"Despite the postponement of the presidential election that was scheduled for 29 November, the electoral process has remained on track and the preparations have gathered encouraging momentum," he noted in his twenty-third progress report to the Security Council on the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI).
Among the progress made in recent months, Mr. Ban cited the implementation of identification and election-related tasks provided for in the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, including the publication of the provisional electoral list throughout the country, the launch of the appeals process, and the validation of all major candidates for the presidential election.
"I encourage the parties as well as the responsible national institutions to maintain this momentum in order to complete the remaining tasks in a timely manner," he stated, urging the Independent Electoral Commission in particular to complete the preparation of the final electoral list.
The Secretary-General noted that the implementation of the "delicate" remaining stages in preparation of the elections will require continued international engagement, including with regard to securing the process.
In this regard, he encouraged the Ivorian parties to make headway in deploying mixed brigades throughout the country, and added that UNOCI will continue to support those efforts and is adjusting its internal security planning to match the evolving security requirements.
The Presidents of Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso have asked that an additional unit of up to 500 peacekeepers from Burkina Faso be added to the 7,450-strong UNOCI to reinforce security ahead of elections. Mr. Ban has forwarded this request to the Security Council which will need to authorize such action.
Mr. Ban noted that, beyond the elections, other critical challenges remain in relation to the unfinished aspects of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, particular those relating to the reunification of the country, which was split into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south by civil war in 2002.
These include the disarmament of former combatants of Forces nouvelles and the dismantling of the militias, the reunification of the Ivorian defence and security forces, the effective redeployment of State administration throughout the country and the centralization of the treasury.
"Concerted efforts to address outstanding reunification concerns remain crucial," Mr. Ban said, strongly encouraging the Ivorian parties to continue working together to make further progress on those issues.
He added that successful and peaceful elections in the first quarter of 2010 would pave the way for charting the future engagement of the UN in Côte d'Ivoire to support the peacebuilding and recovery process.
In this regard, the Secretariat will dispatch a technical assessment mission to the country immediately after the presidential election to consult the newly-elected Government on the UN's post-election role.
In the meantime, the Secretary-General recommended that the Council extend the mandate of UNOCI for six months, through 31 July 2010.