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Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the UNSC Briefing on West Africa and the Sahel

Thank you very much indeed, Madam President.

I’d like to start by thanking Special Representative Mr. Annadif for his really comprehensive, but also I think a very frank, assessment of the developments over the past six months and thank you Mr. Annadif also for stewarding the vital work of UNOWAS in what are clearly very challenging times. I would also like to thank both Ms. Waly and Ms. Thiombiano Yougbarefor their really powerful accounts this morning of what are the considerable challenges faced regionally on the ground at this time

Despite the recent progress and indeed welcome developments in Cabo Verde and the Gambia in particular, the fact is the security and stability situation remains in the region out of reach for too many. It is not hard to come by inspirational actions and examples – indeed, the perseverance of the citizens and civil society organisations of West Africa in such challenging circumstances is really a clear sign of their overall commitment to progress. However, this progress can only be achieved through strong and inclusive democratic governance, effective state institutions and also through promotion and protection of human rights, and adherence to the principles of transparency and accountability.

Madam President,

Political will is also fundamental to progress and in this regard I wanted to say that Ireland fully supports the conclusions on Mali that were reached at yesterday’s ECOWAS Summit. As we meet, we know that the situation in Mali is frankly at a critical juncture and we also know that Mali itself, and its situation, is also critical to the security and progress more broadly in the region. Ireland unequivocally supports ECOWAS’ actions, and welcomes its leadership on recent events, which place citizens at the heart of its decision.

Ireland condemns the litany of horrific attacks on civilians and peacekeepers that have typified this reporting period, and we remain concerned at the continued pattern of violence the region. The consequences of such violence are manifold and as we know impact disproportionately on those who are vulnerable and that’s often on women and girls. We are also concerned at the increasing socio-economic inequality compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the severe humanitarian situation, particularly in relation to rising levels of food insecurity, displacement, and reduced access to essential health services. Ongoing challenges around humanitarian access are hampering the delivery of much needed assistance to the most vulnerable, at a really critical time, so we call for unimpeded humanitarian access for all who need it. Mr. Annadif, we heard your very strong message just now on the scale of the humanitarian need right across the region.

We are also concerned by the continued incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, that was highlighted by Ms. Waly this morning, and we encourage progress on the operationalisation of the inter-regional maritime security architecture.

Madam President,

We know that the humanitarian situation, and indeed the security threats that we observe, cannot be addressed properly without an understanding of their causes and I want to thank the Special Representative just now for articulating the links between climate and security today which we know are critical in this regard. It is vital that the Council’s efforts and the work of the Mission are not constrained by ignoring this reality. The passage to a more stable and prosperous future for the people of West Africa and the Sahel, and for women and youth in particular, can only be achieved when we acknowledge the impact of climate change and infuse this knowledge throughout our efforts. Those who are most vulnerable are relying on us to do so and we welcome what Mr. Annadif said in this regard this morning.

We also know that we need to prioritise and harness the power and potential of women and youth in the region. Women should be fully integrated into democratic decision making at all levels. We are concerned that women find their place in the room, and at the table, and I was very encouraged by the Special Representatives determination and messaging on this also this morning. We wish to emphasise the importance of upholding the human rights of members of the LGBTI community. A resurgent region requires an educated, secure, and enabled citizenry. We call again for the protection of those most vulnerable, and for their empowerment through full engagement in peacebuilding, political processes and civic engagement, including the right to peaceful assembly.

Madam President,

We all know all too well the complex nature of the region’s challenges. They are unique and fraught, though certainly not insurmountable – a complex situation does not necessarily require a complex solution. The pathways forward are clear and I wish to once again express Ireland’s belief that only an integrated and holistic approach to tackle the root causes of insecurity can lead to durable solutions. Joint cooperation across the region, intercommunal dialogues, and human rights-centered approaches are key in addressing long-term security issues, conflict prevention and reconciliation. We strongly support UNOWAS’ continued efforts in this regard, as well as the leadership role that regional organisations such as ECOWAS are playing

Finally, Madam President,

Ireland looks forward to the important PRST negotiations that will commence shortly, which we are delighted to co-chair alongside our Ghanaian colleagues. We hope that, once again, the Council will unite not only in its vision for the region, but also in its unwavering support for the continued work of the Mission, which remains of immense importance.

Thank you, Madam President.

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