30 June upon the mission’s return from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, he urged the Council to tackle the problems in the subregion before they became everybody’s problems. The simple aim of the mission, he had explained, was to identify a coherent United Nations’ strategy for intervention across the spectrum of challenges.

    Today, he reiterated that avoiding a resurgence of conflict required coherent approaches by the international community, the international financial community, donors, and all United Nations bodies in a way that met the aim of the individual countries and provided West Africa with the future it deserved.  The mission had sought to set in a regional context the United Nations approach. Anyone critical of United Nations relevance should undertake to see the efforts of its members on the ground in West Africa, he urged.

    Ghana’s representative, whose country currently chairs the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said he shared the Security Council’s desire to achieve a coherent strategy for evolving cross-border solutions, which spanned the whole spectrum of peace operations, from conflict-prevention to peace-building. A backdrop of cautious optimism had emerged for redressing the problems of the subregion, and ECOWAS remained committed to meeting the challenges by ensuring, among other things, the organization of democratic elections and the promotion of economic growth and sustainable development.

    Côte d’Ivoire’s speaker said he had been gratified that, since the Council’s visit, a number of concrete developments had occurred, including the signing of the status-of-forces agreement and a decision to convene a high-level meeting of all Ivorian parties on 29 July. He had been surprised, however, at the mission’s expression of regret at the lack of trust between the Ivorian parties, which had led them to include preconditions in the implementation of key elements of the peace agreement.  He wondered how the Government could proceed with the peace process as long as former rebel groups were still armed and blocking access to the north of the country. 

    Liberia’s speaker said he had been heartened by the mission’s assessment that the new Transitional Government had pledged to break from the habits of the past and create new efforts towards a stable and growth-oriented relationship with the international community.  But, after more than two decades of strife and open conflict, those efforts would only bear fruit if Liberians were empowered to manage their own affairs. The partnership between the Liberian Government and the United Nations must lead, within a specified time period, to a handing over of governance to the Liberian people.  He urged the Council to lift the sanctions on timber and diamonds, in order to allow the country to generate resources for reconstruction.

    After a detailed review of the situations in the West African countries, Guinea’s representative turned to the question of the Council’s missions, asserting that their quality hinged on the preparation, the time allotted for the visit, and on the various approaches used in talks with the interlocutors.  While field visits allowed Council members to grasp the realities on the ground, time limitations had often precluded in-depth examinations in the field.  he Council must avoid sending an incomplete message or one that was not fully based on contacts with the many players and partners. 

    Statements were also made by the Security Council representatives of:  Benin; Algeria; Brazil; Russian Federation; Philippines; China; United States; Pakistan; and Chile. Representatives of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Netherlands and Japan, also spoke, along with the Chairman of the Economic and Social Council Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea Bissau, Dumisani Kumalo (South Africa). 

    The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and was adjourned at 12:32 p.m.


    The Security Council had before it the report of the Security Council mission to West Africa, 20-29 June (document S/2004/525), which left New York for West Africa on 20 June, and visited Ghana (22 June), Côte d’Ivoire (22 and 23 June), Liberia (24 June), Sierra Leone (25 June), Nigeria (26 June), Guinea-Bissau (27 and 28 June), and Guinea (28 June).  The Council heard a preliminary briefing on the mission on 30 June.  (For details, see Press Release SC/8140.)

    The mission took place at a time of significant progress in the peace-building efforts in the subregion, with the exception of the worrying breakdown in the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire.  Despite continuing challenges, the post-conflict peace consolidation process in Sierra Leone was proceeding steadily. The situation in Liberia had considerably improved with the disarmament and demobilization of a substantial number of combatants, the deployment of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and the start of preparations for elections in 2005.

    Guinea-Bissau had held successful legislative elections, a major step towards restoring constitutional order and promoting sustainable peace and stability. The Council was seriously concerned, however, about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, where the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement had suffered a serious setback and the Government of National Reconciliation had ceased to function normally.

    In Côte d’Ivoire, states the report, the mission’s key message was that President Laurent Gbagbo and all parties bore individual responsibility for finding a way out of the current political impasse.  President Gbagbo promised the mission that he would submit legislation to the National Assembly by 28 July and resolve the issues of the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) radio and status-of-forces agreement by the end of June.  The mission believes the Council must monitor these commitments closely and, if necessary, take measures against those who fail to honour them. The mission also stressed that attacks on the United Nations or its personnel were absolutely unacceptable; the Council should also be prepared to respond to these with targeted measures.

    In Liberia, the mission found Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant determined to put the country on the right track towards free, fair and transparent elections in 2005. This will present major challenges:  establishing security in the many still-lawless parts of the country; disarming and -- perhaps more difficult -- providing education and jobs for ex-combatants; and restoring civil authority throughout a country that has been largely ungoverned for the last 15 years. The mission hopes that Chairman Bryant’s commitment to good governance and democracy will be recognized by donors willing to help Liberia achieve these goals.

    With the numbers of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) fast diminishing, the mission saw Sierra Leone’s immediate priority as preparing to take full responsibility for its own security.  Over the longer term, the underlying causes of conflict must be resolved, economic opportunity created and good relations built with neighbouring countries. Many believe that lasting reconciliation requires that former President Charles Taylor of Liberia stand trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

    The mission congratulated President Henrique Rosa of Guinea-Bissau on the considerable progress already made towards democracy and good governance since the coup of September 2003.  It was clear, though, that the Government badly needs much more financial and technical assistance to carry out its announced priorities.  The mission hopes that donors will provide those resources and urges the Government to abide by its principles and remain deeply committed to the successful completion and consolidation of the transition.

    Throughout its visit, the mission returned repeatedly to several key issues of concern to the Security Council.  These included human rights, the role of women and other gender-related issues, child soldiers, humanitarian issues, movements of arms and mercenaries across borders, human trafficking, reconciliation, justice and the rule of law. These also reflected the concerns that had been communicated to the mission by non-governmental organizations at a preparatory meeting in New York.  The mission stressed to all interlocutors that these issues had to be tackled in order to address the root causes of conflict in the region and build sustainable peace and development.


    EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that the intention of the mission had been to underline the Security Council’s interest, support, and concern for developments in West Africa and, more generally, the role of the United Nations as a whole.  It sought to set in a regional context the Organization’s approach, mindful that there were many issues affecting most of the countries one way or another and that there was a natural “knock-on” effect of tackling the issues in one country to events taking place in another.  That was why the discussion with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had been so important.  The mission had taken up a lot of horizontal issues, such as that of child soldiers, peace-building, governance, and small arms proliferation. 

    He said he had been impressed by the United Nations’ effort on the ground.  Anyone who critically wondered whether the United Nations was relevant should go on that visit.  Members of the United Nations’ family, in their different manifestations, were doing a great job, with sensitivity and in a way that cooperated with local governments. United Nations’ staff members were working primarily as “enablers” to permit governments to better fulfil their aspirations and to encourage their durable independence of action. The international community should have a clear strategy for reducing dependency and helping countries to fulfil their very real potential. The United Nations must stay the course for positive developments in West Africa.

    The issues should be tackled regionally and governments should be assisted in the process, he stressed.  The challenges included managing post-conflict situations, building durable institutions, creating the rule of law and the conditions of economic development in a way that both harnessed the country’s resources and offered a prospect to meet its people’s expectations. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was classically important. The “r”, or reintegration, was the most difficult of that process; idle hands made mischief.  Policies should be evolved that would avoid a resurgence of conflict. To do that required coherent approaches by the international community, the international financial community, donors, and all United Nations’ bodies in a way that covered the entire spectrum of intervention.  The activities should meet the aim of the countries concerned and provide West Africa with the future it deserved.

    PHILIPPE DJANGONÉ-BI (Côte d’Ivoire) commended the constant concern and endeavours of the Council to promote peace, security and good governance in West Africa, and its multilateral approach to conflict prevention in the region. He also applauded the comprehensive nature of the comments and recommendations in the mission’s report, especially the call for a follow-up report before the end of the year on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report on resolving cross-border problems (document S/2004/200). 

    As for his country, he was gratified to note that since the visit of the Council mission, the status-of-forces agreement had been signed, and the national regulatory procedure to put into operation radio and television stations had been put into place by the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). He welcomed with relief the coming into force of the International Commission of Inquiry, and suggested that the Commission should be authorized to continue investigations into violations committed after January 2004, as human rights violations were committed after that date in parts of the country.  It would be difficult to understand that a commission of the United Nations would turn a blind eye to violations because they fell outside the mandate of that body.

    Commenting on the report itself, he drew attention to comments in   paragraph 18 on dialogue with the Ivorian authorities, in which the mission expressed regret with the lack of trust between the parties, which had led them to put preconditions on the implementation of key elements of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  That comment was surprising, coming from a mission of the Security Council.  Practically speaking, how could the Government organize a referendum with former rebel groups still armed and blocking free access to the north of the country?

    He thanked the Council, the Secretariat and the international community for their steady support for the restoration of peace and stability in West Africa.

    NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said that, although the situation in Sierra Leone had improved considerably, ECOWAS was still convinced of the need to keep a residual United Nations force in the country to consolidate peace, enhance security and pursue ongoing programmes of capacity-building.  The mandate of the United Nations should not come to an end until all outstanding issues, including the Special Court, had been thrashed out.  Among other things, the country needed the assistance of the international community to enable it to provide jobs for the young people who had completed the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme.  The absence of jobs for young people seriously jeopardized efforts to consolidate peace in the country.

    With presidential elections scheduled to take place in a year’s time, he said the international community should continue its support for efforts to promote democratic rule in Guinea-Bissau.  Also, the country continued to experience serious problems of payment arrears and faced the challenges of economic recovery. He added his voice to the call on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider the resumption of a programme for Guinea-Bissau.  He also appealed to the Security Council to join forces with the Economic and Social Council in calling on donors to participate in the round table being organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), tentatively scheduled for November.

    Turning to Liberia, he said that continued and deepened support by the international community to help consolidate the burgeoning gains and effectively meet the challenges of reconstruction and peace-building could not be overemphasized. He noted with concern that rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts appeared to take a back seat.  Also, with elections fast approaching, there were still problems with the repatriation of refugees. Only a small amount of the $520 million pledged for Liberia last February had been realized.

    He noted that there had been some positive developments in Côte d’Ivoire since the Council mission.  At a 6 July meeting in Addis Ababa, it was decided that a high-level meeting of all Ivorian political forces, including President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, be convened in Accra on 29 July to consolidate consensus over all the essential issues facing the peace process. To ensure the success of that meeting, a number of confidence-building measures needed to be undertaken immediately, including a meeting between President Gbagbo and leaders of all Ivorian political forces, to facilitate the resolution of outstanding matters.

    Against a backdrop of cautious optimism, justified concern and constructive action aimed at achieving a redress of the problems affecting the region, he shared the Council’s sentiments on achieving a coherent strategy for attaining cross-border solutions to related issues, spanning the whole spectrum of peace operations from conflict-prevention to peace-building. The ECOWAS was committed to meeting the challenges by ensuring, among other things, the organization of democratic elections and the promotion of economic growth and sustainable development.

    ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea), recalling the May summit of the Mano River Union countries, said that the final communiqué had confirmed the firm intention of those countries to discharge their respective obligations under the mechanisms established by the Union. The Presidents of Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, as observers, and the leaders of the Union, had underlined their unshakeable determination to work together with their counterparts to make the subregion a zone of peace and stability, and one that was conducive to sustainable and integrated development. West Africa was gradually emerging from a long and painful period of bloody conflicts.  Thanks to the joint actions of ECOWAS, the United Nations system and its partners and various national players, progress had been made throughout the subregion.

    In Sierra Leone, he said, peace had become a reality and was being consolidated.  Preservation of those gains depended on the real capacity of the security forces to calmly take over UNAMSIL.  That also depended on the creation of new economic activities to bring about the kind of growth capable of stemming unemployment and integrating former combatants into a new dynamic process.  That endeavour would avoid a resurgence of conflict. 

    Liberia, despite real obstacles, was continuing along the path of peace, he said.  No effort should be spared to successfully complete the DDR process there, to re-establish civil authority throughout the country, and mobilize the necessary financial resources for reconstruction. The dedication of Liberia’s President to good governance and democracy was an important factor in building peace both in Liberia and in the subregion. He called on the donor community to deliver on its pledges in that regard.

    The Government of Guinea-Bissau had made outstanding progress since September 2003, but numerous challenges remained in achieving stability, he said. While the subregion was witnessing a general positive trend, the specific situation in Côte d’Ivoire was of concern. Everything must be done to enable the parties to overcome their differences and place the peace process on a solid foundation, for the stability of the subregion was at stake.  He advocated the preservation of unity, integrity and full sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire, which was linked to peace-building in the subregion as a whole. That could be done through good governance and the elimination of transborder problems, such as the illicit small arms trade and the movement of mercenaries and uncontrolled armed groups. The ECOWAS decision to transform its weapons moratorium into a regional convention would make the joint action more effective.

    Turning to Security Council missions, he said that their quality hinged on the preparation, the time allocated for the mission, and on the various approaches used in talks with interlocutors. The Council had tried to include field visits.  While those took time, they were, more than periodic reports, new and useful sources of information, which allowed Council members to grasp the reality that no report could adequately describe. Time limits, however, often had not made it possible to examine the problems in depth.  It was vital to avoid having a Council mission send an incomplete message, or one that was not fully based on contacts with the numerous players and partners in the field. His suggested approach would enrich the results of those missions, with the sole objective of strengthening the commitment and determination of the parties to the restoration of peace.

    LAMI KAWAH (Liberia) said that the events of the past several months had  led to renewed hope for Liberia and a new chance for a bright future. The international community had committed a significant amount of resources to put Liberia back on the road to recovery after more than two decades of strife and open conflict. According to the report, the new Transitional Government had pledged to break with the habits of the past and create a new effort to move as quickly as possible into a stable and growth-oriented relationship with the international community.

    The efforts of the Council would come to fruition only if Liberians were empowered to manage their own affairs, he said.  The Transitional Government did not have complete control of its territory and was unable to guarantee an acceptable level of security for its people. In those areas, there was partnership between the United Nations and the Liberian Government. That partnership must be nurtured so that within a specific time period, the responsibility of governance would devolve to the Liberian people. 

    In that, he continued, the question of lifting United Nations sanctions on timber and diamonds was urgent, if Liberia was to generate the resources necessary for the country’s reconstruction. The requirements for doing that were to be found in Council resolution 1521 (2003). To meet those requirements, the assistance of the international community and the understanding of the Security Council were urgent and critical.  Meeting the high standards in the management of public funds would not materialize if there were no funds to manage. He joined the appeal to the donor community to deliver on the pledges made in February.

    A. ADEKANYE (Nigeria) said that central to the realization of the desired objectives was the return of trust and confidence among and between parties to the conflicts. In that process, the value of cooperation between United Nations missions and bodies in the subregion and ECOWAS could not be overemphasized. The recent mission had not only underscored that, but had recognized the increasingly active and valuable role being played by the Community in mobilizing countries in the region for undertaking peacekeeping missions. The wide-ranging discussions between the mission and West African leaders had provided insights and had illuminated the challenges facing the international community in the subregion.

    Highlighting the challenges in the affected countries, he said that in Côte d’Ivoire there was a need to support the process of rapprochement and reconciliation. The leadership was committed to taking the necessary measures to restore confidence and trust and prevent a relapse into conflict. Those steps included the reconstitution of the Government of National Reconciliation and a detailed time bound schedule of implementation of the Linas-Marcousis Agreement, as well as legislation by the National Assembly on fundamental political reforms, as envisaged in that Agreement. He urged the Ivorian parties to ensure that the benchmarks outlined by the mission were indeed met.

    On Liberia, he welcomed the progress made since the National Transitional Government took office.  Given the enormous challenges facing that country in building peace, he joined the Council in calling on those countries that had not yet done so to redeem the pledges they made at the International Donors Conference last February.  He also called on the Security Council to lift its embargo on the trade in timber and other natural resources, so that the Liberian Government would have funds needed for rehabilitation of the infrastructure.  Also welcome had been the progress made by the Government of Guinea-Bissau.  He supported the mission’s recommendations that the Bretton Woods institutions, as well as the international donor community, should remain actively engaged in providing the necessary financial resources and technical assistance to that country.

    Concerning Sierra Leone, he said that, despite the progress achieved by the Government in strengthening the military and police capabilities, the security situation on the ground remained fragile.  There was a need, therefore, for a cautious drawdown of UNAMSIL, in order to ensure sustainable peace.  He was pleased at the Council mission’s support for the ECOWAS moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of small arms and light weapons.  That measure should soon be strengthened through a convention that reflected the commitment of the countries of the subregion to the fight against the scourge of those weapons.  The support of the Council and the international community in such efforts was critical.

    JOE R. PEMAGBI (Sierra Leone) reminded the Council about two depressing facts about the conflicts in the West African subregion, which, when carefully considered, might provide added momentum to the long and tedious search for peace.  First, for about 15 years now, most of the time and resources of ECOWAS had been concentrated on conflicts in the region, almost completely diverting the attention of the organization from its original objective of regional economic integration and development.  Thus, those conflicts had retarded national and regional development initiatives.

    The second fact, he said, was that it had not been easy for even countries in the region not in conflict to achieve the goals of international development, such as the Millennium Development Goals and those of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  Special assistance to those countries to help them to catch up was the only answer to their predicament.  He advocated an integrated approach to peace efforts, which not only conducted disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and disappeared from the conflict scene, but also addressed the issues of the conflict and ensured a smooth transition from hostility to sustainable peace and development.

    Disarmament and demobilization would be a simple and straightforward exercise, if the parties to the conflict were committed to resolving it, he said.  Reintegration was a much more complicated, expensive and multifaceted process. In Sierra Leone, the two elections had constituted major progress in the political reintegration process.  But by far the most critical aspect of reintegration -- economic reintegration -- was yet to be fully accomplished, because of the poor state of the economy.  Education, skills and employment opportunities were the tools for economic reintegration.  Ignoring them could amount to leaving a vacuum in the peace process that could stimulate a regeneration of the conflict.  Thus, he strongly supported the Council mission’s view to strengthen the link between security and sustainable development.

    He welcomed the recommendation on a regional approach to the problem, and the need for cooperation and positive relations between neighbouring States. The people of Sierra Leone, for example, would never feel safe and secure until the country’s neighbours had peace, and no one country undermined the stability of the others.  Peace efforts in the region should ensure that armed conflict did not spread further.  That was not easy, but avoiding conflict would, in the long term, be in the best interest of peace, stability and development in the region.

    DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), Chairman of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau, said there had been very significant and meaningful changes in Guinea-Bissau.  On 28 March, legislative elections -- deemed “free, fair and transparent” by a team of international observers -- had been held.  What was happening in that country was nothing short of a breakthrough.  The newly elected National Popular Assembly was committed to completing the constitutional review during its current session.  That would lay the groundwork for the presidential elections in 2005.  The new Government was also intent on strengthening its partnership with it international partners, which would help to restore international economic and financial confidence.

    Also during the recent visit, he said he saw a government that was committed to improved governance.  It was in the process of strengthening mechanisms that would deepen democracy in that country.  The new Government had also been practising greater transparency and accountability in public administration by selecting senior public officials based on merit and technical experience.  That approach was already contributing to overall stability.  A Treasury Committee, which included the UNDP, scrutinized both revenue collection and expenditures within the Ministry of Economy and Finance.  As a result, visible gains in revenue collection had already been made, thereby making it possible for the Government, after only 45 days in office, to pay three months of salaries to its public servants from its own resources.

    Nevertheless, he said, Guinea-Bissau remained in need of official development assistance (ODA) to rebuild its social and economic infrastructure and private investment needed to relaunch the economy.  The Advisory Group was convinced that a modest investment in the short to medium term in the economy would help that country consolidate progress. The Group was meanwhile “very encouraged” by the positive approach taken by the Bretton Woods institutions in that regard.  The IMF had also played a critical and constructive role in supporting the new Government. The IMF’s Executive Board would meet in mid-September to, among other things, consider the situation in Guinea-Bissau, as well as possibly a programme leading to the resumption of the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) programme for that country.

    He said that the medium-term strategy of the World Bank was also expected to begin in September and was a welcome sign of the Bank’s confidence in Guinea-Bissau.  The new programme would support the restoration of macroeconomic stability, provide support to social services, particularly health and education, and reinforce governance and the rehabilitation of the economic infrastructure, namely, in water, energy, transport and telecommunications.  Both the Fund and the Bank, however, had made clear that the implementation of their programmes would not be successful without the strong and active engagement of the donor community.  At the same time, his Group was concerned about the restructuring of the security sector.  Working and living conditions for the military were extremely poor, yet the transformation of the armed forces into a professional force was absolutely critical.

    DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, focused on three thematic issues related to long-term developments:  the United Nations post-conflict strategy for the region; the value of regional integration; and synergies of peacekeeping operations.  He fully agreed that, in making the transition to peace and economic development in West Africa, the link between security and development was of the utmost importance.

    As the United Nations lacked one single operational peace-building body, United Nations organs had to actively cooperate to bring together security and development concerns.  He hoped the Security Council would further pursue the comprehensive approach it had adopted in the mission report.  One of the ways might be a further exploration of ad hoc composite committees of the Security Council, ECOSOC and/or General Assembly that deal specifically with post conflict situations.  A positive example in the West African region was the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau.

    He noted that the primary responsibility for bringing about change and sustaining peace efforts lay with the States in the region.  Regional integration in West Africa could play a vital role in preventing future conflicts.  Solutions to such cross-border problems as child soldiers, mercenaries and small arms must also be found at the regional level.  Recognizing the positive role of ECOWAS, he said now was the time to work out a systematic donor coordination mechanism, under that body’s leadership.  The European Union Strategy of May 2004 also called for the development of a conceptual framework for conflict prevention and peace building in West Africa.  He hoped the leaders in the region would enable ECOWAS to undertake that task.

    As for synergies in peacekeeping, he said it seemed worthwhile to make a thorough analysis of UNMIL, UNAMSIL and ONUCI, and look for attainable synergies. Common border patrols and exchange of information were things that easily came to mind.  The possible scope for a pooling of logistical needs could also be examined.  West Africa stood to benefit greatly from ideas that would make the United Nations missions in the region more effective.  Subsequent efficiency gains could possibly enable a more sustained United Nations presence throughout the region.  It also benefited the wider United Nations, and provided important lessons to be learned for regional peacekeeping.

    KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that, in view of the geopolitical conditions in West Africa, where the situations of neighbouring countries were often closely interlinked, it was critical to take a regional approach to securing the peace and stability of individual countries.  As had been repeatedly observed in the past, it must be recognized that instability in one country had a negative impact on the region as a whole.  He was deeply concerned about the current political impasse in Côte d’Ivoire and emphasized, once again, that a clear commitment and determined efforts on the part of all parties concerned were needed to promote the peace process, especially the full and unconditional implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.

    Highlighting three issues of particular importance in promoting a regional approach, he said his country welcomed the effort towards achieving mutual cooperation, especially in the field of border controls, among the United Nations missions deployed in several West African nations.  As a result of that effort, it was expected that the limited United Nations’ resources would be used more efficiently and that cost effectiveness would be greatly increased.  Also welcome had been the gradual scaling down of UNAMSIL, as a result of the progress made there. That was a reminder of the need for other peacekeeping operations to be re-evaluated, based on an assessment of the actual situation on the ground, and adjusted as necessary.  The proposal in the report to provide the United Nations Office in West Africa with additional resources should be thoroughly examined from the standpoint of whether that would facilitate cooperation with ECOWAS.

    Second, he said, it was important to enhance Africa’s capacity for managing conflicts.  In that regard, ECOWAS had a significant role to play in the region, and the United Nations should try to strengthen the capacity of ECOWAS through further mutual cooperation. Third, disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation was one of the most critical tasks in the peace process.  Japan had supported that process in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire, and would continue to cooperate in that area.  He shared the mission’s concern over the three-to-one discrepancy between the compensation payments offered in Côte d’Ivoire by the World Bank, and in Liberia by the peacekeeping operations budget.  It had been reported that that discrepancy was accelerating the flow of former combatants into Côte d’Ivoire and was threatening to become a source of instability.  With regard to the compensation payments, the question of whether the use of the peacekeeping operations budget was appropriate should be re-examined, while promoting the involvement of the World Bank and other development institutions.

    He said, moreover, that the ongoing implementation of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation in each country would not lead to a fundamental resolution of the problem unless the flow of small arms was controlled effectively throughout the region as a whole. He recognized the importance of the role being played by ECOWAS in controlling the movement of arms through its moratorium.  Also useful was to consider, as the Secretary-General had suggested, what actions might be taken by the Security Council to help reduce small arms proliferation in the subregion.  Once again, he underscored the need to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of Security Council missions. It would be very helpful if a detailed explanation were made publicly available of the benefits and costs of sending such a mission to a region where on-the-ground United Nations’ activities were in place.  Of the utmost importance was the promotion of ownership efforts of each country in West Africa.

    JOEL W. ADECHI (Benin) said that the challenges the region faced fully justified the Council mission.  In each country that received the mission, even if the real state of affairs had been different, the causes and origins of the problems were pretty much the same. The mission had taken note of the significant presence of the United Nations in the region and the cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations. It had also noted that the process of establishing normalcy depended on the creation of an environment that would promote the economic and social potential of the region.  The mission had given the Council members an opportunity to gauge the possibilities of strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and subregional and continental organizations, with the resolve of committing themselves to fostering peace and stability in the region.

    The mission had gathered a “great harvest” of information, he noted. Now it was vital to set priorities and identify tasks to tackle effectively the mobilization and organization of various resources, the shortage of which was often the cause of failure. Also needed was systematic follow-up and monitoring of the implementation of the conclusions of the Council mission, as well as the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report on cross-border problems. The Council’s working group on conflict prevention should also work to identify opportunities for synergy, with a view to promoting peace and stability in the subregion.

    ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that Council members had come back with a strengthened conviction that development, peace and security were inextricably linked and that it would, therefore, be futile to strive towards development without first cementing the peace. Crises in the subregion could quickly expand to neighbouring countries, which had also just emerged from devastating conflicts.  Thus, the dynamic approach sought by the Council mission’s members must involve the countries of the region and the United Nations system, and the strategy must lead the process from peacekeeping to sustainable peace. The key seemed to be reconstruction and reconciliation through free and transparent elections, development and good governance.

    In each country, he said, the challenges were more or less identical, although not always equally drastic.  They had in common problems implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the repatriation of foreign fighters, resources mobilization, combating corruption, reintegrating child soldiers and curbing arms flows, among others.  Success required economic and technical assistance from the international financial institutions, and donors’ pledges should be quickly implemented.

    On Côte d’Ivoire, he said that the impasse in implementing the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement and the paralysis of the National Reconciliation Government could mean the failure of the peace process as a whole.  While he had been gratified at the recent commitment to defuse the situation, including through the adoption of legislative reforms by the end of the month, the international community and the Security Council, in particular, must ensure respect for that commitment. He was awaiting the results of the regional summit in Ghana planned for the end of July. The active role played by ECOWAS in building peace in the subregion had been welcome, and he called for deepened cooperation between it and the United Nations, and other regional organizations. The strengthening of the United Nations Office in West Africa would enable it to fully play its role.

    HENRIQUE VALLE (Brazil) said that the discussion of West Africa should have the full involvement of all Council members.  The progress in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau was impressive.  Also, there was renewed hope that the difficult situation in Côte d’Ivoire would benefit from the personal engagement of the Secretary-General.  He was also pleased with the active engagement of African heads of State and ECOWAS in assisting the Ivorian parties to return to the negotiating table.

    Poverty and unemployment were a constant source of insecurity, he noted.  The Council should be informed regularly about what activities were being carried out to address that by the UNDP and other United Nations agencies. Although direct responsibility for that fell elsewhere in the United Nations, their link to peace and security was evident. He was encouraged by the intention by ECOWAS to develop a conflict-prevention strategy.  Cooperation between ECOWAS and the United Nations Office for West Africa was welcome, and the need for additional resources for the Office should be given priority. Also, the Office could benefit from being located in Abuja. 

    Regarding Guinea-Bissau, he stressed the joint work done by the Security Council and ECOSOC.  The international community must remain fully engaged in Guinea-Bissau so that the investments made there would not be in vain. He called on the Bretton Woods institutions and development partners to step up financial and technical assistance to the country. The large amount of arms held by the population was a matter of great concern. He wondered if the high ratio of combatants to weapons in Liberia could mean that arms were being smuggled from one country to another.

    The joint mechanism and cooperation between United Nations peacekeeping operations in the region should prevent that from happening, he continued. The ECOWAS should include Guinea-Bissau in the regional policies on non-proliferation.  On regional approaches to cross-border problems, he said that harmonization of various disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement programmes in the region had not progressed as expected and should be constantly pursued.

    ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that the Council mission had sent an important signal to the parties to implement their decisions. Consideration of, and solution to, the problems in West Africa must be comprehensive and far-reaching.  In Côte d’Ivoire, there was a need to combine approaches based on the fundamental provisions of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement and the country’s Constitution. He had welcomed the results of the high-level meeting of States in the region on 6 July and placed hopes on the results of contacts of the Ivorian parties on 29 July.  Everything must be done to put an end to the development of centrifugal tendencies, particularly ahead of the elections, and to overcome the continuing uncertainty of successful completion of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. The Government had adopted specific measures to end impunity; all persons guilty of human rights violations must be punished accordingly, he stressed.

    Concerning Liberia, he said it should continue to be borne in mind that the Government’s authority extended only to Monrovia, and that in other regions of the country armed factions continued to hold sway. The international community must step up its assistance to the Government, in order for it to render its authority over the entire territory. An important role must also be played by the upcoming elections in October 2005, for which a calendar should be set up and scrupulously adhered to.

    In Sierra Leone, he said, the authorities still had a great deal to do as the United Nations peace operation there concluded. The final drawdown of the Mission depended on how effectively the Government was able to control the situation. In Guinea-Bissau, there was a need to immediately restore constitutional order through elections.  Maximum efforts should be made to support the positive trends and not allow the peace process to be undermined, for which the country should be provided with the necessary international assistance. The weak borders in the region were giving rise to numerous and serious threats, requiring comprehensive study and solution, taking into account the proposals of the United Nations missions, the Security Council missions, and the work of regional and subregional groups.

    BAYANI S. MERCADO (Philippines) said that West Africa was a region that faced many challenges, as well as had a lot of potential that had not been realized in past years. The visits of the Council last year and last month were not only a clear manifestation of its interest in the region, but also its strongest medium in delivering its message to the countries in the region. The inseparable link between peace and development and the regional approach in tackling common problems were among the key themes of the mission’s report.

    The collaborative work by the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Working Group on Guinea-Bissau and the Council’s Working Group on Conflict Prevention had resulted in the carrying out of a peaceful transition in that country. The Council should be guided by economic considerations of its interventions in determining its exit strategies.  For example, UNAMSIL was an important contributor to Sierra Leone’s economy, and its departure would have a negative impact. While Sierra Leone was in a post-conflict peace-building stage, greater attention needed to be given to economic concerns.

    Economic indicators could be one of the benchmarks in determining future drawdown plans, he continued. The Council’s positive engagement in a country could encourage donors and investment opportunities. He underscored the important role of ECOWAS in the West African equation.  While it had faced serious challenges, ECOWAS was growing in effectiveness. It needed the continued support of the Security Council and the international community to achieve its objectives. Initiatives such as plans for a West African power grid should be actively pursued.  While much work remained in operationalizing the recommendations of the mission’s report, there was no other option but to proceed and implement them.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that the region had great potential for economic development and prosperity and, yet, many countries in the region had been afflicted with armed conflicts. Although the situation had markedly improved in the past year, countries in West Africa still faced the arduous task of post-conflict peace-building, even as small arms proliferation and the use of mercenaries and child soldiers continued to plague the region, negatively affecting its development. How to help those countries to extricate themselves, once and for all, from the vicious cycle of conflict and poverty and embark on a road to peace and development was the long-term challenge for the region and the international community.

    He said that recent experience had shown that the visiting Council missions were an effective means for the Council to better understand the situations first-hand and search for appropriate solutions.  The mission this year had achieved its goals, and its report contained many good recommendations.  The useful ideas proposed by the countries visited, as well as by other interested countries, also deserved the Council’s consideration.  The problems in West Africa transcended national borders, therefore, requiring a regional and comprehensive approach.  He appreciated the positive role played by the African Union, ECOWAS, the Mano River Union and other organizations.  He supported the ECOWAS idea to establish a stand-by force, and he welcomed the convening of a Mano River Union summit meeting.  The international community should render its support to those endeavours and help the countries in the region engage in economic development, in order to tackle the cause of conflict at its root.

    SICHAN SIV (United States) noted that the Council’s recent visit had been his first to the region in five years.  He was struck by the region’s enormous potential, on the one hand, and its enormous vulnerability and weakness, on the other. The Security Council, African Union, ECOWAS and troop-contributing countries had made an enormous investment in the nations of West Africa, particularly in those hosting United Nations peacekeeping operations. That investment helped to restore and preserve stability in the region and must be safeguarded.  It was necessary to move from lip service to concrete efforts to coordinate peacekeeping operations and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.  The visit confirmed the importance of geography and the ease with which weapons, mercenaries and displaced persons could move across borders. The international community needed to respond to those challenges in a sustainable manner.

    SOHAIL MAHMOOD (Pakistan) said that the mission had reaffirmed the value of that instrument and underscored the Council’s commitment to Africa. It had also provided members with an opportunity to interact directly with the stakeholders, enhance understanding of realities on the ground, deepen cooperation with regional and subregional partners, and appreciate the excellent work being done by United Nations staff on the ground in translating into reality the Council’s mandates. While individual conflicts required the Council’s close attention, a regional approach was also needed to address the cross-cutting issues. An integrated approach to the mission’s wide-ranging recommendations should be systematically followed up.

    Turning to the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, he said that the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement was the “agreement extraordinaire” and its concrete time-bound commitments remained imperative to bridging the prevailing gulf.  He hoped the summit on 29 July would firmly put the peace process back on track.  In Liberia, implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement continued, but notable challenges remained, including the effective integration and rehabilitation of former combatants and reconstruction tasks.  In that context, the Council must revisit the imposition of sanctions there in the diamond and timber sectors, and redeem the pledges made at the reconstruction conference last February.  Significant gains had been made by UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone, but they were fragile in light of the external threats.  The Government should embark on building the armed forces and controlling the diamond mines, among other efforts.  The political transition process in Guinea-Bissau seemed firmly on track.  Stability there required institutional capacity-building and a means to address the long-term economic challenges.

    In the regional context, he noted that efforts were under way to address cross-cutting issues.  Special attention should be devoted to the issues of small arms, mercenaries and the use of child soldiers, and the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation process must be harmonized throughout the subregion.  In that regard, close cooperation between peacekeeping operations and the governments concerned was critical.  Three countries -- Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire -- would have elections in 2005.  Those would be significant milestones in the transition to peace and democracy, for which the international community must provide the necessary financial and technical assistance.  The leading role for ECOWAS was commendable, and that organization had emerged as a valuable partner of the Security Council.  Efforts to re-energize the Mano River Union also deserved the Council’s support.

    He said that the link between peace and development was most obvious in Africa. Three of the seven peacekeeping missions on the continent were in West Africa. Sustainable peace and security could not be achieved without social and economic development. Also, the underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, disease, underdevelopment, and exploitation of natural resources, must be addressed as attention turned from conflict management to conflict resolution and reconstruction. The need for a comprehensive, coherent and integrated United Nations approaches to the West African crises was self-evident. The proposed ad hoc composite committees of the Security Council, General Assembly and ECOSOC could be useful. The representative of the Netherlands had called attention to that proposal today.

    IGNACIO LLANOS (Chile) said that West Africa was an area of priority for the Council.  The United Nations presence in the region had made great efforts to end conflict and assist in post-conflict peace-building.  The Council mission had taken a regional approach, for only such an approach could guarantee peace and stability in the region.  He noted that some countries, including Liberia and Sierra Leone, had passed through the post-conflict stage. The role of the United Nations was to ensure that every process, such as the forthcoming elections in a number of countries of the region, was sustainable.  The United Nations should also prevent possible crises in third countries, which were not now part of the Council’s agenda.

    The serious difficulties in the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement and the existing polarization in Côte d’Ivoire made it vital to seek solutions that would protect the country’s territorial integrity.  The United Nations should support the efforts of ECOWAS, as well as the Accra meeting on  29 July.  In Guinea-Bissau, the social situation was fragile despite progress in the political situation.  In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the commitment of the United Nations was evident in the two peacekeeping operations with multidimensional mandates. Recognizing the role that could be played by institutions such as the Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone, he said that the contributions of such entities should be considered complementary to those of the judicial system.

    There was a heightened need for the Council to consider regional problems as a single whole, he said.  Reactivating the Mano River Union should be encouraged. The recent meeting in Conakry was the most serious sign of that reactivation. Underscoring the role of ECOWAS, he noted that the recommendations of the Council mission identified joint areas of cooperation between the United Nations and that body, which deserved further consideration.

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