West Africa still at crossroads despite recent progress
New York, 13 July 2010 - Said Djinnit, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, briefed the Security Council on the situation of peace and stability in the subregion and presented the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) in New York.
The past six months has seen economic growth in West Africa supported by the global economic recovery, but Mr. Djinnit noted that these improvements have not resulted in sustainable poverty reduction schemes. "At the same time, prospects for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) remain weak", he deplored. Also of concern, he said, is the food crisis affecting millions of people in the Sahel, particularly in Niger where over 7 million hungry people are in the midst of a serious food, nutrition and pastoral crisis.
"On the political front, the staging of peaceful elections in Togo and the formation of a new government with the participation of part of the opposition is a sign of progress," stated Said Djinnit. He added that the continued commitment of the authorities of Niger to the transition program, scheduled to end in March 2011 was also encouraging.
With regard to Guinea, the Special Representative said that he was proud of the collaborative efforts by UN entities as a whole in supporting the Guinean transition process including through initiating the reform of the security sector. "The excellent collaboration with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) contributed to galvanizing the concerted action by the international community and the International Contact Group on Guinea to help move the transition process forward," he stated.
Mr Djinnit emphasized that the United Nations should continue to support in Guinea in completing the electoral process in a smooth and peaceful manner. "The UN should also develop a framework for sustaining democratic governance and promoting development beyond elections," underlined Said Djinnit. "A stable and peaceful democratic governance in Guinea will have far-reaching implications for regional stability, especially in consolidating hard won peace in Sierra Leone and Liberia and in enhancing efforts to address the ongoing crisis in Guinea-Bissau."
The Special Representative highlighted the growing needs in the field of Security Sector Reform (SSR) in West Africa in view of the linkages between SSR, democratic governance and the fight against drug trafficking. Referring to the recent seizure of two tons of cocaine in Gambia with the assistance of the UK, he welcomed the increasing commitment of West African states to fight the scourge of drug trafficking. "International cooperation on this matter is vital due to the continuous evolution of drug trafficking methods and the possible connections with other organized criminal activities, including acts of terrorism, especially in the Sahel band," Said Djinnit warned.
The Office also pursued its efforts to promote the role of women in consolidating peace and stability in the subregion, in line with Resolution 1325 (2000) and all subsequent resolutions. UNOWA engaged women's associations and leaders in Guinea in support of the transition process, including the conduct of peaceful elections.
"Despite significant progress in peace consolidation, West Africa remains at crossroads as some of the root causes of conflict, such as social disparities, ethnic tensions and governance challenges persist and risk to undermine progress achieved in the region. The support of the international community is key to maintain the momentum for peace and stability in the subregion," concluded Said Djinnit.
For more information: Laurence Gérard, Public Information Officer, United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) -Office: +22133-869-8560–Cell:+221-77-332-4928–firstname.lastname@example.org