Lake Chad Basin region: a real priority [fr]
Briefing on Lake Chad Basin region - Security Council - Intervention by Mrs. Anne Gueguen, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 13 September 2017
"It is important that this issue remain a priority in the long term for both the Council and the international community, and France pledges its support in this respect." Anne Gueguen, 13 September 2017
I would like to thank Under-Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman and Ms. Fatima Shehu Imam, Director of the Network of Civil Society Organizations in Borno state, for
France is encouraged by the recent progress that has been made in the fight against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad basin region. We commend the joint efforts of the countries of the region in that regard and the central role that the Multinational Joint Task Force has played. However, the terrorist threat continues to weigh on the countries and peoples of the region, as the tragic record of the many recent attacks shows. We firmly condemn the serious human rights violations that are being committed against children. Children are killed and mutilated every day; they are victims of sexual violence or of attacks on schools and hospitals; they are recruited as child soldiers. The growing use of children in suicide attacks and the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war are disgusting and a source of concern and indignation that should haunt our consciences.
The countries of the region continue to mobilize in response to the terrorists’ violence, with the support of the international community. It is the Security Council’s responsibility to provide support to the African States that have been uniting at the regional level to fight terrorism. France is playing a full part in that effort through the logistical and intelligence support that Operation Barkhane is giving the Multinational Joint Task Force. We have also been providing bilateral
support to the armies of the region against Boko Haram, totalling more than €30 million since 2015, and we expect the rest of the international community to take part in that effort as well. The countries of the region, quite rightly, have major expectations for United Nations involvement, as we saw last week in
the Council’s recent consultations with the African Union Peace and Security Council, and we must not disappoint them.
That international support for the efforts of the countries of the region goes hand in hand with certain responsibilities. In particular, the fight against terrorism must not admit violations of human rights of any kind. We therefore expect the countries of the Multinational Joint Task Force to act in full respect for the relevant provisions of international law. The measures that have already been taken to deal with this issue are steps in the right direction. Lastly, we deplore the delay in disbursing the €31 million in funds that the European Union allocated to the African Union a year ago. It should be used to equip the regional force that, owing to inadequate equipment, has been unable to effectively pursue the Boko Haram fighters who have taken refuge on the islands of Lake Chad during the current rainy season.
The response to the crisis in the Lake Chad basin region is not just a security matter. If we are to achieve a lasting solution to it, we must pay close attention to the humanitarian and development challenges and to the protection of civilians.
The first point to make is that the gravity of the continuing humanitarian emergency in the region must compel us to strengthen our efforts to support the countries that are on the front lines in the fight against terrorism and that are hosting a considerable number of refugees. Given the size of the needs to be met, it is crucial to ensure a comprehensive approach and improve coordination between donors. If United Nations action is to be truly effective, it can come only in the form of support to the efforts of the countries of the region. In that regard, the tripartite mechanism established between Cameroon, Nigeria and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is an important step forward that we should welcome.
It is also essential that all the countries concerned ensure that United Nations and humanitarian personnel have unhindered, safe access wherever people are in need of emergency assistance. Lastly, we are particularly worried about the risk of famine, particularly in north-eastern Nigeria, where more than 5.2 million people, including 450,000 children, are suffering from severe food insecurity. This situation, which is the result of the insecurity produced by Boko Haram, is not inevitable and should compel us to take action, which is why France took the initiative of convening an Arria-formula meeting on the issue in June, and why the Council has asked the Secretary-General for a specific briefing on it in October, under France’s presidency of the Council.
The second point I have to make is that the fight against terrorism must go hand in hand with a tireless effort to promote the protection of civilians. That includes ensuring the continued security of populations dealing with Boko Haram and supporting the voluntary and lasting return of displaced persons and refugees where security conditions permit. We also have to come up with concrete, immediate answers to the issue of women who are refugees or displaced, about which they should be fully consulted.
My third and last point is that, in grappling with the multifaceted security, humanitarian and economic crisis in this region, the only possible approach is one that engages with the virtuous circle of development. If we are to succeed, we must tackle the security, humanitarian and development challenges head on and in a complementary way. It would be an illusion to imagine that we can defeat terrorism without eradicating extreme poverty and malnutrition or improving education and employment for young people.That is why France has maintained its financial effort by contributing €14.5 million in humanitarian aid in 2017 and implementing a Lake Chad initiative for the empowerment of refugees and displaced populations amounting to a commitment of €36 million.
Conversely, it will not be possible to give development genuine momentum if we do not defeat Boko Haram. We encourage the States of the region
and the Multinational Joint Task Force to pursue their coordinated military efforts to combat the two branches of this terrorist group. Reconciliation must
begin, and we urge States to initiate political processes aimed at encouraging combatants to surrender by establishing a clear legal framework and reintegration programmes. The only way to succeed, therefore, is to take an approach that combines all the tools available to the United Nations in the service of a comprehensive strategy that is fully aligned with the reform of the
Organization that the Secretary-General is working on.
I would like to conclude by reminding the Council once again that the Lake Chad region has not always received the attention it deserves from the international community. The Council’s visit to the region in March enabled us to begin to redress that mistake and initiate a new dynamic in that regard. It is important that this issue remain a priority in the long term for both the Council and the international community, and France pledges its support in this respect.