National Statement at UNSC Briefing on the UN Regional Office for West Africa and the Sahel
Statement11 January 2021
Merci, Monsieur le Président,
Je voudrais remercier d’abord le Représentant Spéciale du Secrétaire Générale, M. Chambas pour son intervention. L’Irlande soutient pleinement le travail de l’UNOWAS. Nous félicitons le Représentant Spéciale pour le travail important de son bureau pendant les six derniers mois, qui est décrit en détail dans le rapport.
L’Irlande est ravie d’assumer le rôle de corédacteur avec le Niger pour ce dossier important. Les priorités que nous avons établies pour notre mandat au Conseil – promouvoir la paix, soutenir la prévention du conflit et garantir le principe de responsabilité – sont aussi au cœur du mandat de l’UNOWAS.
Nous travaillerons assidument avec vous pendant les prochains deux ans sur nos priorités communes ; la consolidation de la paix et de la démocratie, promouvoir les solutions régionales aux menaces transversales à la paix et à la sécurité, y compris l’action contre le changement climatique, la promotion de la bonne gouvernance, l’Etat de droit, les droits de l’homme et les questions du genre.
Je prends cette occasion d’exprimer mes condoléances sincères à vous Abarry et au peuple Nigérien, suite aux attentats répréhensibles qui a couté la vie à plus de cent personnes récemment dans la région de Tillabéri.
As co-penholder, we look right across the region and want to start off by focusing on one area of importance that Ireland hopes to draw attention to, that of youth and education, highlighted also by SRSG Chambas today.
We were delighted to hear Mr. Chambas emphasize this point. We know from our own experience the transformative power of education to drive development and unlock the potential of individuals and entire societies. This is especially true for adolescent girls. Education will allow them to become the next leaders, peacebuilders and change-makers.
Today, we condemn the reprehensible attacks on schools, which have taken place in the region, in recent months. We call for investment in education in the region and that it should be prioritized, and for schools to be safeguarded everywhere.
Frankly, we have also followed with concern the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the region over the last six months. We call on all parties to support humanitarian action and to respect humanitarian principles and facilitate the delivery of essential aid to those most in need. Ireland condemns in the strongest possible terms any attacks on humanitarian workers, who are there to provide life-saving assistance to those in need. Those responsible must be held accountable.
It is clear the humanitarian and socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 are further exacerbating the already challenging situation in the region. We call on international partners to provide requisite support and ensure that everyone in Africa receives fair and equitable access to the vaccines. We all know that is a basic question of solidarity. We also know that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
The security situation in West Africa is complex. Insecurity in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin continues to be particularly worrying. We are concerned by the significant levels of violence including inter-communal conflict and terrorist activity. This Council has a duty to support enhanced national and regional capacities to address security in the region, including that of the G5 Joint Force and the Multinational Joint Task Force. We know that resources are needed to support that work. Respect for human rights and accountability for violations and abuses are an essential part of resolving conflict and putting an end to it. We strongly endorse the emphasis in the Secretary-General’s report on the role that national human rights institutions can play in assisting security and law enforcement institutions in carrying out their important roles.
Let’s face facts, we know from our own lived experience that peace and stability cannot be achieved through an approach focused solely on security. Ireland supports UNOWAS in promoting a holistic and integrated approach to addressing instability in the region that addresses root causes. That is the correct approach. Supporting sustainable and inclusive development must be at the heart of national, regional and international efforts. We must act to promote good governance, the rule of law and human rights, strengthening democratic institutions.
I would like to highlight one important challenge. There is little doubt that the adverse impacts of climate change are having a pernicious and negative impact on security in West Africa and the Sahel. We see this as leading to issues such as increased farmer-herder conflict as well as to an erosion of social cohesion. We support the call by the Secretary-General to ensure that all parties work to integrate current and projected climate-related threats into all conflict prevention efforts in the region. Ireland and Niger will work together to ensure capture and analysis of this threat.
Mr. President, before continuing,
I want to salute the perseverance of voters in West Africa in challenging circumstances. I see this as a clear sign of their commitment to democracy. I welcome that participation levels of women in elections have been strong, but frankly, there remains a big gap. We need to see women at the decision making tables, ensuring women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the political process. Voting is important but we want to see women in Councils, in Parliaments, in Governments. So no effort should be spared to ensure that women not only cast their ballots but are also on the ballot paper. As co-chair of the work on Women, Peace and Security, where we work with Mexico, we will do everything to reinforce this when we can.
Any election related violence can have a chilling effect on democratic engagement. Ireland regrets the election related violence that took place in Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea, which resulted in tragic loss of life. We see that as simply unacceptable. We need to learn lessons from the recent elections - both positive and negative. Ireland applauds and supports the ongoing and critical work of UNOWAS in contributing to democracy and peaceful upcoming elections in the region. Looking ahead, we call for the upcoming elections in 2021 to be held in peaceful, democratic, and fully inclusive manners. We also call on UNOWAS to continue employing its good offices and, as Mr. Chambas has done today, to keep the Security Council informed on developments in Guinea Bissau.
Finally, at the Security Council, we often hear rhetoric about regional organizations and their contribution to peace and security. Today I would like to recognize the excellent contribution of UNOWAS to regional cooperation. The challenges facing the region can only be successfully addressed through leadership from the region. Ireland looks forward to working with UNOWAS, in promoting enhanced regional cooperation between with key partners, including ECOWAS and the AU, and the EU in promoting peace and security in West Africa and the Sahel. A shared and joint endeavor.
Thank you, Mr. President.