Cross-Border Issues in West Africa” – Public Meeting"

Statement by Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg
 Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN
 Security Council, New York, 25 February 2005

Mr. President,

Thank you very much for convening this important meeting. The situation in West Africa commands ever-greater attention of the Council, since not only are States in the region suffering from years of conflict, but some of those conflicts might even relapse.  And new crisis are not excluded either – in that regard we echo calls by the Secretary-General and his Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdalla for all parties in Togo to exercise maximum restraint. We also commend the prompt reaction of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union towards preserving the democratic process in that country.


As we have time and again stated here in this very chamber, conflicts happen and recur for a reason: they are not self-generated explosions. They have immediate causes and they have root causes. One of such, that should be placed at the top of the list is poverty. Lack of means to lead a dignified life will leave people with nothing to lose. Violence has always been a last resort of the oppressed – oppressed by different ethnic or religious groups, oppressed by governments and also oppressed by poverty, hunger, and hopelessness.

 

The dire humanitarian situation still faced by the countries in conflict in West Africa must be addressed from an integrated and strategic long term perspective that covers cross-border needs – the cross-border approach is of particular relevance in this context, as problems and crime feed into each other from country to country across the porous borders of the region.  Even when there is success in tackling them in one country, we are not effective if neighboring countries are not being offered the same path. From international donors and humanitarian agents we require not only the fulfillment of pledges under the consolidated appeals process, but greater coordination so that efforts and resources are not wasted; so that valuable lives and human dignity are preserved.

 

We have been dealing with the particular situation of different countries in the region under four different items of the agenda of the Security Council. In this opportunity, since we are dealing specifically with cross-border issues in West Africa, I would like to center my comments on two issues: small arms proliferation and reintegration.

 

There are still important loopholes in the international regime for the legal transfer of arms that allow for the diversion of arms to the illegal market, although we have been working over the years with like-minded delegations to minimize them. We are discussing the matter thoroughly in the Open-Ended Working Group established by the General Assembly, and have also taken it up last week in the Council. In the regional context, we welcome recent initiatives taken by ECOWAS towards greater control of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. We particularly welcome the establishment of its Small Arms Control Programme, aimed at converting the ECOWAS moratorium into a legally binding instrument. We urge international partners and donors to offer technical assistance and support to ECOWAS’ efforts to reach that much-expected objective. South-south cooperation is not to be excluded either; there is a wide array of areas it can prove useful for developing countries.

 

Mr. President,

We may be reaching the point where criminal activities such as trafficking in small arms, linked to numerous violations of human rights and to the criminal exploitation of natural resources may be subject to the proceedings of the International Criminal Court. They place a heavy burden on the integrity of human life and attempt against our ideals of peace.

 

 

The dignity of human life leads me to the other point I wish to raise: the importance of reintegration and development initiatives to avoid recurrence of conflict.

 

Mr. President,

My delegation is truly heartened by the attention given in this report to the question of reintegration programmes and on the absolute need to generate economic activity in order to ensure sustainable peace. We fully subscribe to the assessment made by the Secretary-General in paragraphs 27, 28, 29 and 30 of his report on the importance of reintegration, with specific attention to child and female ex-combatants and to youth unemployment.

 

We are particularly pleased by the ongoing collaboration between the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) and the International Labour Office (ILO), alongside UN entities and ECOWAS, civil society and the private sector, to devise a regional strategy to address youth unemployment. We note that fair trade for African commodities remains elusive and will have to be urgently tackled in the appropriate fora.

 

We have to find durable solutions for the lack of economic occupation – and I mean not only by attracting foreign investment and generating jobs, but also by promoting sustainable income-generating activities and training for self-employment. The information that UNMIL is mapping women’s organizations involved in small businesses is a very positive development. We expect that this exercise will bear fruit in offering needed support and training.

 

My delegation also takes this opportunity to welcome the recommendation of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change to establish a peacebuilding commission in the United Nations. The matter should rightly be discussed in the General Assembly, but the idea itself that peacebuilding must command greater attention is a very welcome one. Whatever the decisions to be taken in the General Assembly, it has been already demonstrated that we can benefit from greater cooperation between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), under article 65 of the Charter.

 

It is not useful to this Organization –  even if one were to consider it from a strictly utilitarian perspective – it is not useful to invest so much in peacekeeping, so much in disarming and demobilizing combatants, if we do not do enough to remove the temptation of power and the stimulation conferred by the possession of weapons and to avert vicious behaviour towards other human beings. We need a more comprehensive approach to conflict.  This is not a purely military matter and it is certainly not kept within frontiers.

 

Mr. President,

A last word to commend the increasing efforts undertaken by UN missions in the region to work together and build a constructive partnership, as referred to by the Special Representative. This is the right path we have to follow and it is on that path that we are to increase efforts towards an all-encompassing understanding of conflict, and action.

Thank you very much.