10 August 2006

In Remarks to Security Council, Secretary-General Congratulates West Africans for Willingness to Engage, Says Insecurity Respects No National Boundaries

NEW YORK, 9 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Security Council:

Let me start by congratulating you, Mr. President, and your delegation, for organizing this important session.

While we remain deeply preoccupied by events in the Middle East, as you said earlier, I am heartened that we have gathered here today for this discussion on peace consolidation in West Africa.  Let me extend a warm welcome to the Ministers who have joined us, as well as to the Executive Secretary Ibn Chambas of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Let me also welcome my Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.  I'm sure I speak for all of us in expressing gratitude for his important and tireless contribution so far.

Political stability and prosperity continue to elude most West African countries.  The region continues to be plagued by grave and widespread shortcomings of governance.  This prevents it from taking advantage of its rich natural resources, and fulfilling its potential for social and economic development.

We know all too well the close connections between different conflicts in West Africa.  We have learnt the hard way that we need a holistic approach to these conflicts.  Insecurity has no respect for national boundaries.

These conflicts often start in one country and in no time spread to its neighbours and become a regional problem.  And, here, I think we need to congratulate the West African leaders for their willingness to become engaged, because there had been a tendency to say 'we do not interfere; it's an internal affair of this or that country'.  But, unfortunately, these problems, as I have said, do not remain internal for long.  They create refugees.  They create instability in the region.  They scare away investors.   And so, what starts as a problem for one country invariably becomes a regional problem, and I am happy that the countries are engaging.  I think it is extremely important that we focus on ending the conflicts in the region, to be able to tackle the essential task of economic and social development.

For peace to prevail, and to last, we are seeking to develop meaningful peacebuilding initiatives -- including reconciliation and confidence-building processes, as well as mechanisms to strengthen the rule of law.  This is essential to support fragile post-conflict countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau.

Too many times, in international responses to post-conflict situations, we have suffered from the same weaknesses -- shortage of funds, lack of international coordination, and a tendency for the international community to withdraw too soon.  This can reverse hard-won results and undermine attempts to build solid States and societies.

This is why you, the Member States, have decided to create the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, which held its first meeting in June.  And, it was for all those reasons that the United Nations established an Office for West Africa, based in Dakar, to develop a regional strategy.

That work involves continuing efforts to prevent conflict, as demonstrated in the United Nations' support for Nigeria and Cameroon when they reached agreement in June on ways to implement a settlement of the four-decade-long dispute over Bakassi.

Through the presence of three United Nations peacekeeping missions and one peacebuilding support office in the subregion, the United Nations is demonstrating its commitment to efforts to end the cycle of violence that has destroyed so many lives and so much infrastructure. 

We are committed to continuing to work with Member States of the subregion on the journey to sustainable peace.  You can count on us.

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