9 March 2017 - Security Council on the visit to the Lake Chad region: The first challenge is the humanitarian emergency [fr]
Briefing of the Security Council on the visit of the Security Council to the Lake Chad region = Focus on the humanitarian situation =
Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
9 March 2017
At the outset, I should like to welcome the presence here today of the Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina Mohammed, whose return to New York to take up her important duties is both a great opportunity for the United Nations and excellent news for us all.
I should also like warmly to congratulate the United Kingdom on its accession to the presidency of the Security Council, as well as to assure it of our full support.
It was an honour and an unrivalled experience to lead this important Security Council visit to the Lake Chad region, along with you, Sir, and our colleague and friend from Senegal. I join you, Mr. President, in expressing thanks to all of the officials who welcomed us so warmly, including the entire United Nations team.
In line with the distribution of issues we agreed, I will focus on the humanitarian situation. On behalf of my colleagues, I should like to begin by paying tribute to the courage and commitment of the humanitarians we met, who are doing outstanding work in often very difficult situations. The daily commitment of those men and women is exemplary, and it is important that the Council visited them on the ground in order to express our deep gratitude.
The United Nations has considerably increased its presence on the ground, particularly in north-east Nigeria, to face the humanitarian crisis that threatens hundreds of thousands of people. We were able to visit the hub at Maiduguri, in north-east Nigeria, which brings together all humanitarian actors and is now operational. Those efforts must be pursued, while the United Nations must further strengthen its presence in order to meet the immense and growing needs of the most vulnerable populations.
With regard to the humanitarian situation, we have identified three main issues: the humanitarian emergency, protection for affected populations and the challenge of financing humanitarian aid.
1-On the first challenge — the humanitarian emergency and access to populations in need:
The humanitarian consequences of the crisis are catastrophic for the region: 26 million people affected, of whom 10.7 million are in need of emergency aid. More than two and a half million people have been forced to take to the road to flee or go into exile. Land is no longer cultivated, markets are at a standstill and the prices of basic necessities have soared.
Food security was the first urgent need highlighted by our interlocutors on the ground. The situation is tragic and threatens hundreds of thousands of people in the region. In total, more than 7 million people are affected. The Secretary-General has spoken of famine in the north-east of Nigeria.
The Security Council was able to meet with displaced persons and refugees in Cameroon and Nigeria. All of them expressed the same concerns: problems of safety and access to water and quality food. The inhabitants are sometimes deprived of their means of subsistence and depend entirely upon humanitarian aid for their survival.
Insecurity and access difficulties sometimes complicate food distribution. It is therefore crucial that the countries of the region ensure unhindered access, without bureaucratic impediments, as well as secure access for the United Nations and humanitarian actors wherever populations need emergency assistance. To be truly effective, the efforts of the United Nations must be only in support of those of the Governments concerned.
During its visit, the Council welcomed the excellent cooperation between the United Nations and the countries of the region. In north-east Nigeria, given the scale of the needs, we encouraged the Nigerian Government to continue its efforts to facilitate humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable people.
Health is the second emergency. With, for instance, 60 per cent of health-care facilities destroyed in north- east Nigeria, people are threatened by large-scale epidemics, such as polio or measles.
The third emergency is education. More than 1,200 schools have been destroyed since the beginning of the crisis, and 3.2 million children are urgently in need of education. Education for girls is paramount and should be encouraged. There is no time to be wasted in preventing this generation from being sacrificed.
2- In addition to the humanitarian emergency, the second challenge is that of ensuring the protection of civilians and respect for human rights.
The goal is to ensure that people are kept safe from Boko Haram and to assist with the voluntary and sustainable return of displaced persons or refugees, where the security situation allows.
The Council also recalled the importance of respecting humanitarian law and, to that end, welcomes the tripartite agreement signed by Nigeria, Cameroon and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on 2 March in Yaoundé. The agreement allows for the creation of a solid legal framework to encourage the voluntary and sustainable return of Nigerian refugees to safe areas, under the auspices of the UNHCR. The Governments of Cameroon and Nigeria have committed to implementing that agreement as soon as possible.
The Security Council has also paid special attention to the plight of women and girls in the region. In Maroua, Cameroon, the Council heard stories of the pain inflicted on female refugees and internally displaced persons by Boko Haram. I think that, for all of us, it was a particularly powerful and touching encounter. In Chad and Nigeria, we also met with a number of civil society women’s organizations for those displaced in the Maiduguri camp and women Senate representatives in Abuja. We lauded the courage shown by women and girls who are often victims of both Boko Haram violence and of stigmatization within their own communities. It is therefore crucial for those women not only to be protected from prostitution and early marriage, but also to be included in security management, political decision-making and economic development matters. It is a key point that struck us all, which I would like to underscore today.
3-The third challenge is that of providing financial support to affected areas.
The response to the immense needs that I mentioned has remained inadequate.
We welcomed Nigeria’s commitment to allot $1 million to the north-east of the country in response to the humanitarian emergency. It is important for that financial commitment to lead to action as soon as possible.
We have also noted that the international community’s has rallied in support of the Government of Nigeria by building on the outcome of the Oslo Conference, which was held just prior to our mission and was a step in the right direction. Fourteen countries pledged $672 million in humanitarian aid over the next three years and $457 million for 2017.
We have also underscored the need for the international community and Governments in the region to continue their efforts. By way of example, it is in that spirit that a donors’ conference for Chad will be held this spring in Paris, under the auspices of the World Bank.
Given the magnitude of the needs, we underscored that it was important to promote a global and regional approach to creating synergies and enhancing coordination with other donors and to mobilize goodwill, including private donors and companies, as well as other non-traditional donors such as emerging countries.
Beyond that, our interviews revealed how important it is for humanitarian aid from partners to be equitably distributed among the four countries concerned and for it to be properly apportioned within each country according to emergency needs.
As underscored during the Oslo Conference, our interlocutors also recalled the importance of the humanitarian continuum, stabilization and development. Above and beyond financing for emergency humanitarian aid, as our friend Ambassador Seck pointed out, it is essential to secure long-term financing to prevent the perpetuation of the crisis.
To put things in a broader perspective, I would say that, based on information on the situation on the ground, which is always the most important type, the mission was crucial for validating, and if necessary, rectifying some of the strategic guidelines that we implement here in New York. For my part, I would like to briefly highlight three main lessons learned.
The first is that the mission was crucial in itself, not only to shed light on the Lake Chad basin region, but also to make it a long-term priority for the international community. Frankly, the Lake Chad basin region has not always received the attention it deserves from the international community. This mission will help to correct that mistake and injustice.
Secondly, this mission proved that, given the multifaceted humanitarian, security and economic crisis that affects the region, the only response possible is a global approach that encompasses all three key priorities: stepping up a coordinated response to Boko Haram, responding to the humanitarian emergency and setting in motion the virtuous circle of development. All of our representatives agree and feedback has clearly shown that to be successful in overcoming those three challenges, they must be tackled head-on and simultaneously. How can we vanquish terrorism without eradicating abject poverty and malnutrition? How can we achieve that without improving education and youth employment? Conversely, how can we spur development without putting an end to Boko Haram? We can see that they are all interlinked and that compartmentalizing the situation would mean resigning ourselves to doing nothing. The only way to overcome those three challenges is to address their root causes. Once again, it is one thing to understand concepts while here in New York, but quite another to internalize them as we hear from our interlocutors on the ground.
The third lesson — and allow me to stress this — is that our efforts in the Lake Chad region can and must be an example of United Nations reform. This mission confirmed that the silo mentality, which has long been the key component of United Nations bureaucracy, does not produce results and that an integrated approach that smartly combines the entire range of tools available can be successful. The Security Council’s mission strengthens a vision held by António Guterres and Amina Mohamed for United Nations reform that France fully supports.