Summary: July 16, 2004: Statement by H.E. Ambassador Dirk Jan van den Berg, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union, to the Security Council of the United Nations on the report of the Security Council Mission to West-Africa (New York)
The Candidate Countries Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Croatia , the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
Although we note positive developments, the situation in West Africa remains fragile. The moment for the Council to focus on the region is therefore appropriate, as we ask ourselves: how can positive developments be strengthened, and relapses avoided?
The goals of the Security Council mission to West Africa were twofold. First, the mission set out to address particular situations in a number of countries in the region. Most pressing were the talks in Cote d'Ivoire, where the mission tried to rekindle negotiations between parties. The European Union shares the concern by the Security Council on the situation in Cote d'Ivoire, and reiterates the individual responsibility of the political leaders to avoid confrontation and engage in dialogue and negotiations, on the base of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement. The European Union fully appreciates the strong message that was delivered by the Mission to all political leaders in Cote d'Ivoire. In this regard, we also welcome the West African mini-summit organized by the Secretary-General on the 6th of July in Addis, to be followed up later this month in Accra.
Secondly, the mission addressed a wide number of thematic, region-wide issues. In this regard, the mission followed up on the report of the Secretary-General of 12 March 2004 on cross-border problems. I also refer to the comprehensive strategy that the EU adopted in May 2004 for its co-operation with West Africa. A central tenet in that strategy is tackling the over-arching challenge of integrating short-term crisis management with longer-term preventive measures.
I would like to focus my intervention on three thematic issues that are related to long-term developments: the UN post-conflict strategy for the region, the value of regional integration, and synergies of peacekeeping operations.
1. Post-conflict situations
The current situation in West Africa offers, in the wording of the report, "a real chance to break out of the cycle of conflict and poverty". The Security Council stressed throughout its mission the relationship between security and development. The European Union fully agrees that in making the transition to peace and economic development in West Africa, this link is of the utmost importance.
As the UN lacks one single operational peace building body, UN organs have to actively co-operate to bring together security- and development concerns. We certainly hope that the Security Council will further pursue the comprehensive approach it adopted in the mission report. One of the ways might be a further exploration of ad hoc composite committees of the Security Council, ECOSOC and/or General Assembly that deal specifically with post conflict situations. A positive example in the West African region is the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau.
Yesterday, the ECOSOC discussed the assessment of the ad hoc advisory groups. The European Union reiterated the valuable contributions those groups make in pursuing a comprehensive UN approach to peace building. It was also stated that the collaboration between the Security Council and ECOSOC could be intensified. We would like to use this opportunity to make the very same point. Areas of potential cooperation are Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration programmes, as well as Security Sector Reforms. The Council and ECOSOC could also rally together to seek donor assistance. Post-conflict situations too easily disappear from front pages, and consequently from the radar screen of donors.
2. Regional integration
Of course, the primary responsibility for bringing about change and sustaining peace efforts lies with the states in the region. In our view, regional integration in West Africa can play a vital role in preventing future conflicts. For years, cross-border problems as child soldiers, mercenaries, small arms and illegal exploitation of natural sources, have been fueling conflicts. Solutions, therefore, must also be found at the regional level.
In West-Africa we recognize the positive role of ECOWAS. Like many other countries and organizations, the European Union supports the strengthening of the organization and its institutional capacity. In our view, now is the time to work out a systemic donor coordination mechanism, under the leadership of ECOWAS. The EU strategy of May 2004 also calls for the development of a conceptual framework for conflict prevention and peace building in West Africa. We hope the leaders in the region will enable ECOWAS to undertake this task.
Finally, the international community can also contribute by intensifying its partnership both with individual countries and relevant organizations in the region. The European Union tries to structure its political dialogue with ECOWAS for that purpose. As EU President, the Netherlands has invited all Foreign Ministers of ECOWAS to an informal meeting with their EU-counterparts on the 4th of September, in Maastricht. I can also report that the European Union this week extended the mandate of Hans Dahlgren as representative of the Presidency of the EU to the countries of the Mano River Union.
3. Synergies in peacekeeping
The report of the mission deals with collaboration and coordination within and between United Nations Missions in West Africa. Currently, three large UN peacekeeping operations are active in the region, totaling a number of almost 30.000 troops and nearly half the peacekeeping budget of the UN.
True, the situations in the countries differ. At the same time many problems and challenges with which the UN has to deal are closely related. It seems to be worthwhile to make a thorough analysis of UNMIL, UNAMSIL and ONUCI, and look for attainable synergies. Common border patrols and exchange of information are things that easily come to mind. We might also look at more fundamental questions as for example the possible scope for a pooling of logistical needs.
The European Union looks forward to the report that is currently being prepared by the Secretariat on this issue. West Africa stands to benefit greatly from ideas that would make the UN-missions in the region more effective. Subsequent efficiency gains could possibly enable a more sustained UN-presence throughout the region. It also benefits the wider United Nations, and provide us all with important lessons to be learned for regional peacekeeping.
Let me conclude by thanking you again for the opportunity to discuss with you, and with the countries in the region, the report of the Council's mission to West Africa. Whether it is for short term crisis management or long term strategy, the European Union stands ready to be a partner to contribute our shared goal of peace and stability for the people in the region.
 Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process