The Secretary-General of the United
Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, said today that while West Africa has
witnessed some positive trends recently, including the holding of
peaceful elections, progress in the region remains fragile and faces
a number of threats. In his written report on the work of the United
Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the Secretary-General wrote
that the overall peace and security situation in the region continued
to improve over the past six months.
"In spite of a number of debilitating
internal and external factors, including food insecurity and the
global financial crisis, West Africa is witnessing the emergence of
positive trends towards peace, post-conflict recovery and stability,"
said the Secretary-General. "Progress in the areas of governance
and the rule of law, although significant, have remained essentially
fragile and might even be reversible in some areas," he continues.
"Furthermore, emerging and growing security threats, including
organized crime, illicit and terrorist activities and climate change,
jeopardizing ongoing endeavors and the gains achieved so far." In
addition, the Secretary-General voices deep concern about the "recent
wave" of unconstitutional changes of government in the region.
"Coups d'-etat are
illegitimate acts that constitute a severe setback for
democratization in West Africa and a threat to national cohesion and
stability, with significant subregional implications," the
Secretary-General states, adding that the resurgence of coups in the
region has generated serious human rights concerns, a problem that is
compounded by impunity for perpetrators.
The Secretary-General says the
international community must respond in a firm, proactive, collective
and consistent manner to address both the root causes of coups and
those practices that can act as triggers, such as grievances related
to wealth and power-sharing and infringements of democratic processes
and disregard for human rights. The report also highlights drug
trafficking and cross-border organized crime, which continue to
impact negatively on security in West Africa, with the
Secretary-General noting that growing international engagement,
coupled with bold national and subregional initiatives, are beginning
to yield results.
While drug trafficking is emerging as
one of the more pervasive and dangerous forms of cross-border
organized crime in West Africa, other illicit activities are also a
concern. These include human smuggling, piracy and the proliferation
of small arms and light weapons, as well as the activities of
criminal and other armed groups. The Secretary-General notes that in
the coming six months, UNOWA - headed by his Special Representative
Said Djinnit - will continue to focus on priority areas such as
advocacy for conflict prevention and peace consolidation.
The Office will also continue to play a significant role in efforts to address drug trafficking and organized crime, as well as help to strengthen the capacity of national institutions, including the security sector, in providing security for electoral processes.