‘Unprecedented’ Insecurity in West Africa and Sahel, Security Council Hearing — Global Issues

During her press conference, Giovanie Biha, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Officer in Charge of the United Nations Office for the Region, UNOWAS, called on ambassadors to continue to support a strategy focused on Build resilience, promote good governance, and build strength. peace and security.

Ms. Biha presented the latest UNOWAS report on trends and developments over the past six months.

Insecurity affects millions of people

“Despite the efforts of national security forces and international partners, insecurity has once again worsened in many parts of the region,” she told the Council.

The activities of armed groups, violent extremists and criminal networks were forced to close more than 10,000 schoolswith millions of children affected, and some 7,000 medical centers.

These non-state groups are fighting with each other for supremacy and control of resources, she said. pushing nations to the brink and causing untold suffering to millions those who have fled elsewhere to safety.

“Indeed, the Sahel center continues to face multidimensional challenges, unprecedented humanitarian and security challenges, and socio-political instability, exacerbated by the impact of climate change. climate change and food insecurity already exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine,” she added.

At the same time, the countries along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea also witnessed an increase in attacks against their territories, threatening shipping routes to landlocked nations further north.

Promoting consensus and dialogue

Ms. Biha reported on UNOWAS activities, including efforts to promote political consensus and ensure a level playing field ahead of this year’s elections in countries like Nigeria.

The office has also worked with the West African economic bloc ECOWAS and other UN organizations to contribute to conflict resolution, both at the regional and local levels, including between farming and herding communities. cattle rearing in northern Benin.

Relatedly, UNOWAS also works with youth and women’s groups to promote conflict-sensitive best practices on climate change adaptation. These findings were presented to the United Nations COP27 climate conference in Egypt last November.

“In Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, UN-supported peace caravans have concluded their journey through their respective countries, creating space for effective inter-community dialogue along the way. them,” she added.

Children take a class at a school in Boundiali, north of Côte d'Ivoire.

© UNICEF/Milequem Diarassouba

Children take a class at a school in Boundiali, north of Côte d’Ivoire.

Commitment and support

After the September 2022 coup in Burkina Faso and another in Guinea a year earlier, UNOWAS welcomed agreements on the timing of a political transition.

“UNOWAS will continue its active commitment to the assessment and monitoring mechanism agreed between Burkina Faso and ECOWAS and to the operation of the transition schedule in Guinea,” said Ms. Biha.

“The UN system will have to continue to support the countries concerned by focusing on responding to grievances that led to coups taking place.”

Combating insecurity and increasing humanitarian assistance is especially important amid these pressing challenges, she stressed, noting that millions of people remain the target of attacks. seemingly endless, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.

She went on to applaud efforts in The Gambia in continuing to implement the recommendations of the country’s Truth, Reconciliation and Compensation Commission.

Advocacy for women

“We are also pleased to see that a number of countries in the region have passed new national laws, on par with participation of women in political decision-makingand this after years of sustained advocacy,” she told the ambassadors.

The UN official expressed hope that legislators and other actors in Nigeria and the Gambia would restart the legislative process on this very important issue.

“For its part, UNOWAS will continue to work with the Working Group on Women, Youth, Peace and Security in West Africa and the Sahel to assess the effectiveness of current approaches and find new ones. to ensure that half of the region’s population can hear their voices in meetings where decisions are made and budgets are passed,” she said.

Meanwhile, the process towards establishing an interstate justice ministerial forum ECOWAS “could be an important tool, given the frequent accusations that the justice system is being instrumentalized in the region.” .”

Opportunity knocks

Ms. Biha called on the Council to continue to support the UN’s strategy.

“Despite the many challenges that countries in the region face, especially the Sahel region, the region remains a land of enormous opportunities,” she said.

“I take this opportunity to praise the immense resilience of the people of the region, especially the Sahelians, who face challenges of unprecedented magnitude who continue to struggle every day. day for a better future”.


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