‘Unprecedented’ insecurity in West Africa and the Sahel, Security Council hears


In her briefing, Giovanie Biha, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Commander of the UN Office for the Region, UNOWAS, urged ambassadors to continue to support a strategy aimed at building resilience, promoting good governance and strengthening peace and security.

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

Insecurity affects millions

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

Operations by armed groups, violent extremists and criminal networks forced the closure of more than 10,000 schoolswith millions of children affected, and some 7,000 health centers.

These non-state groups fight among themselves for supremacy and control over resources, she said pushing states to the margins and causing untold misery for millions who have fled to safety elsewhere.

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

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

Promoting consensus and dialogue

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

The Bureau has also worked with the West African economic bloc ECOWAS and other UN entities to contribute to conflict resolution, both at the regional and local levels, including between farming and pastoralist communities in Northern Benin.

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

“In Guinea and Ivory Coast, peace caravans, supported by the United Nations, have completed their journey through the respective countries, providing space for effective intercommunal dialogue along the way,” she added.

© UNICEF/Milequem Diarassouba

Children attend a school in Boundiali, in the north of Ivory Coast.

Dedication and support

In the aftermath of the September 2022 coup in Burkina Faso, and another in Guinea a year earlier, UNOWAS has welcomed agreements on the duration of political transitions.

“UNOWAS will continue to actively promote the assessment and follow-up mechanism agreed between Burkina Faso and ECOWAS and the operationalization of the transition timeline in Guinea,” said Ms Biha.

“The UN system will have to continue to support the countries involved by focusing respond to the grievances that led to those coups.”

Fighting insecurity and stepping up humanitarian aid are particularly important in the context of these pressing challenges, she stressed, noting that millions remain the target of seemingly endless attacks, particularly in Mali and Burkina Faso.

She further welcomed efforts in The Gambia to continue implementing the recommendations of the country’s Truth, Reconciliation and Restoration Commission.

Advocate for women

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

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

“UNOWAS for our part will continue its collaboration with the Working Group on Women, Youth, Peace and Security in West Africa and the Sahel to assess the effectiveness of current approaches and identify new ways to ensure that half of the region’s population has a voice in meetings where decisions are made and budgets are approved,” she said.

Meanwhile, a process to establish a forum of justice ministers among ECOWAS countries “could be a crucial tool given the recurring allegations that the judicial system in the region is being instrumentalised.”

An opportunity presents itself

Ms Biha urged the Council to continue to support the UN strategy.

“Despite the many challenges faced by the countries of the region, especially the Sahel region, the region remains a country of enormous opportunity,” she said.

“I take this opportunity to honor the tremendous resilience of the people of the region, especially the Sahelian people who face many challenges of an unprecedented magnitude and continue to fight every day for a better future.”

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here