- Poverty has strongly increased in Côte d'Ivoire since a rebellion left the country split in September 2002. As businesses move out of the country, unemployment is rapidly rising and a severe recession is already registered. The conflicting political leaders in the country are urged to cooperate to avoid a permanent setback for Côte d'Ivoire.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today released his quarterly report to the UN Security Council on the progress of peace-building efforts in Côte d'Ivoire. The report paints a dire picture of the economic and social development in the once stable and prosperous West African nation.
Mr Annan's report stresses that "the economic and social fabric of Côte d’Ivoire is seriously deteriorating because of the continuing violence" in the country. Further, the conflict is having a spill-over effect on other West African nations
The report concludes that the economic consequences will be dire if the Ivorian parties do not meet their commitments to the peace process outlined in the so-called Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, which was signed in 2003. Continued disagreement between President Laurent Gbagbo's ruling party, the ex-rebel Forces Nouvelles of the north and the political opposition have hindered the implementation of the agreement.
- Economic indicators all point to a severe recession, Mr Annan states, noting that many businesses have closed down or relocated to neighbouring countries. Regional institutions like the African Development Bank (ADF) have moved out of Abidjan, which used to be West Africa's financial centre. ADF is now located in Tunisia and has indicate it will not move back.
As businesses close down, unemployment and the prices of basic foods are rising, the UN report says. Consequently, poverty is again on the rise. The percentage of people below the poverty line has jumped to 44 percent from 38 percent since the political crisis began in September 2002, according to the report.
With increased poverty, other social problems are expected to follow. The report warns there could be a sharp increase in the proportion of people with HIV/AIDS due to the erosion of the Ivorian social fabric. Côte d'Ivoire already has the highest AIDS rates in its region. In the rebel-controlled north, social services are no longer delivered by authorities.
Mr Annan says the conflict between the government-controlled south and the rebel-dominated north, separated by the forces of the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), is now also hurting the landlocked neighbours of Burkina Faso and Mali.
The two countries have long used the Ivorian city of Abidjan as their gateway port for exports, but the closure of rail links means they have had to turn to ports in Ghana and Mauritania instead. Many Burkinabe and Malian workers are also unable to reach their jobs in Ivorian cocoa and coffee plantations. Mali's government has estimated it loses US$ 15 million every month because of the situation in Côte d'Ivoire.
The UN Secretary-General says he is heartened that all parties signed the Accra III Agreement, which outlines how to work towards establishing durable peace, in late July.
However, "the international community looks to President Gbagbo and the Ivorian leadership as a whole, with whom primary responsibility lies for restoring normalcy, to ensure that substantive progress" is made towards achieving that peace. Mr Annan urged all the country's political leaders to take substantive steps towards peace immediately.
The UN Secretary-General also expressed concerns about the human rights situation in Côte d'Ivoire, saying the perpetrators of recent atrocities "must be brought to justice," and adding there have been unacceptable attacks against UN staff and property.
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