West Africa remains ‘fragile’ and needs ongoing support, UN envoy tells Security Council

Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa Said Djinnit.
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa Said Djinnit.

West Africa remains ‘fragile’ and needs ongoing support, UN envoy tells Security Council

Despite commendable efforts by leaders of West African countries, the region remains fragile and continues to require ongoing support from the United Nations and the international community, particularly to stem the rise of organized crime, a UN envoy today told the Security Council.

Briefing the 15-member Council, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, reiterated “the need to assist countries in the region and their regional institutions to better understand the causes of their vulnerability to terrorism, and the factors feeding this growing threat.”

This point was emphasized at a brainstorming session organized by his office (UNOWA) last September, with participation of other UN agencies, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and partners.

Mr. Djinnit also stressed the importance of coordinating any activities among the various regional and international actors to achieve “a practical, effective and concerted action” to deal with terrorism.

Highlighting three areas of weakness identified in the region, the Special Representative noted developments related to the Sahel, the Mano River region and the Gulf of Guinea.

The Sahel, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently visited with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, stretches from Mauritania in the west to Eritrea in the east, has undergone three major droughts in less than a decade and is home to more than 11 million people at risk of hunger and 5 million children under five who are at risk of acute malnutrition.

In light also of its complex security and political challenges, the Council recently reaffirmed its request to the Secretary-General to ensure early progress is made on the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, implementation of which, he said, is being helped by positive momentum within the Organization.

Turning to the Mano River Basin, Mr. Djinnit said “significant progress” has been in implementing Council resolutions 2062 (2012) and 2066 (2012) calling for a trans-boundary security strategy in the area. The Heads of State of the Mano River Union adopted a strategy for cross-border security, working in close cooperation with ECOWAS. The process of implementing that strategy through in-depth consultations with civil society was underway, he added.

Meanwhile, piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea continue to constitute threats.

UNOWA, in partnership with the UN Office in Central Africa, ECOWAS, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), and partners, including the G-8, are “ensuring adequate monitoring” of decisions made in June at the Summit of the Gulf of Guinea Heads of State and Government on maritime safety and security, which took place in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

Among them, the “Code of Conduct concerning the Prevention and Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery against Ships, and Illegal Maritime Activities in West and Central Africa,” which defines the regional strategy and paves the way for a legally binding instrument.

Among other topics cited in his briefing, the Special Representative noted that UNOWA continues to use its good offices to propel the demarcation process between Cameroon and Nigeria.

In June 2006, the two countries signed the UN-backed Greentree Agreement setting the terms and timeframe for the implementation of the 2002 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which transferred the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria to Cameroon. Nigeria formally ceded the territory in 2008, and since then a transitional phase has been in place to give full sovereignty of the territory to Cameroon.

“Beyond this significant achievement in preventive diplomacy, I am pleased that trust and cooperation have gradually been established between the two states,” Mr. Djinnit said, adding that Nigeria is now Cameroon’s largest trading partner.