I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated with the European Union, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the associated countries of Cyprus, Malta and Turkey, align themselves with this statement.
First of all let me thank you for having organized this debate on West Africa. I believe that a regional approach is not only useful but also necessary when dealing with West Africa, alongside the meetings that this Council holds on specific national situations. A regional approach is vital if we are to respond to the challenges facing West Africa, which include the disarmament of irregular forces, small arms proliferation, and the return and resettlement of refugees and displaced persons. The European Union, moreover, attaches great importance to this region: for more than twenty years the Union has been implementing a regional approach to West Africa under the Lomé Conventions, an approach which has been further considerably strengthened since the signing of the Cotonou Agreement.
The need for a comprehensive, integrated approach to West Africa was one of the findings of the UN inter-agency mission led by Assistant Secretary-General Fall. The Union welcomes the fact that work is continuing in that direction and that the United Nations has decided to set up a regional office in Dakar. We hope that this plan will now rapidly take shape and that the office will become operational as soon as possible. We are convinced that, with a skilled and dynamic Special Representative of the Secretary-General at its head, this project will very soon bear fruit. We consider it particularly important that the Office should have close and regular work relations with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Mano River Union. Unless there is close co-operation with regional organizations, there can in fact be no UN regional approach.
Mr. President, West Africa has been torn apart by years of conflict, population displacement and economic depression. The region has suffered and is still suffering some of the worst atrocities and human rights violations that the contemporary world has witnessed. There have nevertheless been a number of promising recent developments, one of which is the positive role of ECOWAS.
The United Nations has succeeded in gradually deploying in Sierra Leone. The DDR programme is making steady progress and elections are scheduled for May 2002. In comparison with the situation only a few months ago, these are encouraging, hopeful developments. Substantial challenges remain however. The RUF still controls parts of the territory and there are unfortunately some difficulties with DDR in the east of the country. In Liberia, the European Union continues to be concerned by the security situation and considers the resumption of fighting in the north of the country to be a very worrying development. In Guinea, Mr. President, the European Union is watching the domestic situation closely, in particular the highly controversial referendum held in November 2001 and the forthcoming elections. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative should, as a matter of priority, make efforts with all Heads of State of the Mano River Union countries in order to ensure that the dialogue launched in August can continue.
The United Nations plays a leading role in the region. The UN’s most important peacekeeping operation is being conducted in Sierra Leone. Sanctions have been put in place against the RUF in Sierra Leone and against Liberia. The European Union fully backs these sanctions and has taken the necessary steps to ensure that they are strictly applied.
On a quite different front from the application of sanctions, the European Union as I mentioned at the beginning of my statement provides substantial assistance to West Africa. If you will bear with me briefly, I should like to expand on this aspect. The European Union’s assistance strategy towards the region has focused mainly on the general objective of supporting the process of regional economic integration and the competitive integration of the region into the world economy. The following areas were identified as priorities to that end: institutional support for regional organizations, strengthening the integration mechanisms, management of common resources, development of the regional transport network and communication infrastructures, research, consolidation of the rule of law, and conflict management. The last two priorities, in particular, reinforce the United Nations’ own efforts.
A specific dialogue with the region has been developed through the regional organizations, in particular ECOWAS, UEMOA and CILLS. The Union maintains special relationships with these three bodies. Altogether, Mr. President, since the conclusion of the Lomé I Convention, a total of EUR 905 million has been allocated to the region. These efforts are reinforced by those of the EU Presidency’s Special Representative for West Africa, Mr. Hans Dahlgren, whose activities and whose regular on-the-spot visits enable us to follow, to reinforce and where needed to recalibrate our action. In carrying out his mandate, the Special Representative lays special emphasis on close dialogue with the United Nations and with other regional organizations.
Your decision to hold a briefing meeting with the UNICEF Executive Committee last week, dealing in particular with the subject of children in armed conflicts in the framework of regional peace and security in West Africa was an excellent initiative. UNICEF plays a significant role in peace building, particularly through its work in disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating children and in caring for children traumatized by war.
The European Union notes with interest your proposal for a joint mechanism, inasmuch as it will make for greater consistency in the activities of the Security Council and the United Nations operational agencies. There is indeed a need for closer co-operation between the Security Council which often takes the initial peacemaking measures, specifically involving peacekeeping missions and the United Nations aid, reconstruction and development agencies, including ECOSOC.
We unreservedly support the Security Council’s regional approach to West Africa and encourage the Security Council to develop that approach in parallel with its business of dealing with the specific situations referred to it.
Thank you, Mr. President.