January 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 December 2009
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West Africa (UNOWA)

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

A briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNOWA, Said Djinnit is likely, to be followed by consultations.

Key Recent Developments
On 7 July 2009 Djinnit briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in West Africa and the activities of UNOWA. Djinnit said that the determination of countries in West Africa to address crises in their region decisively, with the support of the UN and the wider international community, coupled with their efforts to strengthen institutions, governance and the rule of law and to enhance the role of civil society, had led to significant reduction in the level of violence across the subregion.

Djinnit emphasised that despite the significant progress achieved, the subregion remained fragile. The root causes of conflict and instability persisted. Progress was reversible in some cases (e.g. the democratic setback in Mauritania and the crisis in the Niger). Emerging challenges, including terrorist activities in the Sahel band, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, governance problems, drug trafficking and organised crime also jeopardised ongoing peace efforts in the subregion.

Speaking during the meeting, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, indicated that the volume of drug trafficking throughout the subregion appeared to be reducing significantly, with about a 35 percent drop over a few months. Costa, however, noted that the situation remained quite volatile, with about twenty tons of cocaine still transiting through the region annually. Consequently, the downward trend in drug trafficking could not be guaranteed.

On 8 July 2009, UNOWA, UNODC, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the International Criminal Police Organization launched the West Africa Coast Initiative in New York. (The objective of this initiative is to build the capacity of police and law enforcement agencies in four pilot countries—Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau—to enable them to more effectively prevent and combat organised crime and drug trafficking. The strategy builds on the ECOWAS Plan of Action which aims at strengthening national capacities and cross-border cooperation to tackle the organised crime and drug trafficking undermining peace and development in the subregion.)

On 10 July, the Council adopted a presidential statement:

  • noting with satisfaction continued progress in the overall peace and security situation in West Africa;
  • expressing concern about the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government, undemocratic seizures of power and also stressed the need for restoring constitutional order, including through open and transparent elections;
  • expressing concern about the fragile nature of progress in the subregion, particularly with regards to the emerging threats to security in West Africa;
  • reaffirming the importance of addressing illicit drug trafficking and criminal activities by an approach of shared responsibility, and welcoming West African states’ continued leadership in implementing the ECOWAS Plan of Action (to combat illegal drug trafficking and organised crime) and UNOWA’s role in support of the implementation of this plan; and
  • expressing concern about the impact of the global economic crisis on West African economies, against the backdrop of already existing development challenges.

On 8 December the Council held an open debate on the topic Peace and Security in Africa: Drug Trafficking as a Threat to International Security. Many participants (including some Council members and the head of UNODC) highlighted the challenges posed by drug trafficking, as well as production and consumption of drugs in West Africa and across the African continent. The Council subsequently issued a presidential statement at the close of the meeting expressing concern about the threats posed by drug trafficking and related transnational organised crime in different regions of the world, including Africa.

Key Issues
A key issue for Council members is whether the regional approach (through UNOWA’s activities) really adds value to peace and security in West Africa. A related issue is the fact that cross-border challenges continue to pose possible risks to peace and security in the region.

Options for the Council include:

  • considering the Secretary-General’s report but not taking any action;
  • adopting a statement highlighting key issues raised in the Secretary-General’s report and possibly reiterating the Council’s support for the work of UNOWA; and
  • making use of the opportunity presented by the report to raise the profile of Council engagement on fragile situations not on the Council’s agenda but subsumed under the regional mandate of UNOWA (e.g. Mauritania and Niger, in line with the Council’s presidential statement of 5 May), along with issues that may not be immediately due for consideration on its programme (e.g. Guinea).

Council Dynamics
While most Council members welcome the overarching view of the situation in the subregion that comes from UNOWA, different members give different levels of priority to particular situations of interest to them. Some are interested in discussion of all the security challenges posed by unconstitutional rule in the area. Others are more focused on the situation in Guinea and its potential to disrupt the fragile peace in the Manu River area. Some countries continue to show interest in the prominence of drug trafficking and organised crime problems.

New members like Brazil, Gabon and Nigeria seem likely to want to express support to the mandate of UNOWA. Others note that, in the wake of the Council’s July and December presidential statements, a specific outcome document is not necessary at this stage given that there are still 12 months of the Office’s current three-year mandate to run. Council members are likely to be influenced by the Secretary-General’s report.

Underlying Issues
Developmental challenges in the West African subregion, rising food insecurity, youth unemployment and climate change, with the threats to security (e.g. unconstitutional changes of government, drug trafficking and international organised crime) continue to contribute to a potential for setbacks to peace consolidation in the area.

UN Documents

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2009/32 (8 December 2009) was on threats posed by drug trafficking.
  • S/PRST/2009/20 (10 July 2009) was on the situation in West Africa.
  • S/PRST/2009/11 (5 May 2009) expressed 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 to establish UNOWA.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2009/332 (19 June 2009) was the last report on UNOWA.
  • S/2008/426 (30 June 2008) was the first semi-annual report 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 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 October 2009): 13 international civilians; ten local civilians; four military advisers

UNOWA: Duration

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

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