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Organized Crime Perpetuating Instability, Violence, Poverty across West Africa, Sahel, Executive Director Tells Security Council – Nigeria

SC/14761

SECURITY COUNCIL
8944TH MEETING (AM)

Piracy and armed robbery at sea are costing Gulf of Guinea States $1.94 billion annually, with an additional $1.4 billion being lost in port fees and import tariffs, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as the 15-member organ explored ways to address recent security challenges in West Africa and the Sahel.

“These billions represent lost potential, and funds that could otherwise be invested in licit economies and in developing coastal communities — funds that are needed now more than ever in the continuing COVID-19 crisis,” said Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

She pointed out that the incidents in the Gulf of Guinea account for the majority of kidnappings of seafarers for ransom around the world, adding that those crimes are carried out by pirate groups gaining in sophistication and increasingly able to conduct attacks against international vessels in deeper waters.

More broadly, she pointed out, organized crime is perpetuating instability, violence and poverty across the region, with the attendant lack of opportunities and frustration driving more young people to piracy and crime and making them more receptive to radicalization narratives.

Such desperate conditions render more people vulnerable to human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and more women and girls at greater risk of exploitation and sexual violence, she said, noting that 59 per cent of detected trafficking victims in West and Central Africa are children, and 27 per cent are women.

Expressing concern over a marked uptick in drug trafficking and related insecurity in the region in recent years, she said that West Africa has become a manufacturing hub for methamphetamine, mainly destined for markets in East and South-East Asia, while cocaine trafficking poses a security threat, with the region serving as a major transit area for onward shipments to Western and Central Europe, as well as cannabis resin trafficking.

To address such threats, she called for enhanced political will and international support to strengthen comprehensive and cooperative crime responses. Outlining such action, she pointed to her office’s Global Maritime Crime Programme and the Strategic Vision for Africa, launched in 2021, as well as technical assistance extended to Togo and Nigeria, which recently achieved the “landmark step” of the first-ever successful prosecutions of piracy in the region.

UNODC will also continue to strengthen partnerships with regional organizations, and with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with which it co-leads the Peace and Security Pillar of the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel.

Khatir Mahamat Saleh Annadif, Special Representative and head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), presented an overview of the Secretary-General’s related report (document S/2021/1091), covering between 18 June and 21 December in 2021. Applauding the successful holding of elections in Cabo Verde and the Gambia, he said these examples confirm the appeal of democracy as the surest way of building the future for communities within a republic.

He said the increase of coups d’état in West Africa is often the consequence of political practices totally disconnected with what people want, he pointed out. In this context, he applauded ECOWAS for its commitment to resolve the crises in Mali and Guinea. UNOWAS supports and accompanies these efforts to restore constitutional order, he said, welcoming the decision of ECOWAS to revise the 2001 Additional Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

Also briefing the Council was Cécile Thiombiano Yougbare, lawyer and public policy analyst at Médecins du Monde, who spoke on behalf of the People’s Coalition for the Sahel, an alliance of civil society organizations. She warned that in 2021, more than 800 civilians were killed in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, in attacks attributed to non-State armed groups. Other civilians died as a result of abuses attributed to defence and security forces.

Speaking out against the military approach by the national authorities and the presence of foreign military forces, she said that the current situation was created because the priorities have not been placed in the right order. “The entire security strategy failed,” she said, proposing a new approach based on the citizen-centred four pillars — the protection of civilians, measures to address the root causes of insecurity, increased humanitarian assistance and ending impunity.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed their support for UNOWAS, welcomed the elections in Cabo Verde and the Gambia, and condemned military coups in some regional States, while also noting the ongoing consultations on a resolution on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

Ghana’s representative, also speaking for Gabon and Kenya, stressed the importance of preventive diplomacy in the UNOWAS mandate, as such engagement in West Africa and the Sahel would achieve better outcomes. Noting with concern the Secretary-General’s assessment of rollbacks of democratic values and constitutional culture in the region — as demonstrated in two recent unconstitutional changes of Government in Mali and Guinea — he said those events run counter to the governance architecture of ECOWAS. Expressing concern over delays in Mali’s transition and the absence of electoral plans in Guinea, he urged the Council to extend its full support for sanctions announced at a 9 January meeting of ECOWAS.

France’s delegate said the security situation in the region requires a response, calling for concerned States to be equipped to fight terrorism. The Group of Five for the Sahel joint force must be supported in a predictable and sustainable manner, he said, adding that a United Nations Support Office is the best mechanism to achieve this. He called for enhanced cooperation between coastal and Sahel countries, noting that the Accra Initiative is promising. France will continue to extend security support to Sahel countries, in coordination with European partners, several of whom are participating in the Takuba Task Force, which is a long-term commitment with clearly set-out objectives.

Norway’s representative, Council President for January, speaking in her national capacity, welcomed increased cooperation between UNOWAS, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and ECOWAS, declaring: “Cooperation is the master key to solutions.” Also advocating for the Council to unite around its first resolution on the topic of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea in a decade, she emphasized that 2022 should be a “year for action” towards ending the spiral of violence in the region.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Ireland, Albania, Brazil, China, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, United States, Russian Federation and India.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:58 a.m.

Briefings

GHADA FATHI WALY, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), speaking via videoconference, briefed the Council on the impact of transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking, piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa and the Sahel, said that such crimes threaten international security and the global economy. Spotlighting the Gulf of Guinea as a priority concern, she pointed out that the incidents in the region account for the majority of kidnappings of seafarers for ransom around the world. Citing a UNODC study conducted in 2021, she noted that the kidnappings are carried out by pirate groups gaining in sophistication, and increasingly able to conduct attacks against international vessels in deeper waters. While the overall number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea decreased in 2021, due to national anti-piracy efforts, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report, she remarked that progress has nonetheless stalled in operationalizing the Gulf of Guinea maritime security architecture.

She went on to state that a new study by Stable Seas, conducted in partnership with UNODC and funded by Norway, estimates that piracy and armed robbery at sea are costing Gulf of Guinea States a total of $ 1.94 billion annually, with an additional $1.4 billion being lost in port fees and import tariffs. “These billions represent lost potential, and funds that could otherwise be invested in licit economies and in developing coastal communities — funds that are needed now more than ever in the continuing COVID-19 crisis,” she stressed. More broadly, she pointed out that across the region, organized crime, facilitated by corruption, is perpetuating instability, violence and poverty, with the attendant lack of opportunities and frustration driving more young people to piracy and crime, and making them more receptive to radicalization narratives. Such desperate conditions render more people vulnerable to human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and more women and girls at greater risk of exploitation and sexual violence, she said, citing a 2020 UNODC report, which noted that 59 per cent of detected trafficking victims in West and Central Africa are children, and 27 per cent are women. Turning to a marked uptick in drug trafficking and related insecurity in the region in recent years, she noted that West Africa has become a manufacturing hub for methamphetamine, mainly destined for markets in East and South-East Asia, while cocaine trafficking poses a security threat, with the region serving as a major transit area for onward shipments to Western and Central Europe, as well as cannabis resin trafficking. Noting that very large seizures of cocaine have been registered in West Africa since 2019, she stated that the value of such illicit flows exceeds the national budgets of some transit countries, “which is highly destabilizing in this complex security situation”.

To address such threats, she called for enhanced political will and international support to strengthen comprehensive and cooperative crime responses. Outlining such action, advanced by UNODC, she pointed to its Global Maritime Crime Programme and the Strategic Vision for Africa, which it launched in 2021, as well as technical assistance extended to Togo and Nigeria, which recently achieved the “landmark step” of the first-ever successful prosecutions of piracy in the region. UNODC will also continue to strengthen partnerships with regional organizations, and with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with which it co-leads the Peace and Security Pillar of the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel. She underlined the need for a holistic crime prevention approach, as part of broader peacebuilding and development interventions that promote responsive State institutions, improve accountability and provide opportunities for education and work, including for youth and women, stating: “We cannot allow pirates, criminals and terrorists to take advantage of poverty and instability, or gain impunity by exploiting vulnerability.”

CÉCILE THIOMBIANO YOUGBARE, lawyer and public policy analyst, Médecins du Monde, speaking on behalf of the People’s Coalition for the Sahel, noted that that the alliance was born from the observation that the strategy implemented since 2013 has not brought stability to the region. On the contrary, the Sahel has been plunging deeper into a crisis in which the populations are the primary victims. In 2021, more than 800 civilians were killed in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in attacks attributed to non-State armed groups. Other civilians died as a result of abuses attributed to defence and security forces. The populations are exhausted, and the consequences are disastrous. In 2022, Burkina Faso is estimated to see 8 million people directly affected by the closure or cutbacks of basic social services, while 1.5 million of them have already been forced to flee their homes in search of security.

As a humanitarian, she witnesses the devastating effects every day, including lack of access to health care, food insecurity that is four times higher in 2021 than expected in 2020, the dropout of 500,000 children, and the explosion of gender-based violence against women and girls. In Burkina Faso, 53 per cent of internally displaced people are women. Three out of four are said to be the survivors of such violence. There is a marked increase in rapes. Médecins du Monde mobile clinics saw a woman displaced three times because of the violence, and a 16-year-old girl raped when her village was attacked by armed men. Speaking out against the military approach by the national authorities and the presence of foreign military forces, such as from France, she said that the current situation was created because the priorities have not been placed in the right order. “The entire security strategy failed,” she said, proposing a new approach based on the citizen-centred four pillars.

First, she said, Sahelian States and the international community must put civilians at the heart of the response to the crisis. Political decisions and military operations must prioritize protection of civilians. In that regard, the Sahelian and international defence and security forces must enhance transparency and accountability in the conduct of their military operations. Second, there is a need to address the root causes of the crisis. The counter-terrorism response alone is doomed to failure. Members of this Council, especially France, should let Sahelians decide what they want. Third, she said, it is essential to ensure that funding matches humanitarian needs and that humanitarian access is never hindered. This is especially crucial for women and girls, because 60 per cent of maternal mortality in a crisis context is preventable. Fourth is the fight against impunity as it fuels the cycle of violence and promotes recruitment by armed groups. As long as impunity prevails, it is impossible to restore trust between populations and Governments. Escalation of violence is “spine-chilling”, she stressed, urging Council members to feel it.

KHATIR MAHAMAT SALEH ANNADIF, Special Representative and head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), presented an overview of the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the mission (document S/2021/1091), noting that since his last briefing in July, the subregion has experienced developments which require the attention of the Security Council. It is certain that West Africa and the Sahel continue to make progress in many areas, but the subregion is struggling with insecurity, which risks reversing hard-won advances, he said.

Citing positive developments, he said that in November 2021, he chaired a meeting of the Cameroon-Nigeria Joint Commission in charge of implementing the judgment of the International Court of Justice on the border conflict between the two countries, which by now have agreed on nearly 2,050 km of the 2,100 km border line. The construction of border markings is more than 60 per cent complete. This case offers a positive example of conflict resolution, he stressed. On 4 December, 89 per cent of voters went to the poll in the presidential election in the Gambia. The relationship of trust among political parties, candidates and voters made the elections a resounding success. A few weeks earlier, an opposition candidate won the presidential election in Cabo Verde, pledging to work constructively with the majority in Parliament. These examples confirm the appeal of democracy as the surest way of building the future for communities within a republic.

However, the security environment has become more concerning, he said. In Burkina Faso, attacks by terrorist groups have led to growing public disenchantment. Large-scale attacks against military and civilian targets continued in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. In Nigeria, the resurgence of conflicts between farmers and herders diverted attention from extremist violence in the north-east. Other incidents in northern Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo show that the threat of terrorism is expanding from the Sahel towards the coastal countries of the Gulf of Guinea. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said more than 38 million people may go hungry by the next lean season, an increase of 23 per cent from 2021. In November, there were more than 8 million refugees, internally displaced people, repatriated and stateless persons in West Africa and 4.1 million in the Sahel. He then urged the international community to pay attention to the growing risks these situations pose to the wider region.

Four weeks ago in Dakar, UNOWAS organized a conference of traditional and religious leaders from across the region, including women from Liptako-Gourma and north-eastern Nigeria, to discuss community-led solutions to crises that impede development. He also stressed the importance of the United Nations integrated strategy for Sahel and the centrality of its Support Plan to guide different strategic frameworks.

The increase of coups d’état in West Africa is often the consequence of political practices totally disconnected with what people want, he pointed out. In this context, he applauded ECOWAS for its commitment to resolve the crises in Mali and Guinea. UNOWAS supports and accompanies these efforts to restore constitutional order. He welcomed the decision of ECOWAS to revise the 2001 Additional Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. Projects of social cohesion that have been initiated by the United Nations are aimed at facilitating peaceful and inclusive transitions in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger.

The need for a long-term approach to climate change is evident, he said. UNOWAS established a regional inter-agency working group that produced a joint analysis in response to the recommendations by the Executive Board of the Secretary-General. Furthermore, in a few weeks in Dakar, a large conference in collaboration with Ireland will be held to launch concrete initiatives. As part of UNOWAS’ new vision, the Office will work much more closely with the United Nations country teams in the 16 countries covered by the mission to align actions with the key priorities. Collectively applying comparative advantages while remaining guided by the same objective, “we will have to act to strengthen the virtuous circle of good governance, security, peace and development”, he said, hailing the work of the Peacebuilding Commission in supporting countries emerging from crisis in the subregion.

He said that although more than 50 per cent of voters in the subregion are women, their presence in higher levels of decision-making bodies is simply lacking, even though several countries have put in place positive discrimination legislation for elected positions, including through quotas. In the same vein, most countries in the region now have national action plans to implement resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. But 21 years after its adoption, greater political will is necessary, including funding them from national budgets.

Statements

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Kenya, stressed the importance of preventive diplomacy in the UNOWAS mandate, as more preventive diplomacy engagement in West Africa and the Sahel would achieve better outcomes. Noting with concern the Secretary-General’s assessment of rollbacks of democratic values and constitutional culture in the region — as demonstrated in two recent unconstitutional changes of Government in Mali and Guinea — he said those events run counter to the governance architecture of ECOWAS. He welcomed the determination of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS to ensure an expedited transition to constitutional rule in those countries and further reinforce democratic values and constitutional culture. Expressing concern over delays in Mali’s transition and the absence of electoral plans in Guinea, he urged the Council to extend its full support for sanctions announced on 9 January at a meeting of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, in light of their finding that the proposal by the national authorities to extend the transition to five years is unacceptable.

He said those measures included: the closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS member countries and Mali; the suspension of commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS members and Mali; a freeze of Mali’s assets in ECOWAS Central Banks and commercial banks; and a suspension of Mali from all financial assistance by ECOWAS financial institutions. Noting that such difficult measures are needed for a return to constitutional order, he added that, amid the region’s deteriorating security situation, the Secretary-General should leverage existing United Nations initiatives to specifically stem intercommunal violence. Meanwhile, ahead of Libya’s elections, he supported the African Union’s call for more cooperation in the implementation of the withdrawal plan of foreign forces, to ensure that such action does not impact the stability in the region. He went on to call for more humanitarian action; greater vaccine equity; more attention to the driving impacts of the climate crisis; and “real action” in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, while advocating for a Council presidential statement on the role of UNOWAS.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said that despite the recent progress and welcome developments in Cabo Verde and the Gambia, security and stability remain out of reach for too many in the region. Expressing support to the conclusions of the 9 January ECOWAS Summit on Mali, she said the situation in that country is critical to the security and progress of the entire region. Her delegation is concerned by the continued incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and encourages progress on the operationalization of the interregional maritime security architecture. The humanitarian situation and the security threats cannot be addressed without an understanding of their causes, including the links between climate and security. Only integrated and holistic approaches to tackle the root causes of insecurity can lead to lasting solutions. Cooperation across the region, intercommunal dialogues and human rights-centred approaches are key in addressing long-term security issues, conflict prevention and reconciliation.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) welcomed positive developments in the region and encouraged UNOWAS to support countries in preparing for upcoming elections, while voicing concern over the closure of thousands of schools and calling for an urgent reversal of that trend. Concurring with the Secretary-General’s concerns over unconstitutional mandate extensions and coups d’état, he called on stakeholders in Mali and Guinea to ensure a transition of power to elected civilians and a return to Constitutional order in a timely manner. Turning to the security situation in the Sahel, which has seen a severe and dangerous expansion of terrorist attacks, he said that threat clearly shows the need to intensify the international community’s engagement and support for regional responses. Noting that the situation in the Gulf of Guinea remains a persistent challenge, he called for multidimensional and inclusive responses, as well as more attention to the threats posed to peace and security by climate change.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) welcomed the resumption of activities and progress made within the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission regarding demarcation, and the peaceful and orderly electoral processes held in Cabo Verde and the Gambia, as well as commended the Gambian authorities for the outstanding work carried out by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission. Nonetheless, noting that much remained to be done at the political, humanitarian and security levels, he endorsed the Secretary-General’s remarks on Guinea-Bissau about the need to implement reforms outlined in the 2016 Conakry Agreement according to the ECOWAS road map to resolve the political crisis. Turning to the concerning humanitarian situation in the ECOWAS region, he said Brazil is working closely with its African partners to enhance South-South cooperation agreements to address challenges in the fields of health and food security. On security in West Africa, he commended the countries in the subregion for their commitment to cross-border cooperation and information-sharing. He underlined the need for regional cooperation and naval capacity-building to address the complex challenge of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea region, including through modalities such as the Yaoundé Architecture for Maritime Security. Noting the financial hardship caused to the region due to disruptions to shipping and international trade, he called for the root causes of piracy to be tackled, adding that the Peacebuilding Commission could provide important inputs in this regard.

DAI BING (China) said the international community must step up support to countries in West Africa and the Sahel and help them maintain stability in the face of formidable challenges. Welcoming successful elections in Cabo Verde and the Gambia, as well as steps towards dialogue and reconciliation taken in Côte d’Ivoire and Togo, he stated that Mali and Guinea are in a “critical period”, adding that the international community should aid their peaceful reconciliation and political transition. He called for united efforts to be taken to combat terrorism, which is rampant in Burkina Faso, and spreading to southern coastal areas. To maintain stability, counter-terrorism capacity-building must be strengthened through multilateral and bilateral channels, and the root causes of such instability must also be addressed, including through initiatives for community correction, youth education and employment, he said. Turning to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, he called for strengthened cooperation in this regard, including through anti-piracy capacity-building, and took note of the draft resolution on piracy being spearheaded by Norway and Ghana. Finally, he expressed concern about the surge in COVID-19 cases in the region, as well as imbalanced vaccine distribution, and called for steps to be taken to ensure safe and affordable vaccine access. His country will implement the outcome of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation to help strengthen the fight against the pandemic in the region.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) expressed concern about the worsening security situation in the Sahel, which threatens West Africa, pointing to three recent attacks on defence and security forces in Benin, which demonstrate that such instability is now affecting coastal countries. Further, violence against civilians continues in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The situation requires a response, he stressed, calling for countries in the region to be equipped to fight terrorism. The G5 Sahel joint force must be supported in a predictable and sustainable manner, he said, adding that a United Nations support office is the best mechanism to achieve this. He called for enhanced cooperation between coastal and Sahel countries, noting that, in this regard, the Accra Initiative is promising. France will continue to extend security support to Sahel countries, in coordination with European partners, several of whom are participating in the Takuba Task Force, which is a long-term commitment with clearly set-out objectives. However, he condemned the ongoing deployment in Mali of “Wagner’s Russian mercenaries, who are known to threaten civilians, violate international law and pillage resources, which can only contribute to further destabilizing the Sahel”. Turning to development programmes, which must be carried out in concert with security responses, he pointed out that the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel must not be limited to holding meetings or workshops; it must also implement concrete programmes. Moreover, Sahel States must work to strengthen governance and restore trust with their people. Turning to political situations, he hailed the successful holding of presidential elections in Cabo Verde and the Gambia in 2021, and stated that France is ready to support the transition process in Guinea, in collaboration with its partners, and awaits the publication of the timetable of the transition as requested by ECOWAS. However, his country is seriously concerned about the lack of compliance by Malian transitional authorities to their commitments in returning to constitutional order, he said, reiterating its support for fresh sanctions imposed on the transitional authorities in Mali by ECOWAS on 9 January.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) welcomed the peaceful election recently held in the Gambia, while voicing concern about transition challenges in Mali and Guinea. UNOWAS should continue its good offices role to support upcoming elections in Senegal, Sierra Leone and the Gambia, and preparations for Nigeria’s elections in 2023. Echoing expressions of concern over the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel, she said the prevalence of conflict and violent attacks in the tri-border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is having a tangible impact on security across the region and driving an alarmingly high level of humanitarian need and severe food insecurity, compounded by the continued impacts of COVID-19. Climate change is also a driver of insecurity. Welcoming the continued implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel and UNOWAS’s close engagement, she went on to voice deep concern about conflict involving extremist groups in north-east Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad Basin, calling for a holistic and integrated approach to the region’s interlinked challenges.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), noting several encouraging recent developments in West Africa and the Sahel, said the region nevertheless still suffers from a set of difficult and complex challenges that require a multifaceted approach. The fragile and worsening security situation is a source of concern for the international community, requiring bolstered efforts to combat such terrorist groups as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Boko Haram, who may take advantage of political vacuums and deteriorating social and economic conditions to establish a foothold. Also citing persistent acts of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, the threats posed by climate change and the growing link between organized crime and terrorism, she called for more regional and international cooperation, as well as more urgently needed humanitarian aid to countries in West Africa and the Sahel. The United Arab Emirates provided some $240 million to the region between 2016 and 2020, as well as 69 tons of medical aid to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, she said.

JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) welcomed the holding of successful elections in Cabo Verde and the Gambia, as well as the progress seen in political dialogue in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone. These positive developments demonstrate that political dialogue and democratic governance are key to solving the complex problems that affect the region. UNOWAS plays a leading role in supporting institution-building, through its good offices and preventive diplomacy. These measures go hand in hand with military operations. Without the necessary reforms in governance, economic development, strengthening of the State and constitutional order, violence will persist. Steps must be taken to advance a regional strategy to curb illicit flows of small arms and light weapons. In accordance with resolution 2616 (2021), UNOWAS can contribute to harmonizing the efforts currently being carried out in each country and to articulating a regional vision to effectively combat that scourge. A presidential statement being prepared should include that element.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said that the recommendation made by the civil society briefer will influence his country’s approach to the challenges in the Sahel. He applauded UNOWAS for its role in the Council’s aim to stabilize the Sahel region, also welcoming more civil society participation in political life. While congratulating the people of Cabo Verde and the Gambia for the holding of elections, he expressed deep concern over the lack of progress in Mali and urged the transitional authorities to return to democracy. His delegation is reviewing additional sanctions imposed on Mali by ECOWAS. He also condemned a coup in Guinea, urging the transitional Government to hold elections and return the country to civilian-led democracy. The Government undermines its effectiveness and its credibility when its security forces violate human rights. The United States supports UNOWAS’ conflict prevention framework, encouraging more community-led civilian projects. The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] has created an African focus group to counter threats by the group’s affiliates in the region.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said he shared concerns voiced about the dangerous challenges faced by the region, including through terrorist acts, organized crime, and inter-ethnic and intercommunal conflict, and expressed support for those leading the fight against terrorism in the region. Effective State control and governance must be stepped up to tackle other challenges, including humanitarian difficulties, as demonstrated by an increase in food aid needs and an uptick in internally displaced persons, as well as the closure of schools and medical facilities, he said. Turning to Mali, he said it needs domestic political stability to fulfil the conditions of the peace agreement and rectify the socioeconomic situation. “Let’s show our Malian colleagues respect, and support their efforts to establish order, including by allowing them to rely on the partners they consider appropriate to do so,” he said, adding: “Any double standards and information that has not been tried and tested, as we have heard today, are unacceptable.” While Malian transitional authorities have obligations to fulfil, such responsibilities can only be fulfilled according to conditions on the ground. Noting that the closure of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau brought that country within the remit of UNOWAS, he stated that sanctions imposed on that country “contradict common sense” and called for them to be removed.

T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) welcomed recent successful and peaceful elections in Cabo Verde and the Gambia in October and December, respectively, noting, however, the setback in Guinea with a coup d’état taking place in September, and no progress made towards restoring democratic order, despite efforts by ECOWAS. Similarly, in Mali, the implementation of an 18-month transition process that was agreed initially by the Malian authorities remains uncertain. Underlining the need for political mediation and facilitation by UNOWAS, he called for it to work closely with national stakeholders and regional and subregional organizations, particularly ECOWAS, to address such challenges. On security challenges in the Sahel, which he called “alarming”, he observed that the nexus between terrorists, criminals, drug traffickers and pirates fuels instability and violence in the regions. He called for mechanisms such as the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel to be lent financial and logistical support and echoed the Secretary-General’s call to ensure predictable and sustainable funding to such regional security initiatives. Turning to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which remains a serious threat to seafarers despite the decline in frequency of such incidents, he noted that several Indian sailors have also been victims of piracy and kidnappings and called for increased international collaboration to strengthen surveillance and ensure maritime security in the area.

MONA JUUL (Norway), Council President for January, spoke in her national capacity, echoing the briefers’ concerns about unconstitutional extensions of presidential mandates and coups d’état in West Africa and the Sahel region. Welcoming increased cooperation between UNOWAS, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and ECOWAS, she declared: “Cooperation is the master key to solutions.” In that context, she repeated her call for United Nations support to the G5 Sahel joint force as a cross-border solution, which must be in full compliance with international law, including international human rights law. Also advocating for the Council to unite around its first resolution on the topic of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea in a decade, she emphasized that 2022 should be a “year for action” towards ending the spiral of violence in the region.

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