Security Council Briefing: West-Africa/UNOWAS

Statement by Lise Gregoire-van Haaren, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

New York, 11 January 2018

Mr President,

The Kingdom of the Netherlands would like to warmly thank Special Representative Mr Chambas for making a difference in West Africa. His good offices whether in The Gambia, Liberia or Togo, have helped ease tensions and helped stabilize countries and the region.

Special Representative Chambas notes several positive developments, but considerable challenges remain. Sustained international support in promoting stability is needed. We see UNOWAS as an essential enabler of such support.

Mr President,

Allow me to focus on three important aspects of UNOWAS’s added value to security and stability in the region; the three “C”s of conflict prevention, cross-border cooperation and coordination.

Conflict prevention

Mr President,

First of all the “C” of conflict prevention. The Security Council set conflict prevention as a priority for UNOWAS. Rightly so.

A year after a turbulent change of power The Gambia is on the right track.

In Togo, the SRSG has collaborated with the African Union and ECOWAS to encourage national stakeholders to engage in a much-needed dialogue on constitutional reform.

In Liberia, UNOWAS played an important role towards peaceful elections. Sierra Leone will be the next test case for West Africa’s encouraging track record on democracy.

Mr President,

The multipronged approach of the Sustainable Development Goals constitutes the ultimate prevention tool. In the Lake Chad region for example, the effects of water scarcity and climate change constitute some of the root causes of conflict.

Achieving the SDG’s, and particularly SDG 6, would secure access to safe water and sanitation. Providing creative solutions to assist the farmers on the Niger border with the water they need to farm and provide for their livelihood will go a long way to address the fragility of the region.

But as long as we are not there yet, early warning, rapid reaction, the use of good offices and peacebuilding – such as offered by UNOWAS - will remain of critical importance in these and other country situations. We therefore encourage the Special Representative to continue his important early warning activities and would support for instance the organization of joint early warning missions with ECOWAS.

Cross-border Co-operation – Lake Chad

Mr President,

Secondly, I would like to emphasize the importance of the “C” of cross border security cooperation. Whether it is about countering terrorism, organized crime or trafficking and illegal migration flows.

Also there, the Lake Chad region is a case in point. The countries in the region have established the Multinational Joint Task Force to tackle the challenge of Boko Haram. However, the threat continues to loom large and the resource challenge is difficult to overcome.

I commend the SRSG’s efforts to support diplomatic, security and humanitarian responses to the violence against civilians perpetrated by Boko Haram. The affected countries must be in the driving seat, though.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands welcomes the African Union’s PSC reaffirming the need for a comprehensive approach and calls for a regionally coordinated strategy for the promotion of peace, security and development. Initiatives by the region that promote such a holistic approach deserve this Council’s support.

We would welcome special attention and separate reporting including an early warning analyses on the situation of the Lake Chad Basin in the next SG report.

The challenge of coordination – G5 Joint Force

Mr President, that brings me to the third “C” of coordination.

In West Africa and the Sahel, we will not achieve anything if we do not effectively coordinate – both with our partners and within the UN system. UNOWAS embodies this very idea.

Take for example its role in advancing the implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel: it reduces duplications, it links the field with UN headquarters and it brings stakeholders together. That is exactly what needs to be done more as actors and initiatives multiply.

Take for example, the G5 Joint Force. It can only be a success:

  • If MINUSMA will provide indispensable operational and logistical support;
  • If key financial contributions are provided through a well-coordinated international mechanism;
  • If OHCHR can properly support the Human Rights compliance framework of the force;
  • And if UNODC enables strengthened cooperation between the force, police and the criminal justice sector.

Too name just a few.

Mr President,

In conclusion, conflict prevention, regional cooperation and enhanced coordination are critical conditions to address the root causes of instability and bring about peaceful and inclusive development.

Through its scope and its mission, UNOWAS is a key enabler in West Africa and one that can early on direct this Council’s attention to emerging challenges for the region’s stability.

Let us make the best possible use of it and make sure it has the financial means to do so.

Let me reiterate our gratitude to SRSG Chambas, personally, and UNOWAS, generally, for the sustained efforts and leadership.

Thank you.

Belongs to