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16 July 2010 - Security Council - Maintenance of international peace and security in Africa : Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent representative of France to the United Nations

(UN translation)

I thank you, Mr. President, for having organized today’s thematic debate on prevention of conflicts in Africa. As we know, Africa today hosts half of United Nations peacekeeping operations and nearly 75 per cent of Blue Helmets deployed: 73,645 out of 100,645, as of 30 June 2010.

In this context, the prevention of conflicts is a major issue. It has decisive advantages over traditional conflict management because it makes it possible to avoid human casualties, which include belligerent parties but civilians above all, as well as the series of population displacements and the economic devastation that often accompany conflicts.

Moreover, in the context of the budgetary austerity that we are all experiencing, the cost of deploying peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations is increasingly difficult to manage.

Preventing conflicts begins with information. To obtain it, it is important that the Security Council can receive regular briefings, and as soon as it considers necessary, from the Secretariat on zones of fragility so as to be in a position to use as soon as possible and in a coordinated manner all of the tools available to it to prevent the exacerbation of a tense situation, tools such as mediation, good offices, condemnation and even sanctions.

These tools have proven their effectiveness in avoiding the outbreak of conflicts. Thus the mediation on the border dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon over the Bakassi peninsula, after the arbitration of the International Court of Justice and the Greentree Agreement, is now being implemented under the aegis of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Mr. Said Djinnit.

The role of coordination in the field of the regional offices of the United Nations that can be called upon by the Security Council to deal with situations should, in this respect, be strengthened.

Moreover, as previous speakers have said, African ownership of the prevention of conflicts and of the issues of peace and security in Africa is gaining ground. We can note, for example, the commitment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Côte d’Ivoire in 2003 before the establishment of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire and the ECOWAS success in Togo in 2005; the many cases of mediation by the African Union, in particular for Madagascar and the Sudan, the firm positions taken by its Peace and Security Council against coups d’état, or recently in Guinea after the massacre of 28 September; and the actions by African peacekeeping forces, such as the African Union Mission in the Sudan before the transfer of authority to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, and the African Union Mission in Somalia.

The international community’s various targeted initiatives also contribute to preventing conflicts in Africa.

France is particularly active today in combating illicit transfers of small arms and light weapons, which fuel the outbreak of crises in Africa and render them more dangerous. United Nations sanctions regimes, which can include arms embargoes, can also lead to reducing the number of weapons. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes also make it possible to reduce the number of combatants and weapons and are an essential tool in combating trafficking, which nourishes conflict, by targeting arms trafficking.

Plans to reform the security sector aim to establish a security system that is effective and legitimate in the eyes of the population and controlled by civilian authorities. Under its foreign security policy, the European Union has led or supported at least three civilian operations dedicated to the reform of the security sector in Africa in recent years: in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic. Moreover, at the initiative of France, the European Union is providing active support to strengthening African peace and security capacities.

To combat the plundering of natural resources for the purposes of conflict, France has also supported — including within the General Assembly and this Council — the establishment of the Kimberley Process, which establishes a mechanism to certify the origin of diamonds, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to ensure that the exploitation of this wealth contributes to the development of the countries concerned and does not serve to fuel wars underway by privatizing them for the benefit of armed groups, as we are seeing today, namely in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a complementary way, development assistance also contributes to the stability of States.

Finally, the fact that the majority of African States have adhered to the Rome Statute also has a preventive effect by sending a signal that crimes will not go unpunished. The International Criminal Court is an essential element in conflict prevention.

France’s White Paper on Foreign and European Policy for 2008 to 2020 places among its priorities the prevention of crises and conflicts. The White Paper on Defence and National Security, for its part, states that Africa will be at the forefront of our conflict prevention strategy for the next fifteen years, considering the direct or indirect repercussions that African conflicts can have on France and Europe, as well as the increase in traffic toward our continent.

As we can see, the prevention of conflicts in Africa is at the heart of international action. In parallel, an African system of collective security is now being established. Support for African initiatives remains essential because the continent does not have the material resources to face the demands of peacekeeping on its own. This support should have an essential place in the coordination and constancy of actions.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU