La pandémie de COVID-19 amplifie et exacerbe les facteurs de conflit préexistants qui ont de graves répercussions sur la paix et la sécurité en Afrique de l’Ouest et au Sahel.
« Cinq élections présidentielles à haut enjeu sont prévues au deuxième semestre de l’année au Burkina Faso, en Côte d’Ivoire, au Ghana, en Guinée et au Niger. Ces élections offrent une opportunité de consolidation démocratique dans ces pays. Cependant, pour garantir que ces processus sont crédibles, transparents, inclusifs et pacifiques, un consensus sera nécessaire pour relever les défis sous-jacents et toutes les perturbations, y compris celles liées à la pandémie de COVID-19.
Il convient de noter que la pandémie a entraîné la suspension ou le report des préparatifs des élections, y compris l’inscription des électeurs, dans certains de ces pays. Les préparatifs ont cependant repris et les parties prenantes dans la majorité de ces pays ont maintenu leur détermination à organiser les élections comme prévu ».
Briefing to the Security Council on the Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS)
STATEMENT: By Mohamed Ibn Chambas Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNOWAS
Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
- I am honored to brief you today on the latest report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS). This briefing is being held against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has regrettably led to significant loss of life across the globe and is severely impacting our way of life and livelihoods. In this regard, I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost loved ones and wish a speedy recovery to those undergoing treatment while also enjoining everyone to stay safe and healthy.
- Since my last briefing to this Council in January, attacks by violent extremists and intercommunal violence have continued to undermine peace and security in the region, particularly in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. Despite intense and sustained efforts by concerned countries, violent extremists have continued to attack security forces and civilians with dire implications for the humanitarian and human rights situation in the region.
- Terrorist attacks have been accompanied by forced recruitment of children and abductions in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. In addition, school closures in the affected areas due to the extremely volatile security situation have denied thousands of children their right to education.
- The fragile security situation has also caused an increase in the number of internally displaced persons and refugees in the region. In Burkina Faso, as of June, 921,000 people had been forced to flee their homes; an increase of 92 per cent compared to late 2019. In Mali, close to 240,000 people are internally displaced of which 54 per cent are women. In Niger, as of June, 489,000 people were forced to flee their homes. This includes internally displaced persons, Nigerian and Malian refugees.
- In Nigeria, an estimated 7.7 million people will need emergency assistance in 2020. In Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, over 1.8 million people, more than half of them women, still live in make-shift camps or are hosted in communities that are themselves extremely vulnerable.
- While national and multinational forces intensified counter-terrorism operations, some communities have resorted to organized volunteer groups and self-defence militias for protection. Human rights groups have raised concerns over alleged abuses by self-defence militias and by security and defence forces.
Mr. President, Distinguished Members of Council,
- The growing linkages between terrorism, organized crime and inter-communal violence cannot be overemphasized. Terrorists have continued to exploit latent ethnic animosities and the absence of the State in peripheral areas to advance their agenda. The United Nations must remain committed to working with all partners in order to enhance a more holistic and sustainable approach to these challenges by building national and institutional capacity; improving community resilience; encouraging, supporting and advocating for good governance, political inclusion, respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law.
- In this regard, the United Nations should support ECOWAS in the implementation of its 2020-2024 action plan for the eradication of terrorism in the sub-region. Also, the international community needs to increase its support to the full operationalization of the African Union – Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) Regional Stabilization Strategy for the Lake Chad Basin while accelerating the implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS).
- Coordination amongst the various initiatives aimed at addressing security, humanitarian and development challenges in the region is crucial.
In this regard, the call by the G5 Sahel Summit of 30 June for enhanced coordination and cohesion amongst Member States is commendable. I also welcome the commitment to the strict respect of human rights expressed at the Summit. We are ready to work in partnership with Member States to address this challenge together.
- As reiterated by the meeting of the UNISS Steering Committee of 30 June, the United Nations should continue adopting a cross-pillar approach which emphasizes the importance of national ownership while also aiming at creating synergies with other initiatives.
- In this connection, on 4 March, I facilitated a meeting between the Executive Secretary of the LCBC and Head of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, Ambassador Mamman Nuhu, and the Regional United Nations Sustainable Development Group in Dakar, to develop a common understanding of the role of UN agencies in the implementation of the LCBC Regional Stabilization Strategy and to ensure coherence with existing regional programs, including those implemented within the framework of UNISS.
- Furthermore, as part of our efforts to support the Mano River Union’s cross-border security and confidence building measures, in February, UNOWAS signed a cooperation agreement with the MRU on peace and security issues and support to youth and women on cross-border cooperation.
- Climate change is reinforcing security risks in the region by exacerbating farmer-herder conflicts, which remain a major security concern; increasing social tensions; and contributing to rural-urban migration, violence, delinquency and food insecurity. Through its convening role, and in line with its new mandate, UNOWAS is conducting analysis and research to elicit a greater understanding and mitigation options on the adverse implications of climate change on peace and security in West Africa and the Sahel in collaboration with relevant UN mechanisms and in partnership with ECOWAS, the World Bank as well as international, regional, and national think tanks.
- The COVID-19 pandemic is amplifying and exacerbating pre-existing conflict drivers with grave implications for peace and security in West Africa and the Sahel. The pandemic is having a negative impact on human rights and the rule of law and is disproportionately affecting women and girls, including with respect to their role in informal trade and due to a reported increase in femicide, sexual and gender-based violence. Heavy-handed responses by some security services to enforce restrictions have been reported, even in countries with more solid human rights records.
- We are also observing the impact of the pandemic on governance structures and systems; electoral and political dialogue processes; the humanitarian situation; the socio-economic situation; and regional and multilateral engagements. Terrorists and violent extremist groups are also exploiting the situation to further launch attacks in the region, in disregard for the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire.
- Conscious of this, various countries in the sub-region have developed national COVID-19 response plans with support from UN Country teams. At the regional level, on 23 April, the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government held an extraordinary summit and appointed President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria as Champion to lead regional COVID-19 response efforts. The Authority also established ministerial coordination committees on health, finance and transport to coordinate regional efforts to address the pandemic.
- To promote a whole-of-UN approach in response to the pandemic, I have held virtual consultations with UN Resident Coordinators and their teams in all countries in the region to assess the impact of COVID-19 in each country; identify ways to strengthen UN collaboration with national and regional stakeholders in support of governments’ response efforts; and mobilize, where applicable, support for the Secretary-General’s Call for a Global Ceasefire.
The Resident Coordinators noted that while governments’ COVID-19 responses have largely been consensus-driven in most countries, there have also been situations where the response faced serious criticisms from national actors.
- UNOWAS will continue to engage national authorities to ensure a holistic approach and work towards broadening social support, inclusivity and national cohesion. We will also continue our advocacy to ensure a human rights-based approach in the response by States in the region, with focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized segment of the population as well as on community involvement.
- It is worth highlighting that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the region has witnessed a number of positive developments including the relatively peaceful conduct of the presidential elections in Togo, local elections in Benin and the completion of the work of the Constitutional Review Commission in The Gambia.
Mr. President, Distinguished Council Members,
- Five high-stake presidential elections are planned in the second half of the year in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Niger. These elections present an opportunity for democratic consolidation in these countries. However, to ensure that these processes are credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful, consensus will be needed to address underlying challenges and any disruptions including those linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is worth noting that the pandemic led to the suspension or postponement of preparations for the elections, including voters’ registration, in some of these countries. Preparations have however resumed and stakeholders in the majority of those countries have maintained their determination to hold elections as scheduled.
- I have held joint virtual consultations with the ECOWAS Commission President, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, UN Resident Coordinators and Heads of the Election Management Bodies in countries preparing for elections to assess the situation on the ground, the level of preparations, the challenges faced, and ways in which the UN could better support the various processes.
The Heads of the Election Management Bodies all expressed confidence and assured of their readiness to successfully organize the elections.
- During these consultations, I insisted for stakeholders to ensure that solutions to challenges or disruptions caused by the pandemic are consensual, inclusive and respect human rights and the rule of law. I also insisted on the involvement of women, youth and persons living with disabilities in the entire electoral process in each country.
- Ahead of these elections, which could be major flashpoints for crises, UNOWAS will continue to work with relevant partners to support the efforts of the five countries in organizing inclusive, transparent and credible elections which are crucial for the stability and development of the region.
- I would like to recognize the unflinching support of this eminent Council towards the implementation of UNOWAS’ mandate while reiterating our commitment to continue accompanying national and regional actors to enhance peace and stability in West Africa and the Sahel.
- Thank you for your kind attention.