Electoral processes, insecurity, democracy and food security in SRSGs in West Africa agenda

28 November 2011 – The Special Representatives of the Secretary-General (SRSGs) and Heads of United Nations Missions in West Africa today underscored their determination to promote to electoral processes, insecurity, democracy and food security in the sub-region as part of their agenda for crisis prevention and resolution.

“The Heads of Missions in West Africa underscored their determination to continue joining efforts and working closely in order to contribute to crisis prevention and resolution – in particular those related to electoral processes, combating insecurity, preserving democratic gains and promoting food security and development in West Africa”, a press statement issued at the end of their twenty-second high-level consultation in Dakar, aimed at facilitating the coordination of the action of the UN in promoting stability in the sub-region.

The meeting was chaired by Said Djinnit, SRSG for West Africa (UNOWA) and brought together Ellen Margrethe Løj, SRSG in Liberia (UNMIL); Albert Gérard Koenders, SRSG in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and Mr. Joseph Mutaboba, SRSG in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).

The Heads of Missions reviewed their collaboration on the implementation of the Secretary-General’s decision to develop a sub-regional strategy to tackle cross-border threats between Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire and in the Mano River sub-region, including mercenaries, movements of weapons and armed groups, illicit trafficking as well as their impact on forced population movements.

Regarding the issue of maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, the Heads of Missions welcomed the prompt deployment of a UN assessment Mission to Benin and to the concerned regional organizations in accordance with Security Council resolution 2018 (2011).

The Heads of Missions in West Africa, exchanged views on the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel Band including the impact of the crisis in Libya on the sub-region and the continued activities of terrorist networks and welcomed the collaboration between the Sahel countries in fighting terrorism and promoting development in the affected areas as they also “echoed the appeal made by the affected countries to the international community for a quick response to avoid a severe food crisis threatening to affect millions of people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.”

The Heads of Missions reiterated their determination in combating drug trafficking and organized crime in the region through the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI) launched to support the implementation of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) action plan on illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse (2008-2011). They welcomed progress in the establishment of the transnational crime units (TCU’s) in the four pilot countries namely Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, as well as the inclusion of Guinea into the program.

On Guinea-Bissau, the Heads of Missions in West Africa welcomed the continued improvement of the political stability security and socio-economic positive outputs in recent months. “They urged for sustained engagement and political will from Government to pursue major reforms, and advocated for substantive and immediate support by international partners, including for launching the crucial Pension Fund for the retirement of defense and security forces elements. Further, while noting the ongoing efforts of all partners in support of security sector reform (SSR) priorities in the country, the Heads of Peace Missions urged for the swift finalization of the tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) involving ECOWAS, CPLP and the Government of Guinea-Bissau for implementing the roadmap for SSR adopted earlier this year”.

“The UN-sponsored National Conference on peace, development and reconciliation planned for January 2012 was identified as a key milestone for sustaining democracy and enabling a positive political environment for implementing major reforms and holding peaceful legislative elections at the end of 2012”, the communiqué states, adding that with regard to the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, they called for more financial and technical support from UN and partners for capacitating the Transnational Crime Unit and implementing the 2011/2014 operational plan prepared by the Government for tackling drug trafficking and organized crime.

The Heads of Mission discussed the peace process in Cote d’Ivoire where legislative elections are slated for 11 December 2011, stressing that the holding of open, free, fair and transparent legislative elections, which SRSG Koenders is mandated to certify, should complete the institutional architecture. “UNOCI is multiplying its contacts with all political parties to call for an inclusive electoral process and is providing technical and logistical support for the organization of the elections.”

With regards to Liberia, SRSG Løj, briefed the meeting on the general elections held in that country on 11 October, noting that international and national observer missions had declared the process to have been free, fair and transparent. The Heads of Mission welcomed President Johnson Sirleaf’s establishment of a Special Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the violence of 7 November at the CDC Headquarters and emphasized the importance of thoroughly investigating the incident to successfully lay the groundwork for much needed political dialogue and reconciliation.