What's In Blue

Posted Mon 16 Dec 2013

UN Office for West Africa: Briefing and Consultations

The Security Council expects to receive a briefing tomorrow on the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) by the Special Representative of the Secretary General to West Africa Said Djinnit, which will be followed by consultations. The briefing and consultations come as the Security Council needs to renew UNOWA’s mandate, which expires on 31 December. As has been the tradition in the past, the mandate is expected to be extended for a further three years and will occur through an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Council President.

The Secretary-General’s latest report on UNOWA was distributed to Council members last week (S/2013/732). The report outlines UNOWA’s activities and developments in the region since the Council last considered the issue on 10 July. This includes detailing UNOWA’s good offices and mediation work, notably in Guinea, where Djinnit was particularly active in steering the parties peacefully through its 28 September elections, and post-electoral tensions. The security situation in the Mano River Union (MRU), Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel were highlighted in the report as areas of continuing concern, along with fighting in northeastern Nigeria between Boko Haram and the government. The report also updates on progress in UNOWA’s support to develop regional initiatives including a new MRU cross-border security strategy, Gulf of Guinea anti-piracy efforts and the Sahel strategy.

Council members will likely be interested in hearing from Djinnit about plans for UNOWA’s future work before extending its mandate for a further three years. The Secretary General’s report recommends maintaining UNOWA’s current mandate, which has broad support among Council members, and includes the following elements: conduct of good offices for mediation and preventative diplomacy and monitoring political developments; support for the development of regional capacity to address transnational threats and common challenges such as security sector reform, arms and drug trafficking, organized crime, piracy and terrorism; and the promotion of good governance and human rights. Members have been particularly pleased by UNOWA’s good offices role, with Djinnit’s work in Guinea frequently cited as an example of fulfilling the preventive diplomacy role meant to be played by the regional office. In his report, the Secretary-General also recommends the establishment of a dedicated analytical unit in the political affairs section of UNOWA to be able to more reliably provide analysis on developments in the region. There may be interest tomorrow in learning more about this proposal.

While highlighting the importance of UNOWA’s broad responsibilities, the Secretary-General noted the challenge for UNOWA in being able to meet expectations due to its limited resources, in particular in assisting regional institutions. In general, budgetary concerns limit the appetite of some Council members to expand the resources of missions such as UNOWA.

Members will also be particularly interested in discussing UNOWA’s future role in the implementation of the Sahel strategy. In his report, the Secretary-General informs the Council that the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel will move from Rome to Dakar to be co-located with UNOWA beginning on 1 January 2014. It is understood by Council members that Special Envoy for the Sahel Romano Prodi will be replaced by an Assistant Secretary-General to oversee implementation of the Sahel strategy, a new post that is currently pending the approval of the General Assembly 5th Committee. The arrangement will have the Assistant Secretary-General working under the supervision of Djinnit.

Members are also particularly concerned with transnational threats emanating from the region such as organised crime and drug trafficking and how these illicit activities finance terrorist groups and undermine good governance. These issues are likely to be discussed in tomorrow’s briefing and consultations, especially given UNOWA’s support of various ECOWAS and MRU initiatives meant to strengthen the capacity of West African countries—and cooperation among them—in combating organised crime and drug trafficking. (Djinnit—as well as Executive Director Yury Fedotov of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime-will also brief the Council on 18 December on drug trafficking in the Sahel and West Africa, during which a presidential statement is expected to be adopted.)

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