Expected Council Action
In December the Security Council will have a briefing and consultations on the UN Office in West Africa (UNOWA). The Council will also hold a high-level meeting on drug trafficking and transnational organised crime in West Africa and the Sahel, in which the Secretary-General’s June report on the subject will be considered. At both meetings the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNOWA, Said Djinnit, will brief the Council. Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will also brief at the meeting on drug trafficking.
The Council is expected to renew the mandate of UNOWA for a further three years through an exchange of letters with the Secretary-General before UNOWA’s mandate expires on 31 December.
It is expected that the Council will adopt a presidential statement on drug trafficking and transnational organised crime in West Africa and the Sahel.
Key Recent Developments
The Council last considered UNOWA when it was briefed by Djinnit on 10 July. Djinnit spoke about West Africa’s political and security challenges linked to transnational organised crime, piracy and terrorist activities and about election-related tensions in some countries.
UNOWA continued to carry out its good offices roles for conflict prevention and mediation. Following an agreement mediated by Djinnit on 3 July, legislative elections were held in Guinea on 28 September after repeated delays and the deaths of around 50 demonstrators earlier in the year. The opposition quickly claimed irregularities, withdrew from the National Electoral Commission and threatened further protests. The ruling party also alleged cases of fraud. Complete provisional results were not announced until almost three weeks after the vote, giving the party of President Alpha Condé the most seats—53 of the 114-member parliament. In a 24 October press statement, the Council urged all grievances to be addressed through legal channels (SC/11159). The opposition agreed on 30 October to proceed through legal avenues. On 15 November, the Supreme Court rejected the opposition’s challenges and confirmed the vote. Since the July agreement setting the 28 September elections, Djinnit travelled to Guinea multiple times, chairing 18 meetings between the government and the opposition.
In Switzerland on 22-23 October, Djinnit chaired a meeting in which Nigeria and Cameroon confirmed the latter’s full sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula. This marked the final meeting of the follow-up committee to the 2006 Greentree Agreement governing the transfer of authority from Nigeria to Cameroon over the peninsula.
In August, the Council adopted a presidential statement welcoming the outcomes defining a regional anti-piracy strategy from the summit on maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea, held on 24-25 June in Yaoundé, Cameroon (S/PRST/2013/13). The summit had been convened following a call in resolution 2039 for Gulf of Guinea states to hold a summit to develop a regional strategy for combatting piracy. The statement further encouraged UNOWA to assist in implementing the summit’s agreements. At a follow-up meeting held on 26 October in Dakar with the heads of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of Central African States, the Gulf of Guinea Commission, UNOWA and the UN Regional Office for Central Africa, along with UN agencies and Cameroon, an interregional working group was formed to develop cooperation and coordination mechanisms for the anti-piracy strategy and to facilitate establishment of the Interregional Centre for Coordination to be based in Cameroon.
An International Maritime Bureau report, released a few days earlier, showed that the Gulf of Guinea region recorded 43 piracy attacks in the first nine months of 2013, with 132 crew members taken hostage and seven vessels hijacked. This compared to 34 attacks over the same period in 2012.
In order to deepen the UN’s joint strategic response to address cross-border and cross-cutting challenges in West Africa, UNOWA convened a regional retreat in Dakar with heads of UN country teams from 16 countries on 17-18 September.
Djinnit and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Sahel, Romano Prodi, conducted their third joint visit to the region on 6-7 October. Prodi met with the president of Mauritania, and they both met with the president of Niger in Niamey and the chairman of ECOWAS in Abidjan. Discussions included implementation of the Sahel strategy, which Prodi introduced in June.
On 21 October, UNOWA, ECOWAS and the Manu River Union (MRU) published a strategy for cross-border security in the MRU. This followed up a 29 June agreement between the UN, ECOWAS, MRU and its four member states (Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) to develop a joint security strategy for the MRU. In 2011 and 2012, Council resolutions 2000, 2062 and 2066 called for the creation of a strategy that addresses cross-border movements of armed groups and weapons and illicit trafficking.
A high-level donor conference, co-organised by ECOWAS, UNODC and UNOWA, was held in Abidjan on 28 October. The conference mobilised resources for the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan and the West Africa Coast Initiative to fight transnational organised crime, as well as UNODC programs under the Sahel strategy and the Gulf of Guinea anti-piracy strategy.
Five West African countries signed a document on 29 October with the UN and INTERPOL to develop units to combat transnational organised crime in West Africa. The units are already operational in three pilot countries (Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone) and are being established in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea.
UNOWA’s role in implementing the Sahel strategy and its future relationship with the office of the Special Envoy to the Sahel is a key issue. (Giving UNOWA a mandate to implement the Sahel strategy would require increasing its budget.)
Another issue is the question of whether UNOWA is being overstretched. Members might consider how UNOWA’s mandate should be tightened or what aspects of its mandate it should prioritise.
Closely related, is whether UNOWA needs more resources to fulfil its broad mandate and expanding engagements.
Drug trafficking and organised crime in West Africa remains a strong concern, undermining good governance. Also following the Mali crisis, there is more awareness of the link between drug trafficking and terrorist groups. The possible spread of extremist groups from Mali and Nigeria is a related concern.
In renewing UNOWA, the Council could:
- keep the mandate as it currently exists and have UNOWA work closely with the office of the Special Envoy to the Sahel, which will relocate from Italy to Dakar; or
- expand its mandate to include implementing the Sahel strategy.
On drug trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel, the Council might adopt a presidential statement:
- establishing a Council working group on drug trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel;
- establishing an expert group to identify those involved in transnational organised crime in the Sahel, with the possibility of imposing targeted sanctions, as recommended in the Secretary-General’s report (S/2013/189); and
- encouraging the establishment of an international contact group on transnational organised crime in West Africa.
Members recognise the important political role of UNOWA. They view Djinnit’s success so far in Guinea and Nigeria-Cameroon as examples of the preventive diplomacy role the office was set up to perform.
Much of the discussion about whether to mandate UNOWA to implement the Sahel strategy or to have it remain with the Special Envoy seems due to the P5’s reluctance to increase UNOWA’s budget.
In general, there is a lack of appetite among many Council members for expanding missions due to budgetary concerns. It seems that most new resources for UNOWA will need to come from the Secretary-General shifting funding from other UN special political missions.
For France in particular, drug trafficking and organised crime in West Africa and the Sahel and its impact on governance and state institutions is a priority after its intervention in Mali.
Togo is the penholder on UNOWA.
UN Documents on UNOWA
|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.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|14 August 2013 S/PRST/2013/13||This presidential statement regarding piracy in the Gulf of Guinea welcomed the summit on maritime safety and security.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|24 October 2013 SC/11159||This press statement commended Guinea for the electoral process and urged all political stakeholders to pursue legal recourse for the resolution of any electoral disputes.|
|28 June 2013 S/2013/384||This was a report of the Secretary-General on UNOWA.|
|18 June 2013 S/2013/359||This Secretary-General’s report was on transnational organised crime and illicit drug trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel.|
|14 June 2013 S/2013/354||This report on the Sahel contained the UN integrated strategy for the Sahel.|
|Security Council Letters|
|20 December 2010 S/2010/661||Was the letter extending the mandate of UNOWA for a further three years, from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2013.|
|14 December 2010 S/2010/660||This letter transmitted the Secretary-General’s report on UNOWA and recommended extending the mandate of UNOWA for a further three years, from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2013.|