Press Releases

    20 January 2005

    Secretary-General Stresses Need to Focus Attention on Security Sector Reform in Message to Summit of Economic Community of West African States

    He also Underscores Need to Continue Fight against Corruption, Impunity

    NEW YORK, 19 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Accra, today, 19 January, as delivered by Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa:

    It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to the heads of State and government who have gathered in Accra for this important summit meeting of ECOWAS.

    The past year has seen a number of positive developments in the region.  Free and fair elections were held in Ghana and Niger, furthering the consolidation of democracy and providing models for other African countries.  The intensity of conflict in the subregion has lessened, with fewer people killed in combat during the past 12 months than in the previous year.  ECOWAS itself continued to build up its capacity for conflict management and prevention, and to deepen its trilateral partnership with the European Union and the United Nations Office for West Africa.

    Nevertheless, some daunting challenges are still ahead.  Despite the efforts of many African governments, the situation in Côte d’Ivoire remains very tense, as some actors there have been unwilling to make the necessary compromises for peace.  Much of West Africa is being hurt by this crisis, politically and economically.  The situations in Guinea-Bissau and Liberia also warrant sustained attention, especially reform of the security sector and the reintegration of former combatants into society.  Locusts have damaged harvests; youth unemployment shows no sign of abating; rural exodus and massive urbanization continue; rates of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases are still alarming; endless roadblocks, as well as lawlessness in certain border zones all undermine development and contribute to insecurity.

    As we look ahead, it will be essential to focus attention on reform of the security sector.  I am encouraging development partners to explore how they can assist ECOWAS in this area, which is one that many have traditionally shied away from.  I hope you will also continue the fight against corruption and impunity, and to consult more systematically with civil society organizations, including religious leaders, women’s groups and the private sector.  And I urge you to engage fully in discussions on the reform proposals contained in the recent report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.  In this context I look forward to your participation in this year’s General Assembly, where we hope to take important decisions to advance implementation of the Millennium Declaration and to reform the United Nations itself.

    ECOWAS is already known as one of the most advanced subregional organizations in the developing world.  We must reinforce it further, and give it real authority to deal with the principal problems facing West Africa.  The United Nations will continue to be your close partner in that effort.  In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful summit.

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