July 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2009
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AFRICA

United Nations Office for West Africa

Expected Council Action
In July the Council is expected to consider the report of the Secretary-General on the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) due by 30 June. The mandate of UNOWA expires on 31 December 2010.

Key Recent Developments
On 21 January the Council was briefed during an open meeting by the head of UNOWA, Said Djinnit, on the latest report of the Secretary-General on the activities of UNOWA. According to the report, UNOWA’s recent work has focused on regional and cross-border developments such as proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the West African subregion. Djinnit said that in addition to perennial challenges confronting the region (including youth unemployment, irregular migration and rapid or unplanned urbanisation), the root causes of conflict in many countries in the subregion remained to “to be addressed in an effective and durable manner”.

Djinnit highlighted priorities for the region, along with UNOWA’s engagement on those issues, including:

  • the challenge of economic insecurity due to rising global food prices and food insecurity, compounded by threats of a global economic recession;
  • the spread of cross-border organised crime, especially drug trafficking, because of the increasing use by criminal networks of porous borders and weak state and security institutions in West Africa to transfer narcotics bound for Europe from Latin America;
  • major setbacks to the considerable progress in consolidating democratic governance in the region from military coups in Mauritania and Guinea and attempts on the life of the then-President of Guinea-Bissau João Bernardo Vieira from within the country’s armed forces (Vieira was later assassinated, apparently by elements from the armed forces on 2 March);
  • opportunities and risks presented by electoral processes;
  • the continued fragile political and security situation in the Sahel region; and
  • concern about the role and the capacities of security sector institutions in many West African countries.

Djinnit also updated the Council on support provided to the delimitation and demarcation process along the Cameroon-Nigeria boundary, in his capacity as chairman of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission. He said that following the successful completion of the transfer of authority in the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria to Cameroon on 14 August 2008, efforts had been centred on expediting the boundary demarcation process and promotion of confidence-building measures between the two countries. (For decades, the oil rich peninsula was the subject of intense and sometimes violent disputes between the two countries until they agreed to a UN-supported resolution process, with the International Court of Justice settling the matter with a ruling in 2002. In 2006 Nigeria recognised Cameroonian sovereignty over the peninsula in the Greentree Agreement, signed under the auspices of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.)

On 16 June in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives from Nigeria and Cameroon held the first high-level meeting between the three parties since the transfer of the Bakassi Peninsula. The representatives agreed to hasten action on outstanding tasks regarding the court’s ruling, particularly delimitation and demarcation of their common land boundary.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Affairs Alain Le Roy made a five-nation tour of West Africa from 10 to 20 June visiting Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali and Nigeria. During the visit he discussed the consolidation of peace and stability in the region and how to enhance UN support-related regional and national efforts with senior government officials. Le Roy also consulted the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the Nigerian capital Abuja, as well a number of UN political missions in the region, including UNOWA, the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office for Sierra Leone and the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council at the midpoint of UNOWA’s current three-year mandate will be to assess the extent to which the refinement of the Office’s mandate has been successful in implementation and possible ways to enhance its operation.

Another closely related issue is the kind of support UNOWA could offer to specific regional initiatives to address relatively newer challenges like the growth of organised drug trafficking, including possible support for the f Action in the fight against illicit drug trafficking and organised crime in West Africa. 

Options
Options for the Council include:

  • issuing a statement highlighting key issues raised in the Secretary-General’s upcoming report and possibly reiterating the Council’s support for the work of UNOWA;
  • considering the Secretary-General’s report but delaying action;
  • utilising the discussion of the report to exchange views in a regional context on fragile situations not on the Council’s agenda but subsumed under the regional mandate of UNOWA (e.g. Guinea, Mauritania and Niger, in line with the Council’s presidential statement of 5 May about the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of governments in Africa), along with those on the Council’s agenda that are not immediately due for consideration on its programme (e.g. Guinea-Bissau); and
  • building on its collaboration with the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) by emphasising the role for UNOWA in working with the PBC on consolidating peace in the West African subregion and including in a possible statement its support for cooperation between the Commission and UNOWA in consolidating peace in the region.

Council Dynamics
The Council has not issued any statement on UNOWA since the renewal of its mandate in December 2007. But the current midterm point could afford the Council members the opportunity to review its work in light of the Secretary-General’s report and possibly highlight emerging priorities, including organised crime and unconstitutional changes of government. (In December 2007, when welcoming the extension of the mandate, the Council requested more frequent reports—semi-annual as opposed to 18-month midterm mandate reports—in order to be more regularly informed and assuage concerns of some countries, including the US, about the continued utility of the Office.)

Burkina Faso is the lead country on this issue in the Council.

UN Documents

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2009/11 (5 May 2009) was the presidential statement expressing concern about the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa.

Selected Letters

  • S/2008/128 (26 February 2008) and S/2008/127 (21 February 2008) was an exchange of letters regarding the appointment of Said Djinnit as Special Representative for West Africa and Head of UNOWA.
  • S/2007/754 (21 December 2007) and S/2007/753 (28 November 2007) was an exchange of letters regarding the extension UNOWA until 31 December 2010 and more frequent reporting.
  • S/2005/16 (14 December 2004) conveyed the Secretary-General’s intended mandate functions and activities of UNOWA from 1 January 2005 to 31 December 2007.
  • S/2004/858 (25 October 2004) and S/2004/797 (4 October 2004) was an exchange of letters regarding the extension UNOWA for three years.
  • S/2001/1129 (29 November 2001) welcomed the intention of the Secretary-General outlined in S/2001/1128 to establish UNOWA for three years from January 2002 to 31 December 2004, subject to a review after its first year of operation.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2009/39 (15 January 2009) was the last report of the Secretary-General on UNOWA.
  • S/2008/426 (30 June 2008) was the first semi-annual report of the Secretary-General on UNOWA.
  • S/2007/294 (18 May 2007) was a midterm review of UNOWA initially envisaged for July 2006.
  • S/2007/143 (13 March 2007) was the report on cross-border issues in West Africa.
  • S/2004/797 (4 October 2004) was a review of activities and performance of UNOWA spanning the January 2003 to July 2004 period.

Selected UNOWA Studies and Concept Papers

Available at http://www.un.org/unowa/unowa/studies/studies-cp.htm

  • Working Document on Sanctions in Africa (June 2007)
  • Security Landscape and Peace Consolidation in West Africa (March 2007)
  • Youth Unemployment and Regional Insecurity in West Africa – A UNOWA Issue Paper, 2nd edition (August 2006)
  • Life after State House: Addressing Unconstitutional Changes in West Africa – A UNOWA Issue Paper (March 2006)
  • Youth Unemployment and Regional Insecurity in West Africa – A UNOWA Issue Paper, 1st edition (December 2005)
  • Elections scheduled between April 2005 and December 2007 in West Africa (June 2005)
  • Security Sector Reform and Conflict Prevention in West Africa: Challenges and Opportunities – Dakar Workshop (November 2004)
  • The Regional Impact of the Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire (April 2004)

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Said Djinnit (Algeria)

UNOWA: Size and Composition

Staff Strength (as of 31 May 2009): 11 international civilians; 14 local civilians

UNOWA: Duration

29 November 2001 to present; mandate expires on 31 December 2010

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