|Statement by Ambassador Liu Zhenmin at the Security Council's Open Debate of "Peace Consolidation in West Africa"|
I wish to start by thanking you for coming to New York to preside over today's meeting. My thanks also go to the Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan for presenting today's meeting, and to the Special Representative of the Secretary General on West Africa and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for their briefings.
In recent years, the Security Council has actively considered the various conflict situations and cross-border issues in West African region. The majority of the conflict countries in this region such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau have realized basic stability and embarked on the right track of post-conflict reconstruction. Cote d'Ivoire is actively engaged in preparing for the general election planned for October of this year, which represents a critical juncture in its peace process. The improvement of the internal situations of these countries provides a favorable condition for resolving the intricate issues of West Africa, and will have positive impact on the overall stability and development of this region. We commend the United Nations system, ECOWAS, African Union and other relevant international organizations for their important roles in this regard.
In spite of the above achievements, the current stability in these conflict situations is still extremely fragile, and numerous examples show that they could relapse into turmoil. There are still serious problems in the proliferation of illicit small arms, and the use of child soldiers and mercenaries. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration into society programs as well as the reform of the security sectors are facing funding shortages. Meanwhile, depressed economic situation, high youth unemployment rate, and the existence of large numbers of refugees constitute serious social problems. In addition, the humanitarian situation in some areas brooks no optimism. The West African region still faces numerous challenges on the way to genuinely sustainable development. The top priority at present is to continue consolidating the hard-won peace and to prevent the achievements already gained from being squandered, while at the same time continuously exploring effective ways for West African countries to achieve development. I would like to reemphasize the following points in this regard:
First, we support the formulation of a comprehensive strategy for peace consolidation in West African countries starting from the perspectives of this region. Post-war reconstruction is a tremendous endeavor and the countries concerned should develop systematic plans including in the areas of national reconciliation, institution building, security sector reform, resettlement of ex-combatants, economic recovery, youth employment while making every effort to maintain internal stability. Post-war reconstruction should be carried out with both short-term and long-term objectives so that the vast majority of the population can benefit from the "dividend of peace" while peace is being further consolidated in process of development. Whereas the international community can provide assistance and support, the key issue here remains the efforts of the governments of the countries concerned themselves, which should act with a sense of ownership in the process. The assistance of the international community should not replace their work. Efforts should also be made to avoid rigid application of external models. Countries concerned should also fully cooperate with each other to address cross-border and common issues.
Second, agencies of the United Nations system, including international financial institutions as well as regional and sub-regional organizations have much to do in consolidating peace in the West African region. They should assist the countries concerned with their reconstruction by doing what they do best, providing financial assistance or professional support. The unique roles played by the organizations such as the African Union and ECOWAS in recent years show an admirable attempt for united self-reliance by African countries. China supports further efforts on their part, and hopes they could build their capacity so that they can play a more significant role in promoting peace and development of the West African region. In considering various situations in West Africa, the Security Council should probe into the root causes of turmoil and conflicts, and avoid addressing the problems in an isolated and fragmented manner. Meanwhile, the Security Council should take into account the special concerns of our African brethren and exercise caution when applying sanctions in order to avoid negative impact on the peace process.
Third, the Peacebuilding Commission, which has attracted mounting interests and expectation from all sides since its establishment, has opened a new forum for discussing and responding to the peaceful reconstruction of West Africa. As an event of historical significance to West Africa, and the entire African continent as a whole, the establishment of the Commission has provided an important opportunity for systematic formulation of policies for peace consolidation in West Africa. The question of Sierra Leone has already been put on the agenda of the Commission. We hope that the Commission will have a good start in its work, and that it will accumulate successful experiences so as to play a bigger role in the future. Members of the Commission, representing various sides, can put forward operable comprehensive proposals in the areas of security, economy, social sector, and rule of law based on their own perspectives and in light of the actual situation of the countries concerned and the needs of the people there. All this will help the Commission to gradually carry out its work in an orderly manner.
The issues of West Africa, like other issues facing the African Continent, boil down to development. No peace can be genuinely guaranteed without development. Realizing durable peace in West Africa not only requires addressing regional hot-spot issues, but also making substantial efforts to help countries of the region to tackle the root causes of the problems and to resolve issues in the area of development. Peace and development in this region bears favorably on peace and development of the whole African Continent and that of the entire world. The United Nations should, in active cooperation with the efforts of the countries in this region, make greater efforts to promote sustainable development so as to actively implement the important outcomes on African development from last year's World Summit. Meanwhile, great attention should be given to the African factor in various follow-up measures.
China supports strengthened coordination among the various United Nations missions in this region and hopes that the Special Representative of the Secretary General on West Africa will play a role to facilitate such coordination. China is ready to join the international community in contributing to resolving the cross-border issues of West Africa and consolidating peace in the West African region.
Thank you, Mr. President.