UNOWA (West Africa)
Expected Council Action
In January the Council expects a briefing from Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), on the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report, including an update on the Gulf of Guinea piracy problem.
No Council action is envisaged.
UNOWA’s mandate expires on 31 December 2013.
Key Recent Developments
The Council has been dealing in recent months with various West African issues that technically fall within the remit of UNOWA but are now being addressed separately. The most important of these has been Mali.
Mali and the wider Sahel region to which it belongs was one of the situations about which Djinnit warned the Council on 11 July, saying it could potentially reverse the significant gains made in consolidating peace and promoting democracy in West Africa. Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on UNOWA (S/2012/510) to Council members, Djinnit said that the security situation in West Africa remains “precarious and reversible as the root causes of instability are yet to be fully addressed.” He noted that the coups in Mali (22 March) and Guinea-Bissau (12 April), armed insurrection and continuing instability in parts of Côte d’Ivoire, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, terrorist threats and attacks in the region and the increase in illicit drug trafficking meant that the security situation presents a new wave of challenges to governance, peace consolidation and conflict prevention.
The report covered the period from 1 January to 30 June, providing considerable detail on events in Mali and the wider Sahel since the 22 March coup. It emphasised the mediation efforts of ECOWAS and the complexity of the situation in the region. Even so, the report noted strong economic growth in the region, despite the weak global economic environment. It cited the International Monetary Fund as saying that the subregion “will register an average economic growth rate of more than 7.5 percent in 2012.” The growth, it says, will be due in part to the discovery and increased extraction of natural resources in such countries as Sierra Leone, Niger and Liberia, where growth rates were estimated at 35.9, 14 and 8.8 percent, respectively, in 2012. In Côte d’Ivoire, the report said, growth was expected to rebound to about 8 percent. These economic trends, however, will continue to be dependent on political stability, the impact of the food security crisis in the region and the global economic situation, the report said.
Since then, Sierra Leone has conducted peaceful general elections on 17 November. On 7-8 December, Ghana also conducted presidential elections which incumbent President John Dramani Mahama won. (Mahama, formerly vice-president, took over as president in July following the death of President John Atta Mills.) However, the transition to civil rule in Guinea-Bissau, brokered by ECOWAS, remains uncertain although elections are slated for April 2013.
Djinnit is also likely to update the Council on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. On 19 November, at the initiative of India, the Council for the first time held an open debate on piracy as a threat to international peace and security. After the meeting, the Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2012/24) expressing its grave concern about the threat posed by piracy, condemning hostage-taking and violence against hostages and calling for a continuation of efforts to combat piracy at the national, regional and international levels. It asked the Secretary-General to include in relevant reports to the Council information on ways to advance the international response to piracy. The statement welcomed the initiatives already taken by states and regional organisations to enhance maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea—which is home to major oil producers Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Ghana—was added to the Council’s agenda on 23 August 2011. On 29 February 2012, the Council adopted resolution 2039 calling on the Secretary-General to “support efforts towards mobilising resources following the creation of the regional strategy to assist in building national and regional capacities in close consultation with states and regional and extraregional organizations.”
Despite these concerns, piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea increased during the year, with 34 incidents recorded between January and September 2012 up from thirty in 2011. Togo, in fact, reported more attacks in 2012 than in the previous five years combined, with three vessels hijacked, two boarded and six attempted attacks, according to reports. Nigeria reported over twenty attacks in 2012.
During the open debate on piracy on 19 November, Ambassador Kodjo Menan (Togo) noted that progress in tackling the problem has been slim “despite the stated willingness and determination of the states and organizations concerned.” Meanwhile, Menan said, the income from such illicit activities as the diversion of oil cargoes are used to finance subversive or criminal networks that seek to challenge or diminish states’ authority. Menan referred to such networks as “true mafia organisations”, noting that they help to undermine the efforts of the weaker states of the subregion to ensure good governance and respect for human rights.
The key issue for the Council is determining the precise role of UNOWA in the fast-developing situation in Mali.
A related issue is to fashion a policy to coordinate the various special envoys for the Sahel appointed by the UN, AU and EU and, in this context, the role of the head of UNOWA to ensure effective responses to the multifaceted problems of the region.
Options for the Council include:
- receiving the briefing and awaiting the Secretary-General’s integrated strategy on the Sahel; or
- adopting a presidential statement highlighting key concerns raised in the briefing, most likely regarding the growing threats of piracy, organised crime and terrorism in West Africa; and possibly also
- providing a degree of clarification for the role of UNOWA in the context of the various Sahel diplomatic initiatives.
While there is strong interest in the work of UNOWA among Council members, there has been increasing awareness of its limited capacity to cover various crises in the region. Some Council members appear anxious to see UNOWA be more assertive in coordinating the various initiatives on the Sahel, including those of the various special envoys for the Sahel.
Togo leads on this issue in the Council.
UN Documents on West Africa
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 February 2012 S/RES/2039||Welcomed the Secretary-General’s assessment mission on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and called on states to implement its recommendations.|
|31 October 2011 S/RES/2018||Condemned threats of piracy and armed robbery on the seas of the Gulf of Guinea and called for strengthened regional cooperation.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|19 November 2012 S/PRST/2012/24||Expressed grave concern about the threat posed by piracy, condemned hostage taking and violence against hostages and called for a continuation of efforts to combat piracy at the national, regional and international levels. It asked the Secretary-General to include in relevant reports to the Council information on ways to advance the international response against piracy.|
|21 February 2012 S/PRST/2012/2||Was on the impact of transnational organized crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel Region, including piracy.|
|29 June 2012 S/2012/510||This was a Secretary-General report on West Africa.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|5 December 2012 S/PV.6879||This was a briefing by Feltman on the Secretary-General’s report on Mali.|
|19 November 2012 S/PV.6865||Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson briefed at the Council’s first open debate on piracy as a threat to international peace and security. The debate was held at the initiative of India as Council president in November 2012. In addition to Council members, the EU and 28 UN member states spoke.|
|11 July 2012 S/PV.6804||The Special Representative and head of UNOWA introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report on West Africa to Council members.|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNOWA
Said Djinnit (Algeria)
UNOWA: Size and Composition of Mission
Strength (as of 30 April 2010): 13 international civilians, ten local civilians and four military advisers.
Mandate expires on 31 December 2013