Briefing and Consultations on the UN Office for West and the Sahel (UNOWAS)
JOINT A-3 STATEMENT (GABON, GHANA, MOZAMBIQUE) BRIEFING AND CONSULTATIONS ON THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE FOR WEST AND THE SAHEL (UNOWAS)
I deliver this statement on behalf of the members of the A3 namely, Gabon, Mozambique, and Ghana. We welcome the report of the Secretary-General on UNOWAS and thank the former SRSG, His Excellency Mr. Annadif Mahamat Saleh for his sterling performance and significant contribution in addressing the challenges of the region. While looking forward to the appointment of a substantive head of UNOWAS, we thank DSRSG Giovanie Biha, the Officer-in-Charge, for her briefing and insightful perspectives as well as for her continued engagement with regional stakeholders. We also welcome the briefings made by Dr Omar Alieu Touray President of the ECOWAS Commission. We further commend the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) for its forward-looking advisory note, which underscores the importance of an integrated and coherent UN system.
More than 20 years since its establishment, UNOWAS continues to make significant contributions to the peace and stability of West Africa and the Sahel region. Since the last briefing on UNOWAS to the Council in August 2022, we have seen useful progress in the consolidation of democracy in some countries in the region, observed the continuing effectiveness of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, and witnessed the reduction of maritime piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea. We, however, note persisting concerns with insecurity in some parts of the region, the stagnation of democratic practices in some countries and the challenging humanitarian situation in several societies. These prevailing challenges, coupled with the regional aspirations make it imperative for a joined up United Nations effort in pursuing balanced actions for a resilient region. We therefore believe that UNOWAS’ mandate, which is up for renewal, remains relevant.
In addition to the above, the A3 wishes to highlight some points on the political, security and humanitarian situations. On the political situation, we welcome the diplomatic efforts which have enabled the release of the 46 Ivorian soldiers who were detained in Mali, putting an end to a diplomatic crisis between two brotherly countries. We note that elections will be held in 10
countries of the region and are encouraged by the consolidation of democracy in countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Cape Verde and Benin, which only two days ago concluded successful legislative elections and look forward to successful general elections next month in Nigeria, the region’s largest democracy. In this regard, we welcome the signing of a peace pledge by the presidential contenders and encourage good faith commitment by all stakeholders to peaceful elections.
We condemn all attempted coups in the region and continue to be concerned by the countries in transition. We encourage the restoration of constitutional order in the countries concerned in accordance with the ECOWAS Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy. We recall the Communiques of the 61st and 62nd Ordinary Sessions of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, urge adherence to the agreed electoral timetables for a definite return to constitutional rule, and note the need for sustained engagement for inclusivity and tolerance of political pluralism. In respect of the security situation, the A3 remains deeply concerned about widespread insecurity in the Sahel and its potential spread to littoral countries. We note the adverse impact of terrorist incidents on civilian populations and the increasing use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) which are also targeted at peacekeepers and national security personnel. We express our deepest condolences and sympathy to all the families of the victims of terrorism in the region. We support the efforts of regional initiatives such as the Accra Initiative, the G5 Sahel Joint Force, and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), and welcome the Secretary General’s call on partners to increase their contributions to enhance the implementation of such regional arrangements, including the ECOWAS 2020-2024 plan of action to combat terrorism.
We look forward to the upcoming independent report of the high-level panel led by former President Issoufou of Niger and hope that it would provide realistic recommendations that leverages the best elements of the existing regional initiatives and an enhanced unified regional force, in responding robustly to the growing incidence of terrorism in the region. We reiterate our long-standing position that the question of adequate, predictable, and sustainable funding for regional security initiatives that respond to threats to international peace and security is a pressing matter that the Council must have a unified position on. We urge continuing engagement on the spill-over effect of the lingering crisis in Libya on the Sahel, and the threat that the return of Foreign Terrorist Fighters and proliferation of small arms and light weapons pose to the region’s stability. We similarly aver the need for continuing attention on maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, even though coordinated actions are beginning to yield a downward trend in piracy incidents.
The humanitarian situation in the Sahel is worrying. About 6.3 million persons are displaced and 11,000 schools are closed. The situation of insecurity and other aggravating factors such as climate change and food insecurity are worsened by violations of human rights in many contexts. The frequency and severity of climate-related crises seem to be rising exponentially. 2022 has seen catastrophic droughts, floods, all of which are judged to have been made more severe by climate change. We note the link between insecurity and climate change which has resulted in increasingly stressed and intercommunity clashes in the region. We urge support for humanitarian assistance and towards livelihood empowerment pipelines that leverage home-grown and regional initiatives such as the Climate Responses to Sustaining Peace (CSRP) initiative launched at the just ended CoP27 in Egypt as well as the Dakar Call to Action on climate change. Lastly, we re-emphasize the need to prioritize investment into addressing the root causes of the instability in the region, including towards redressing the governance and development deficits. This would require adopting deliberate measures aimed at empowering the youth and women to meaningfully participate in the governance processes. We welcome the integration of the human security concerns of women and youth into the recently adopted 2022-2026 ECOWAS early warning and early response strategic plan and encourage further support for the implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS).
Before concluding, let me convey our support for the efforts of the penholders to work on a Presidential Statement (PRST) on UNOWAS with members of the Council, which we believe, can
turbo-charge the efforts of UNOWAS in dealing with the crises in the region.
I thank you for your kind attention!