Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman recently briefed the media at UN headquarters on his recently concluded one-week visit to West Africa. You will find archived video of the news conference here. Much of the briefing focused on the situation in The Gambia, which, with UN and international help, is undergoing a transition after 22 years of oppressive rule. Here are some highlights of the briefing:
-- Mr. Feltman recalled that he visited Banjul, The Gambia, on 28 February. Met with President Barrow, Cabinet members, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic community, and the UN country team.
-- Discussed the main challenges to peace, development and human rights in the country and potential areas of UN support based on the priorities of the government.
-- “Following 22 years of oppressive rule, an extraordinary effort is required to build the foundations for a democratic republic that respects the rule of law and meets the security and development needs of the population”: Mr. Feltman.
-- “The situation in the country is fragile, and forthcoming milestones will test the ability not only of the ruling coalition, but of all Gambians, to stay united. These are the 6 April legislative elections, which will determine the new balance of forces in the National Assembly, and the anticipated withdrawal of the ECOMIG troops at the end of May”: Mr. Feltman.
-- Mr. Feltman encouraged the Government to continue to place more emphasis on national unity and inclusive governance, and to communicate regularly its vision and plans to the people of The Gambia.
-- The Government indicated its priorities include the urgent need for direct budget support and macroeconomic stability; setting up a transitional justice mechanism; ensuring respect for fundamental human rights; depoliticizing and reforming state institutions and civil service, and building capacity; restoring confidence in the judiciary by ensuring its proper functioning, independence and enhancing accountability and oversight; reforming the security sector and the prisons; reducing poverty, with a focus on youth unemployment; improving access to and quality of healthcare; improving infrastructure and connectivity; and working closely with countries in the sub-region (Senegal and Guinea Bissau) to promote cooperation and fight cross-border criminality.
-- Mr. Feltman also encouraged the new Government to merge the various national development plans into a consolidated comprehensive framework, which is necessary for the early convening of a donor roundtable.
-- The UN is planning to engage in a coordinated manner at the national, regional and international levels to ensure timely and targeted support to The Gambia. The UN is ready to provide support in the areas of transitional justice; security sector; political dialogue; and sub-regional cooperation, in addition to the development support that is being provided by the UN country team through the UN Development Assistance Framework.
-- The UN Peacebuilding Support Office has committed $3 million for The Gambia. Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, along with DPA’s UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), will soon visit Banjul to plan the details of this contribution.