Press Releases

    28 February 2005

    Lack of Funding for Security Reform, Reintegration Programmes Disturbing, Secretary-General Tells Council Meeting on West Africa

    Desperation Born of High Youth Unemployment Levels Could Lead to Political, Social Unrest in Whole Subregion, He Warns

    NEW YORK, 25 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the Security Council meeting on cross-border problems in West Africa, in New York, today, 25 February:

    This open debate on cross-border issues in West Africa comes at a critical moment for peace and security in the subregion.

    We see some signs of hope and encouragement.

    Yet we also see very worrying developments.

    As the current crisis in Togo reminds us, much remains to be done to establish peaceful, constitutional transfers of power as the region’s norm.  I urge all sides in Togo to exercise maximum restraint while efforts continue to find a peaceful solution to this crisis.

    The progress report that you now have before you reflects my serious concern about the perpetuation and indeed proliferation of conflict situations in West Africa.  It details the efforts of the international community, including the United Nations Office for West Africa, to adopt a regional approach to peace efforts in the region and to implement the recommendations made last year by this Council.

    The region continues to face grave security challenges.

    Border areas are especially volatile, with populations at risk from illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons, recruitment of child soldiers, banditry, rape and environmental damage.

    The lack of funding for reform of the security sector, and in particular for the reintegration and rehabilitation phases of DDRR programmes, is disturbing given their central importance.

    Youth unemployment levels are shockingly high, and the accompanying desperation carries a real risk of political and social unrest in countries emerging from crisis, and even in those that are currently stable.

    And there is very rapid population growth in the region’s urban areas, where job opportunities are limited and social services are far from adequate.

    The report highlights areas that require immediate and longer-term action.  Its recommendations are directed at a wide range of players, including the Security Council and other parts of the UN system, bilateral and multilateral development partners, the ECOWAS Secretariat, individual Member States, and civil society organizations.  They place particular emphasis on good governance.  And they call on all of us to practise prevention and to address root causes of conflict at an earlier stage.

    I welcome the recent efforts of ECOWAS members to address the complex challenges facing the region.  There is growing cooperation among security agencies to crack down on cross-border crime.  Efforts are also under way to protect children, stem small-arms flows and involve civil society groups more regularly in peace-building and other initiatives.

    I am also pleased at the constructive partnership that has emerged between ECOWAS, the UN system and other relevant actors.  My Special Representative for West Africa, Mr. Ould Abdallah, who is with us today, and his team will continue to do their part.  I assure you of my own strong commitment, and I look forward to working closely with you, on an urgent basis, to improve lives throughout this region where improvement is so badly needed.

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