Heads of United Nations Central, West Africa Offices Highlight Need for Cooperation to Fight Threats in Stricken Subregions
The Peacebuilding Commission held its annual session today, reviewing regional and subregional approaches to peacebuilding in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin and Mano River Union areas, with a focus on enhancing cooperation in tackling cross‑border threats.
François Louncény Fall, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), emphasized that the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin subregion can only be addressed through a regional response. The “very worrisome” situation can be attributed to Boko Haram, which remains an ongoing threat to peace, stability and socioeconomic development, he said, citing the report that the Secretary‑General will present to the Security Council on 6 December.
Reviewing UNOCA’s efforts to address the situation, including its fact‑finding mission to Chad in October, he recommended the inclusion of financial and material support as well as a joint multinational force on the agenda of an upcoming summit on fighting terrorism and violent extremism. He urged the Peacebuilding Commission to support the implementation of a regional stabilization strategy, emphasizing that peacebuilding projects are more effective when they entail cross‑border actions.
Mamman Nuhu, Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, said that the intergovernmental body contributes to regional peacebuilding as it oversees usage of water and other natural resources in the Basin. Noting that natural resources can be a driver of conflict, and that Lake Chad has shrunk dramatically since 1960 due to major droughts in 1972‑75 and 1982‑85, he explained that the subregion’s growing population has resulted in 45 to 50 million people chasing dwindling water and other resources.
He went on to point out that young people comprise 60 per cent of the unemployed, warning that such disgruntled groups are susceptible to extremist ideologies. For its part, the Lake Chad Basin Commission instituted a regional stabilization strategy in 2018, with the $12 billion needed to implement it, he said, asking the Peacebuilding Commission to consider establishing a multi‑partner trust fund to support the strategy. “There is no development without security and there is no security without development,” he stressed.
Also addressing the session was Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), who spoke by video link from Dakar, Senegal. Describing the security situation in the Sahel as alarming, he noted that the effects of instability in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are spilling over beyond their borders. With the existence of nearly half a million internally displaced persons, the situation has become a real threat to the region’s coastal countries, including Ghana, Benin and Côte d’Ivoire, he said.
He went on to recall that Cameroon, Chad and Mauritania were invited to attend an the Extraordinary Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 14 September in order to better coordinate the broader regional approach to tackling violent extremism and terrorism. Yesterday, a decision was made to commit $100 million in support of efforts to tackle those threats, he said. Regarding the Lake Chad Basin, he underlined the importance of engaging civil society and local stakeholders in a bottom‑up approach to addressing the root causes of Boko Haram’s insurgencies.
Guillermo Fernández De Soto Valderrama (Colombia), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, reported on that body’s visit to the Mano River Union countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire — in the company of Mr. Chambas and Oscar Fernández-Taranco, Assistant Secretary‑General for Peacebuilding Support — emphasizing the need to “go together, rather than go alone, in times of difficulties and fragilities”.
In Sierra Leone, he continued, the delegation noted the significant progress made since 2006 as well as the medium‑term national development plan under which the country’s President is promoting gender equality. Liberia is undertaking economic, fiscal and taxation reforms, he said, adding that the delegation underscored the role of civil society, including women and young people. In Côte d’Ivoire, the delegation discussed ways to support security‑sector reform, including through an early‑warning system and a community‑level mechanism to prevent conflict in the run‑up to elections.
Mona Juul (Norway), President of the Economic and Social Council, welcomed the strengthening of cooperation between that organ and the Peacebuilding Commission, including their most recent joint meeting on 3 December, on the impact of cross‑border transhumance on sustainable peace and development in West Africa and the Sahel. (See Press Release ECOSOC/7015). She emphasized the need to eliminate the peace, development and humanitarian silos through a “whole‑of‑society” approach and the active participation of Governments, civil society, business and all other stakeholders, including women, youth and marginalized groups. The upcoming review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture presents an opportunity to take stock and explore ways in which to reinvigorate its work, she added.
During the day‑long annual session, the Peacebuilding Commission held two interactive discussions. In the first, on “The Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin”, participants examined recent efforts to enhance international coherence and partnerships in those subregions, with a particular focus on moving towards lasting solutions and increased regional ownership, amid severe security, socioeconomic and humanitarian challenges.
In the second dialogue, on “The Mano River Union”, representatives of its member countries shared their experiences in peacebuilding as well as sustaining peace and lessons learnt, while presenting their views on cross‑border and regional cooperation to foster long‑term stability.
The Peacebuilding Commission will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.