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Security in West Africa improving but still fragile: Secretary-General

15 March 2007 Security in West Africa is improving, especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest regional report to the Security Council, but he adds that despite progress the situation remains fragile and reforms are urgently needed, particularly in the security sector.

“Significant progress has been made towards sustainable post-conflict recovery in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and there are encouraging developments in Guinea-Bissau… Compared to the situation a few years ago, prospects for durable peace appear far more promising in West Africa,” Mr. Ban writes in the report made public today.

“New challenges, including certain long-standing issues not properly addressed in the past, are emerging, and may escalate into major threats to regional stability…The proliferation of small arms and light weapons continues to be of great concern. Overall, human security, while improving, remains fragile.”

Throughout the 16-page report, which focuses in particular on cross-border issues, Mr. Ban lays out recommendations that cover everything from good governance to highlighting the “crucial” need for continued Security Council support, along with involvement by the international community.

“Preventing violence and preserving peace are the primary responsibility of sovereign States. The United Nations and the international community should be supportive of ongoing local efforts,” he writes, adding that good governance is the “crux of viable peace, security and development.”

This, in turn, requires sound civil-military relations, he states, noting that “Security sector reform remains a vital ingredient for sustainable peace in West Africa.”

He says training security forces in civics, human rights and humanitarian law should be a priority, and recommends that the UN and development partners broaden their definition of and views on security sector reform so it can be included in larger economic development strategies.

Further, Mr. Ban calls on the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) to undertake broad consultations with governments, and in particular security institutions, civil society and development partners on gender mainstreaming in security sector reform programmes.

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