UN Security Council: EU Statement on Peace Consolidation in West Africa

United Nations Security Council, Open Debate on Peace Consolidation in West Africa, New York, 9 August 2006

Statement by H.E. Ms. Kirsti Lintonen, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia , the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Montenegro, Serbia as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

The European Union welcomes this opportunity to exchange views and to contribute to the process of consolidating peace in West Africa. The EU commends the considerable progress made in peace and security in West Africa in recent years, namely in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Liberia held its first free and fair elections and chose Africa's first woman President to lead the country into reconstruction and recovery. Liberia's democratic government has taken bold measures to improve the transparency of the budget. We welcome the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program which has already helped to the partial lifting of sanctions. The request by Liberia for turning over former President Charles Taylor, made possible his transfer into the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The arrest and trial against Mr. Taylor demonstrate that those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity or violations of international humanitarian law cannot escape justice, even as former presidents. The EU appreciates the essential work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and its vital contributions to the establishment of the rule of law in the region. 

The EU welcomes the request of Sierra Leone to be included on the agenda of the newly established Peacebuilding Commission, as well as the positive response from the Commission to this request. Sierra Leone will now benefit from the PBC's support for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery at the crucial time of the preparation of the June 2007 elections. 

Notwithstanding these positive developments, many West African countries remain in precarious situations. The EU remains concerned about the fragile political and socio-economic situation in Guinea-Bissau. The EU urges the new Government to accelerate the so-far slow progress in the consolidation of peace and stability and the pace of national reconciliation and stands ready to support its efforts. 

In neighbouring Guinea, the reform process has stalled. The EU renews strongly its call for the new Government to engage in a dialogue with all parties concerned in order to improve political stability and pave the way for democratic reform. The EU will contribute to the process with assistance and continued involvement in the framework of the ongoing consultations with the country.

The volatile situation in Cote d'Ivoire continues to hamper the peace and stability of the region. The EU is concerned about the serious delays in the peace process and in particular in the implementation of the roadmap aiming at elections to be scheduled by the end of October this year. The EU has on several occasions urged the Ivorian parties to implement the roadmap and the commitments contained therein. Much of the stability in the whole West African region depends on the developments in Cote d'Ivoire.  

Mr. President,

The European Union adopted a comprehensive EU Strategy for Africa in December 2005. Within the framework of this Strategy the EU is committed to strengthen the dialogue on peace and security in Africa and to support the efforts of its African partners to build stability in the continent. In line with the EU strategy, the European Union maintains an open dialogue with the African Union as well as with the sub-regional organisations on a wide range of issues related to peace and security in the continent. Notably with its African Peace Facility, the EU actively supports institutional capacity building in these areas.

A year earlier, in 2004, the European Union adopted its Strategy on conflict prevention, management and resolution for West Africa. The objective of the strategy is to promote regional approaches to West African transnational problems and to improve coordination in close co-operation with the main partners active in the region. 

The EU is well aware that national solutions alone are not sufficient to address security threats in West Africa due to the cross-border nature of the problems such as small arms, child solders, refugees and illegal exploitation of natural resources, human trafficking and immigration issues. In addition to its support to each country of the region through national programmes, the EU is committed to a regional approach and improved coordination together with the key partners active in the region, namely ECOWAS and the United Nations Office for West Africa, UNOWA.

Mr. President,

The EU cooperation with ECOWAS entails support to the peace and security agenda of the African Union and other African initiatives. The political dialogue between the EU and ECOWAS takes place bi-annually at ministerial level. The EU also maintains regular dialogue with the ECOWAS Presidency and Secretariat and with the ECOWAS member states. The  political dialogue is underpinned by actions financed by the European Development Fund such as the project on "conflict Prevention and Peace Building" followed now by a second project supporting ECOWAS rapid reaction mechanism. Important support is also allocated to ECOWAS institutional reform and capacity building.

In addition to conflict prevention, peace and security, the EU-ECOWAS dialogue focuses on economy and trade, good governance, the rule of law and human rights. In the field of human rights, the recruitment of child soldiers and human trafficking have been identified as priorities. Enhanced follow-up dialogue takes place in certain areas, most recently regarding migration issues. In this specific issue the EU, in balanced dialogue with the AU and other African organisations and states, finds it necessary to address the root causes of migration, among which are conflict and political instability.

As to the cooperation with the United Nations, the European Union is in constant dialogue with the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) with a focus on conflict prevention and cross-border issues.  In accordance with the Terms of Reference for Political Dialogue, recommendations have been initiated for cooperation between the EU and UNOWA including a coordinated approach in areas of common interest such as post-conflict reconstruction, institution building, security sector reform, small arms and cross-border issues.  Ways and means to enhance co-operation and information sharing are being explored.

The EU is also strongly involved in a number of political dialogues in the region, in the framework of the International Working Group on Cote d'Ivoire, as co-chair of the Mano River Basin Contact Group, and is looking forward to the first meeting of the International Working Group on Guinea Bissau. The Special Representative of the EU Presidency for the Mano River Union ensures the continued promotion of peace and stability with political interlocutors in the region.

The EU also engages in internal cooperation and coordination among its member states relying on coherent and harmonized use of different instruments at its disposal such as political dialogue and development cooperation.

Mr. President,

The European Union attaches special importance to the development of crisis prevention, management and resolution capabilities in Africa. An EU Action Plan for ESDP Support for Peace and Security in Africa was adopted in 2004. Using the full mix at its disposal, the EU combines EC development programmes and ESDP actions to support African capacity-building in the field of peace and security. Efforts are underway to further strengthen the EU support to African capabilities for prevention, management and resolution of conflicts. Against this background, the EU continues to remain fully engaged in conflict prevention and management in West Africa in support of regional organisations and the countries of West Africa in their efforts to enhance peace and stability. 

Thank you, Mr. President.