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Amid diverse challenges, continued support for West Africa remains critical – UN envoy

Special Representative Said Djinnit.
UN Photo/Ryan Brown
Special Representative Said Djinnit.

Amid diverse challenges, continued support for West Africa remains critical – UN envoy

While significant progress has been made over the past years in promoting and consolidating peace in West Africa, the continued attention and support of the United Nations remains critical, according to the world body’s top envoy for the region.

The head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), Said Djinnit, told the Security Council yesterday that the security situation in the region remains “precarious and reversible as the root causes of instability are yet to be fully addressed.”

He presented Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the region, which covers the period from 1 January to 30 June 2012, providing an overview of national, cross-cutting and cross-border developments in West Africa and outlining the activities undertaken by UNOWA.

In the report, the Secretary-General writes that the period under review was marked by unconstitutional changes of power in Guinea-Bissau and Mali, conflict in northern Mali and “an overall deteriorating situation in the Sahel,” where millions are suffering from food insecurity.

Mr. Djinnit reported that, besides the crises in Mali and the Sahel, West Africa continues to face the rapidly evolving phenomenon of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, which bears the potential to significantly impede economic development of the coastal countries and their landlocked neighbours, as well as to disrupt international maritime routes.

The recent upsurge of violence at the border between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, causing many civilian deaths as well as the death of seven UN peacekeepers, also underline continuing vulnerabilities in the region, he noted.

Mr. Djinnit said that regional actors will also need to redouble their efforts to tackle the scourge of drug trafficking and organized crime, which if not addressed timely and effectively has the potential to seriously undermine governance and security in the region.

“Greater coordination of strategies, as well as provision of adequate technical and financial resources will continue to be required to assist the countries and organizations of West Africa to eradicate the activities of drug cartels and other criminal networks,” Mr. Djinnit told the meeting, which also heard from the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov.