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PRESS CONFERENCE BY SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR CÔTE D'IVOIRE

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

9 February 2007

Today, Ivorians had a historic chance to get out of their stalemate as the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, was sitting down with rebel leader Guillaume Soro under the mediation of the President of Burkina Faso, Pierre Schori, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, told correspondents today at Headquarters.

Briefing on the situation in that country, the peace process and his final impressions after having served as Special Representative for two years, he wondered how long Ivorian leaders could continue to challenge world opinion after 22 Security Council resolutions and 20 presidential statements in four years, none of which had been implemented.

“Don’t blow it this time”, was his advice to the leaders because there would be no more excuses for not coming to an agreement, he said. Resolution 1721 (2006) contained the road map towards peace. The dialogue proposed by President Gbagbo was a method, not a road map. “We are today still at square one of all the resolutions.” Nothing had been done regarding the essential parts of the road map, namely: disarmament; dismantling of militias; preparations for elections; and the identification process.

In Côte d’Ivoire there were 3 to 4 million people who had never needed identification papers. They had been welcomed in the country to work until, just like in the Balkans, nationality was used as a political weapon. Having an identity was a human right, and the identification process was, of course, also linked to the electoral process. The real fight during the talks would be about the electoral lists and if they would include the millions of people who did not have identification. He underlined the constructive role the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had played.

Giving his personal impressions, he said he had worked with the United Nations from the outside his whole professional life and now had had the first job on the “inside” of the system, which had been quite “shocking” and at the same time “the most rewarding professional experience I have ever had”. In his end of assignment report, he had put together some 80 points. The new Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, had asked for the highest standards within the United Nations. In that regard, Mr. Schori said a lot of things should change.

He had been shocked by the lack of gender awareness, despite resolution 1325 (2000) on “Women and peace and security” that stipulated that women were not only victims of war, but also actors for peace. He had suggested a “gender-enforcer” who not only focused on missions, but also on contributed troops before they would go on mission. The gap between doctrine and resolutions, on the one hand, and the situation in the field, on the other, was enormous, and that gap was detrimental to the quality of peacekeeping missions. It had not been easy to become a Special Representative in a mission with established structures and to implement reforms. He had spent some 40 per cent of his time on internal matters. However, “I leave the Mission very happy and rewarded”, and would go home to enjoy some sleep.

Asked if any of his suggestions over the past two years had been ignored, Mr. Schori answered that, upon arrival, he had found a lack of urgency and of crisis awareness. It was a Chapter VII mission, which meant that one could work also on a Saturday morning. It was, after all “noble” work. That had not been appreciated. The lack of gender awareness had been shocking, as had been the mentality that “the boss was king” -- not a constructive attitude. There was a need for accountability, discipline and a sense of urgency. There had been no “handover note” when he arrived. As for nepotism, he had indeed seen strange people whom he had had to get rid of, which had not been easy. It was all a matter of leadership. Good governance could not be preached by somebody who did not practice it himself.

As for gender, he said the mission was a non-family one, which was unsustainable for the professional staff. More leave was needed, or the family should stay in a neighbouring country. It was not healthy to be isolated from your family for a long time. He had suggested a special position for gender mainstreaming to explain to troops from countries with cultures where women were not on an equal footing with men that women should be involved in peacekeeping from the beginning and at all levels. That position should be held by a man. He had noticed that in the United Nations, everybody dealing with gender was a woman, while gender affected both sexes.

Addressing the matter of the toxic waste scandal, he said the country should get rid of a lot of toxic waste, both in politics and in the environment. The media in the country was “horrible”, with allegations of massacres and spreading of rumours that kept tensions high. The scandal itself was double-edged, as some six to eight developed countries had been involved. The waste had been dumped, with collusion from some local people, in the dark of the night at some 18 sites. If inhaled, one died immediately, and there had been 10 known deaths and some 100,000 people had sought help in the hospital. The Prime Minister had set up a commission to investigate the incident and several people had been fired. Those people had been reinstated by the President, as they were his friends. That was also “toxic waste”.

Commenting on another correspondent’s remarks, he said under President Felix Houphouët-Boigny, who had ruled the country for 30 years, there had been a generous immigration polity with open borders. As long as one wanted to work, no identification papers were needed. According to the President’s Marxist views, those who toiled the lands, would be owners of the land. But there were no papers. Upon his death, the lack of papers was used to reclaim land for the Ivorians. There was, therefore, a land issue and a nationality issue.

Answering another question, he said he was Chairperson of the Olaf Palme Memorial Fund. He had worked with Olaf Palme until his assassination in 1986. The Fund had been founded to, among other things, fight xenophobia and promote peace and understanding, common security and disarmament. This year’s prize, to be awarded in May, would be shared by ex-Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Mahmoud Moussad Ali, a human rights activist in Darfur. He would remain Chairperson, but that was not a full-time job.

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For information media • not an official record



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