To preserve the elements needed for regional stability in West Africa & the Sahel [fr]
Statement by Mrs. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 10 January 2019
I thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) for his briefing, which, as always, was very enlightening.
UNOWAS is a valuable tool that enables the United Nations to play a role not only in conflict prevention but also in peacebuilding, in line with the Secretary-General’s vision for sustainable effective action that must cover the entire peace continuum. We hope that the strategic review to be undertaken in the coming months will provide an opportunity to ensure that UNOWAS is provided with all the resources needed to accomplish its mission. Preventing crises rather than resolving them after the fact is, of course, the best way to avoid suffering, as well as to achieve shared savings.
I will make several remarks with regard to responding to the crisis at hand. The deterioration of the security situation in a number of regions of West Africa is an alarming development that requires our continued action. That is especially the case in the Sahel, where the terrorist threat is spreading geographically together with a dangerous increase in intercommunal tensions not only in central Mali but also, as of now, in the north-western part of Burkina Faso. The same holds true for the area surrounding the Lake Chad basin, where the increase in attacks by Boko Haram is threatening once again territories that were only recently liberated from its control. As always, a response to those crises and threats depends on a comprehensive approach encompassing political, security and development aspects, which is a point that we have often insisted upon given its importance.
In the Sahel, France is committed to supporting the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali by the Malian parties, which, in the short term, will require the priority measures identified in resolution 2423 (2018) to be implemented by next March. France is engaged in combating terrorist groups through Operation Barkhane, as well as its support for the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel and for the implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel through the mobilization of the Alliance for the Sahel to provide faster, better coordinated and more targeted assistance to the most vulnerable populations. In the Lake Chad basin, more must be done to support the continued action of the States of the Multinational Joint Task Force and ensure that its work is conducted in a manner that ensures the people’s full support. The United Nations has a central role to play in helping the States of the region identify appropriate and coherent responses in all its aspects. Work must be carried out in the short term to ensure that the resources implemented by the United Nations system on the ground correspond to the needs of the countries most affected by the current violence. We believe that such work is particularly urgent and critical in the case of Burkina Faso.
In addition to the steps that we have taken in those crisis areas, it is more important than ever to preserve the fundamental elements needed to ensure regional stability in West Africa and the Sahel. In that regard, I will underline three key points.
First of all, as the Special Representative just reminded us, credible, transparent and inclusive electoral processes are required. In Nigeria, we welcome the commitment of all actors to respect the outcome of the elections and refrain from violence, as part of the prevention work by actors in the region and UNOWAS. In Guinea-Bissau, it is necessary that, this time, the authorities respect their commitment to the holding of legislative elections on 10 March, as was requested by the Economic Community of West African States and the Security Council. In other countries, such as Togo and Guinea, it is important to continue consultations among all stakeholders so as to strengthen the inclusiveness and acceptability of future electoral processes. Focus must be placed on strengthening the representation of women in areas of responsibility, which is hardly the case in the countries of the region at the present time.
Respect for the rights of all and the fight against impunity are also key factors for achieving stability. The many abuses committed against civilian populations in the various conflict areas of the region must not go unanswered, no matter who committed them. The transitional justice processes under way, in particular in Mali and the Gambia, must be seen to fruition in order to create the conditions necessary for sustainable reconciliation. The protection of children in conflict must be the focus of our attention, and UNOWAS has a clear role to play in following up that issue. Stability also goes hand in hand with long-term support for countries emerging from crises. The continued involvement of the international community in supporting Liberia, following the closure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, is particularly critical for ensuring the success of the remarkable democratic transition that took place just a year ago in that country.
I will conclude my statement in the same way that the representative of Germany concluded his, by stressing that the link between climate and security is becoming increasingly clear in the countries of the Sahel. The effects of climate change are creating tensions over resources with a direct impact on populations in the region. Accordingly, the sustainable management of those resources, such as water and arable land, constitutes one of the conditions necessary for maintaining stability in an area like the Sahel, characterized by political and social vulnerabilities. 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, are essential in that regard. That will be the main focus of the meeting of the Climate Commission for the Sahel Region to be held in early February in Niamey. UNOWAS has a strong role to play in actively supporting that dynamic.