Security Council concerned over precarious progress made in West Africa

10 July 2009The Security Council today voiced its concern over the fragile democratic and economic progress achieved in West Africa, which continues to face grave challenges ranging from coups d’état to organized crime. The 15-member body said in a press statement that it welcomes positive steps made towards post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding, but said that “the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government” and “undemocratic seizures of power” are very worrying.Briefing the Council earlier this week, Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, pointed out that all recent unconstitutional changes on the continent – with the exception of Madagascar – have occurred in West African nations such as Mauritania and Niger.In its statement today, the Council reiterated the “importance of expeditiously restoring constitutional order including through open and transparent elections.”Illicit drug trafficking and other criminal activities also threaten peace and stability in the region, with the value of trafficked goods in some cases exceeding the gross domestic product (GDP) of West African nations, which are among the world’s poorest. For example, the income derived from illegally selling oil or trafficking cocaine, worth $1 billion annually each, rivals the GDP of Cape Verde and Sierra Leone, according to a new report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).An “approach of shared responsibility” is crucial to addressing the problem, the Council said, welcoming efforts undertaken by West African nations, especially the regional action plan of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).It also welcomed this week’s launch of a new initiative, which seeks to address West Africa’s porous borders, weak governance and corruption, which have been allowed traffickers to operate in a climate of impunity.Called the West Africa Coast Initiative, it is a partnership among UNODC, the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), along with the ECOWAS and Interpol.Today’s statement also voiced concern over the impact of the global economic downturn on West Africa, given that the region is already tackling obstacles such as food insecurity, climate change and youth unemployment.“The Council encourages continued engagement of financial institutions and development partners to mitigate the adverse effects of the decline in economic growth and other destabilizing factors in West Africa,” it added.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) nations this morning in L’Aquila, Italy, that Africa’s relative isolation from capital markets has not shielded it from the effects of the global recession, cautioning that development progress on the continent is in jeopardy.Africa’s chances of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, are in peril, he said, adding that “the economic and financial crisis has set us back several years.” read more