The United Nations played a major role in helping Côte d'Ivoire end its civil war and move along the path to democratic elections, the West African country’s president told the General Assembly today.
“Throughout this process we benefited from the support of the UN, through the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI),” President Laurent Gbagbo said during the General Debate of the 64th General Assembly.
“I take the opportunity of this meeting to express once again Côte d'Ivoire’s gratitude to the United Nations and to all our friends for their contribution to the reestablishment of peace,” he added, calling the peace process now “irreversible,” with twice-delayed elections scheduled for 29 November.
UNOCI was established by the Security Council in 2004 to help ensure a ceasefire and pave the way for permanent peace and democratic elections after civil war split the country into a Government-ruled south and a rebel-controlled north. Reauthorized repeatedly since then, most recently until 31 January 2010, it currently comprises nearly 8,400 uniformed personnel, as well as 407 international civilian personnel.
Referring to the energy price, food and global financial crises of the past year, Mr. Gbagbo called for UN reform, including more democratic Security Council, so that the Organization “can play a decisive role as the principal factor in reinforcing multilateralism…
“The salient issues where the United Nations must play an important role include the exacerbation of extremisms. The hardening and increasing inflexibility of positions are outpacing dialogue and contribute to digging even deeper the gulf between cultures that should however cohabit harmoniously,” he said.
“With regard to world peace and security, the only efficient path to a durable peace continues to be the equitable treatment conflicts with a reformed, more democratic and more credible Security Council,” he added, echoing the call of many for enlarging the 15-member body where five permanent members – the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia and the United States – now have veto power.
President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, who played a role in bringing the opposing sides in Côte d'Ivoire together for talks in Ouagadougou, his capital, hailed the Security Council’s support for the agreements in the neighbouring country.
He said the process “inspires real reasons for hope for the organization of regular transparent presidential elections.”
He too called for reform of the 15-member council, voicing the hope for “speedy negotiations for a just and equitable representation of all regions of the world, the strengthening of the Council’s effectiveness and the revitalization of the General Assembly.”
President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo was effusive in his praise of the Organization. “I want to repeat how greatly the United Nations symbolizes more than ever hope in the face of the great challenges that threaten our planet, challenges that no nation can pick up alone, a hope of which people in all regions of the world have never been so much in need,” he told the Assembly.
“I know just how much solidarity owes to the dedication of the United Nations, just how much peace owes to its actions, its engagement and its determination,” he added.
His views were echoed by his neighbour, Central African Republic (CAR) Prime Minister Faustin Archange-Touadera, who highlighted the role of UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in helping to mitigate the food price crisis.
“The United Nations remains the central indispensable platform for tackling world questions and searching for solutions,” he added, while calling for reforms that would make the Assembly the fundamental UN organ, even in the field of peacekeeping, and enlarge the Security Council to make it more representative of all regions.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said it was “most encouraging” that the world is turning to the UN to find a common, global path to resolving the most intractable difficulties.
“There was a time when the powerful disdained this institution's ability to be a unifying player. This is now changing, and in this regard I would like to commend the President of the United States,” he said, noting that Barack Obama “so eloquently” indicated the centrality of the UN in his address to the Assembly two days ago.
Mr. Odinga, too, called for UN reforms, especially Security Council enlargement to include permanent, veto-bearing seats for Africa, declaring that the world can no longer continue to marginalize a continent which is home to nearly a billion people. The global economic crisis also showed the need for strengthening effective multilateralism with the UN at the centre.