Press Releases

                                                                                                                            19 May 2004

    Regional Approach Crucial As Problems Become Increasingly Interdependant, Secretary-General Tells Bamako Meeting of Sahelo-Saharan States

    (Delayed for translation of text, originally delivered in French.)

    NEW YORK, 18 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Sixth Summit of leaders and heads of State of the Community of Sahelo-Saharan States (CENSAD), held in Bamako, Mali, from 15 to 16 May, which was read by Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa:

    It is with great pleasure that I extend to you my warmest greetings. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to President Amadou Toumani Toure and the people of Mali for hosting this Summit in their capital. I also wish to express my appreciation to the President of Niger, Mr. Mamadou Tandja, current Chairman of the Conference of Leaders and Heads of State of the Community of Sahelo-Saharan States (CENSAD).

    This Summit is being held in a regional and international environment marked by intolerance and violence.  At the same time, nearly half of the world's population, including millions of people in the Sahelo-Saharan region, live in conditions of intolerable destitution. Never before have the challenges to be faced been so many and so varied. No country can overcome them on its own. We have no other choice but to face them together.

    That is why it is encouraging to see that you are engaged in the search for agreed solutions to the problems facing your countries and peoples. The regional approach is all the more important as the problems become increasingly interdependent.

    Regional integration and the launching of joint projects will help to create new perspectives for the populations of the subregion as a whole. I refer, in particular, to the development of the Niger River and Lake Chad basins. These two vital centres of the region must be protected against desertification and siltation so that they can continue to provide water, a resource that is indispensable for survival and development.

    Regional integration is also an additional guarantee of peace and security, provided, of course, that it is supported by national policies for strengthening peace and promoting democracy.  In this connection, I wish to congratulate CENSAD for its support for efforts aimed at maintaining stability in the Central African Republic.  These efforts should be continued with a view to assisting the Central African Republic to successfully complete the process of transition to constitutional rule.

    Rest assured that you can continue to count on the support of the United Nations and on my personal support in your journey towards peace, stability and prosperity.

    I extend to you my best wishes for a productive Summit.

    * *** *