Togo, Growing Influence: In October 2011. Togo Was Elected to a Non-Permanent Chair on the United Nations Security Council, Seen as Both International Recognition and a Reward for the Country's Democratic Progress since 2007

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RECEIVING THREE-QUARTERS OF the UN member states' votes for ascension to the UN Security Council was a clear reflection of international appreciation for Togo's diplomatic drive to sponsor worldwide peace and reconciliation.

As well as providing more than Boo UN peacekeeping military personnel to various conflict points in the region, including Cote d'Ivoire, DRCongo and Liberia, Togo has also played a key role in providing peace-keeping forces in Sudan and to address the crisis in Haiti.

In February 2012, less than three months after its election to the Security Council, this small West African country assumed the huge responsibility of the rotating presidency of the Security Council.

While there was much to occupy the 15-member Council in February not least the stand-off and sabre-rattling over Iran's nuclear programme, and the unfolding and truly tragic crisis in Syria - Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe ensured that issues regarding the peace and security of the Gulf of Guinea and Sahel region remained high on the agenda.

In fact, President Gnassingbe called a meeting of all the African envoys attached to the UN in New York to sensitise them to the situation in the Sahel. Meanwhile, he tasked Kodjo Menan, Togo's ambassador to the UN, to organise a major level ministerial debate. This was to be an all too rare occasion for Africa, as an equal partner, to lead the debate for solutions to Africa's problems in an international forum. Once again, it demonstrated President Gnassingbe's intent to make certain that an African voice was heard at the highest diplomatic level.

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The debate's agenda dealt with the threats to social and political stability both in the West Africa region generally, and in the Sahel in particular. Addressing the symposium in his national capacity, Togo's president described security in West Africa and the Sahel as "tenuous".

With terrorism and piracy increasingly prevalent, he observed that the confluence of these trends with ongoing criminal activity had made the region susceptible to trafficking of all kinds. Clearly, although these issues have a distinct regional dimension, they are in fact the responsibility of the international community to tackle. Any serious analysis of the international trade in illegal drugs or terrorism would conclude that these are global threats.

"Furthermore," the president added, putting the case for Africa, "countries emerging from conflict often have to cope with high levels of poverty, making them easy prey for outside criminal networks and to compound matters, the struggle against the combined ills was siphoning off vital intellectual, human and financial resources, which should instead be devoted to development."

In his opening remarks to the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that organised crime, drug trafficking and piracy were all on the rise in the West Africa region and that last year's upheaval in Libya had sparked an influx of weapons into the region.

In addition, fears were mounting that the situation could worsen further still for millions of people due to a growing food crisis afflicting the Sahel, rooted in drought, high food prices and conflict.

"There is even the fear that we could see in this region a crisis of the magnitude of the one in the Horn of Africa," the UN head warned ominously. "We must not allow this to happen."

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Tackling the increasing flow of narcotics, mainly cocaine from South America to Europe and the US, the Secretary-General noted, will require the closing off of the West Africa and Sahel region as a staging post for the traffickers.

To this end, Ban Ki-moon reported, the UN was working closely with the authorities in ate d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone on the West African Coast Initiative (WACI), and had begun the training of Transnational Organised Crime Units by United Nations police personnel. …