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Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the Arria Meeting on WPS/The Sahel

Merci beaucoup, Monsieur le Président, et je voudrais féliciter sincèrement le Niger pour l’organisation de cette réunion et de cet important Groupe des Amis.


L’Irlande est fière d’être aux côtés du Niger et de nos sœurs Sahéliennes en tant que co-parrain de cette réunion et en joignant ce Groupe des Amis. Nous nous félicitons de cette forte expression de coopération entre l’Union Africaine et l’Union Européenne sur des questions de paix et sécurité, de développement et de l’égalité des genres.


Mr. President, I have always said that the WPS agenda beats with an African heart. If we go right back to the beginning, and to resolution 1325, we owe a great deal to Namibia for bringing this agenda to life. Liberian women in 2003 gave us one of the purest expressions of the power of WPS in action when they helped to end the Civil War.


And, in recent years, the African Union and African women have continued to lead the way in advancing the real life implementation of WPS through excellent initiatives such as FEMWISE and the African Women Leaders’ Network, as well as the appointment of an AU Special Envoy on WPS, which my country, Ireland, has been pleased to support. Regional organisations such as ECOWAS and African countries have also played a key role through the adoption of Regional and National Action Plans.


Just on Monday last, we heard from an incredible group of Malian women who have been participating in the monitoring of the peace agreement. They were passionate in making the case for peace and sustainable, inclusive development. Hours afterwards, news began to emerge of the arrest by members of Mali’s military of the President of the Transition and others. We know that women in Mali played a key role in mediation following the August 2020 coup and I cannot think of a more stark illustration of the urgent need to once again empower women peacebuilders. First and foremost, political participation is their right. What is more, the struggle for gender equality is one and the same as the struggle for peace, stability, democracy, development and good governance. 


Turning to the Group of Friends, Mr. President, I would like to suggest a focus on two issues that are particularly relevant in the Sahel context: girls’ education, and the nexus between conflict, gender and climate change.


The Sahel region, as we have heard today, has one of the youngest populations in the world and we need to make sure that the region reaps the benefits of a demographic dividend, and harness the positive energy of youth towards peacebuilding and development. Education, and I would argue particularly the education of girls, is key to unlocking the potential of the Sahel. Ireland was proud to work with Niger, as co-penholder on UNOWAS, to ensure this was reflected in February’s Statement of the Security Council. I also salute the leadership of Niger in its stewardship with Belgium of the PRST on the protection of education from attack. Of course the tragedy is that over 3,000 schools across the Sahel were closed due to insecurity, even before Covid. The Group of Friends should advocate for investment in the education of adolescent girls. This is imperative given the grave risk we now face that an entire generation of girls will not return to school.  They deserve every chance to work for the future they want.


We know too that climate change is a daily reality for women in the Sahel. They are at the frontline of climate and conflict.  Facts show that women and girls are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Let us not compound that burden by confining them to passive suffering. Women are the agents of change we need to deliver climate solutions. In our efforts to tackle climate related security challenges, we are working to ensure that their voices are heard. Ireland and Niger together co-chair the Informal Experts Group on the Security Council on Climate and Security and we are working, as you know Mr. President, in a very practical way to ensure that those voices register. We also know that we can help, through that work on the Council, to support Sahelian women to forge a path for the region that is both climate and gender-responsive.


And, of course, before concluding I would say that in the work that Ireland is doing alongside Mexico, as co-chair on the Informal Experts Group on Women Peace and Security, we are working to the same end to ensure that the voices of women from the Sahel, just recently Malian women, are heard also.


Monsieur le Président, je serai heureuse de travailler avec le Niger, l’Union Africaine, l’Union Européenne et tous les membres de ce Groupe des Amis en exprimant notre solidarité avec les femmes du Sahel et notre engagement profond dans la région.

Merci beaucoup Monsieur le Président pour cette occasion d'exprimer notre solidarité sincère.


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