Preserving the fundamentals of regional stability in West Africa and the Sahel [fr]
Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 24 July 2019
I thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel for his briefing, which was as always very clear.
The situation in West Africa deserves our full attention today. In this regard, the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) is a valuable tool in terms of its role in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and support for various regional initiatives. Its role is fully in keeping with the Secretary-General’s vision for action across the peace continuum. We therefore hope that the strategic review to be announced in the coming months ensures that UNOWAS has the resources necessary to fulfil its important mission.
The deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in the Sahel poses an unprecedented risk to the stability of West Africa as a whole. The States of the Group of Five for the Sahel are the first to be affected today, but others will soon face the same challenges if adequate responses are not urgently provided. It is therefore a real race against the clock to stabilize the Sahel — an undertaking to which we are today collectively committed. It involves the urgent implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, a determined fight against the terrorist groups of the region, good governance and the creation of sustainable economic prospects for the population. More must also be done in the Lake Chad basin to support the continued mobilization of the States of the Multinational Joint Task Force and to ensure that its activity is conducted in ways that ensure the full support of the population.
Only an approach that combines political, security and development efforts is likely to change the situation in the medium term. The United Nations has a central role to play in assisting States in the region to develop adequate responses in all of those areas. In Burkina Faso, France fully supports the process initiated by the Secretary-General to that end. We hope that the United Nations response will be ambitious and meet the expectations of the Burkinabe authorities in the fields of humanitarian aid and development, the training of national security forces, respect for human rights, promotion of the rule of law and support for the fight against terrorism.
Beyond our mobilization on those crisis situations, it is more important than ever to preserve the fundamentals of regional stability in West Africa and the Sahel.
This means, first of all, holding credible, transparent and inclusive elections. In Guinea-Bissau, it is essential that the authorities respect their commitment to organizing presidential elections in November, in accordance with procedures recommended by the Economic Community of West African States and the Security Council. In other countries, such as Togo, Benin and Guinea, it is important that all actors continue to work together to strengthen the inclusiveness and suitability of upcoming elections. Finally, particular attention must be paid to strengthening the representation of women in areas of responsibility, which today is far from satisfactory in the countries of the region.
Respecting the rights of all and fighting impunity are also essential factors of stability. The multiple abuses committed against civilians in the various conflict zones of the region must not be left unanswered, regardless of who is behind them. Ongoing transitional justice processes, particularly in Mali and the Gambia, must be successfully concluded to create conditions for lasting reconciliation. There must also be full and complete cooperation with the International Criminal Court. The protection of children in conflict and the situation of the increasing number of internally displaced persons and refugees in the area must receive our full attention, and UNOWAS has a clear role to play in addressing these issues.
Stability also goes hand in hand with long-term support for countries emerging from crisis. The continued mobilization of the international community in Liberia, following the closure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, is particularly critical to the success of the remarkable democratic transition that took place there a year and a half ago.
I will conclude by emphasizing that the link between climate and security is becoming increasingly evident in the countries of the Sahel. The effects of climate change are stoking tensions over resources, with a direct impact on the population. However, the sustainable management of these resources, such as water and farmland, is one of the essential conditions for the maintenance of stability in an area like the Sahel that is marked by political and social vulnerability and major forced population displacement. The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, as well as the establishment of a regional dialogue on climate and environmental issues, is essential in that respect. It is important for UNOWAS to fully take these considerations into account in its day-to-day work.