The UN should be better equipped to be more effective in West Africa and the Sahel [fr]
Statement by Ms Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 8 January 2020
France commends the Special Representative and the team of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) for their work. West Africa is an area of strategic importance for France and the European Union. The region faces myriad challenges and is one where our common future is largely at stake, whether in terms of security, economic development, freedom and democracy, the development of young people, the preservation of nature or the ability to work together.
Progress has been made in recent years, in terms of both human development and democracy. Several elections in the past year have led to democratic changeovers, notably in Mauritania in August and in Guinea-Bissau in March and December, which is to be welcomed. With regard to human rights, the launching of the work of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission in the Gambia is also a major step forward.
However, the region faces significant challenges. In the Sahel, the security situation continues to deteriorate, with serious humanitarian consequences, particularly for the most vulnerable civilian populations, and repercussions for the entire subregion, especially with regard to the increase in the number of forced displacements. France reiterates its call for the urgent mobilization of all of us to help the countries of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel) combat terrorism, curb organized crime and address the root causes of instability. The President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, will in fact meet with the Presidents of the countries of the G-5 Sahel and multilateral partners on 13 January — next Monday — in Pau, to reaffirm our collective commitment and define a common road map.
Presidential elections will be held in no fewer than eight West African countries in 2020 and 2021. These processes could be a source of tension. We encourage the Special Representative to make active use of his good offices and convey strong political messages. It is particularly useful for the United Nations to provide electoral assistance when countries request it.
In view of the legislative and presidential elections, we believe that it is important that efforts be continued in Guinea, which the Special Representative visited at the end of November. Tensions between the Government and the people remain high in that country. Several people lost their lives during demonstrations last year. An in-depth dialogue among political leaders is essential to ease tensions. Next month’s legislative elections will be crucial for an ongoing political process in Guinea, and it is important that they be conducted in a transparent, credible and consensus-based manner.
The Council must renew the UNOWAS mandate this month. France supports the strengthening of the Office in order to enable the Special Representative to deploy his good offices to the maximum extent possible. Moreover, the United Nations has many tools at its disposal on the ground, including its agencies, funds and programmes, which must work with synergy towards the same goal. That is why France believes that it would be appropriate to give UNOWAS a greater role in coordinating the work of the United Nations in the region, in line with an integrated approach that incorporates security and development. Based on that approach, we call on UNOWAS to promote the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel, which must produce concrete results in the area of development.
Lastly, it is essential that UNOWAS present in its reports security-risk analyses of the impact of climate change, as well as recommendations for action to prevent the realization of these risks. We are of the view that the priority given to fragile countries and countries in transition is relevant, as are capacity-building activities, partnerships with regional and subregional actors and the promotion of good governance, the rule of law and human rights. We also stress the importance of the commitment of UNOWAS to the Lake Chad basin region, in cooperation with the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa. We support the mobilization of the two Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on the issue, which deserves a high level of attention, at a time when the security and humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.
The work of UNOWAS is diverse and extensive, commensurate with the challenges in West Africa and the Sahel. In this regard, and in conclusion, we believe that the United Nations should be better equipped to enable it to be more effective in the region.