UNOWAS Mandate

The United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) is a political mission managed by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA). UNOWAS was established in 2002 following a request to the Security Council by the UN Secretary general, the late Kofi Annan. Its original mandate has changed over time to reflect the needs of the region and was last extended in January 2023.

Mr. Leonardo Santos Simão is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for West Africa and the Sahel and Head of UNOWAS. He is assisted by a Deputy SRSG, Giovanie Biha.

UNOWAS has the responsibility for preventive diplomacy, good offices and political mediation and facilitation efforts in West Africa and the Sahel. UNOWAS also works to prevent conflict, election-and transition-related tensions, sustain peace and consolidate peacebuilding efforts and political stability, based on the rule of law, in partnership with regional and subregional entities and other actors, as relevant.

UNOWAS works closely with regional and subregional entities such as the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the Group of Five for the Sahel, the Mano River Union, the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the Accra Initiative, the Gulf of Guinea Commission as well as other regional partners to support regional solutions to cross-cutting threats to peace and security, such as terrorism and violent extremism, transnational organized crime, piracy and maritime insecurity.

UNOWAS Enhances subregional capacities for conflict prevention, management and resolution, mediation, and good offices, mindful of the sustainable development context in West Africa and the Sahel, promoting the women, peace and security agenda, and the youth, peace, and security agenda.

UNOWAS addresses the impact of climate change on peace and security in West Africa and the Sahel. It takes into consideration the adverse consequences of climate change, energy insecurity, environmental change, and natural disasters, among other factors, including by assisting the governments of the region and the United Nations system in undertaking assessments of risk management strategies related to these factors.

UNOWAS Supports, through political advocacy and convening role, the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel to enhance collaboration across the United Nations system and promote coherence in the international and regional response to the root causes and impact of conflict in the Sahel.

The SRSG chairs the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC). In coordination with the heads of the Cameroonian and Nigerian delegation, he is responsible for overseeing, the implementation of the ICJ’s ruling on the border dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria. This includes supporting the delimitation and demarcation of the 2,100 km land boundary and the delineation of the maritime boundary, facilitating the withdrawal and transfer of authority along the boundary, addressing the situation of the affected populations, and recommending confidence-building measures. The peaceful completion of the transfer of authority in Bakassi from Nigeria to Cameroon, in August 2008, marked a critical milestone in the implementation of the ICJ ruling and the peaceful resolution of the boundary dispute between the two countries. As of August 2022, CNMC has successfully demarcated 2,050 km of the land boundary, and placed 2000 pillars out of 2600.

Mandate of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS)- 2023