Security Council Hears from Mission to Africa as Co-Chairs Report on Looming Famine, Brutal Tactics of Boko Haram in Lake Chad Basin Area

SC/12744
9 March 2017
7894th Meeting (AM)

Security Council Hears from Mission to Africa as Co-Chairs Report on Looming Famine, Brutal Tactics of Boko Haram in Lake Chad Basin Area

Members Hear Deputy Secretary-General’s First Address in Her New Capacity

Briefing on the heels of the Security Council’s recent visit to Africa’s Lake Chad Basin — beset by development challenges, looming famine and the brutal tactics of Boko Haram — the mission’s co-Chairs emphasized today the need for an enhanced and holistic response to the subregion’s largely neglected crisis.

The Council also heard from Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, who addressed the 15-member organ for the first time in that capacity.

Council President Matthew Rycroft (United Kingdom), who co-chaired the six-day mission alongside the Permanent Representatives of France and Senegal, said meetings on the ground with people in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria had brought the human cost of the ongoing crisis into focus.  Some 20,000 people had been killed and 2.3 million displaced, he noted.  While the Multinational Joint Task Force — comprising Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria — had recently liberated some 20,000 hostages and won territory back from Boko Haram, “the story is not over”, he emphasized, pointing out that security was not yet entrenched and remained fragile in many places.

Fodé Seck (Senegal) briefed on the root causes of the crisis, saying challenges facing the subregion included the absence of education on climate change — and, therefore, the lack of resilience to its effects — as well as the demographic explosion of young people, endemic unemployment and cross-border crime, including trafficking.  Spotlighting the critical need to better coordinate the efforts of international organizations and other partners, he warned that the resources required to address various elements of the crisis remained insufficient.

François Delattre (France) briefed on the humanitarian situation, noting that 7 million people across the subregion were threatened by food insecurity.  Recalling that the Secretary-General had recently warned of famine conditions, he urged the affected countries to ensure unhindered access to emergency assistance.  A number of related challenges concerned restricted access to health care and education, human rights violations perpetrated by Boko Haram and the limited ability of internally displaced persons to return home.

The Deputy Secretary-General declared:  “Lake Chad provides a powerful illustration of the complex multidimensional challenges facing our modern world.”  The funds required for tackling the crisis continued to outstrip available resources, she warned.  She concurred with other speakers on the need to address its root causes so as to restore lasting peace.  In that context, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would provide both a blueprint and a tool to ensure a better future for the people of the Lake Chad Basin, she said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Uruguay, Sweden, Italy, United States and Japan.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:10 a.m.

Briefings

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), Co-Chair of the six-day mission alongside the Permanent Representatives of France and Senegal, said meetings on the ground with people in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria had brought the human cost of the ongoing crisis into focus.  Before the visit, he noted, he would have been able to discuss the 20,000 people killed and the 2.3 million displaced, whereas he could now speak about the many lives behind those numbers.  “All these people brought home the horrifying consequences of the chaos and insecurity wrought by Boko Haram,” he said, citing an encounter with a 15-year-old Cameroonian boy whose village had been attacked by Boko Haram.  Civil society representatives had described women compelled to sell their bodies for sex in order just to eat, he added.

While the Multinational Joint Task Force — comprising Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria — had recently liberated some 20,000 hostages and won territory back from Boko Haram, “the story is not over”, he emphasized.  Security was not yet entrenched and remained fragile in many places, with explosions from suicide bombings and improvised devices far too common.  Boko Haram’s tactics were becoming more barbaric, he said, adding:  “Their cruelty knows no bounds.”  Underlining the clear need for continuing international support for the fight against Boko Haram, he outlined progress made by the subregion’s States in such areas as improving civilian-military coordination, swiftly filling vacant civilian posts and paying greater attention to gender sensitivity and human rights in the conduct of military operations.  Meanwhile, a regional, human-rights-compliant and civilian-led disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process was needed for the hundreds of fighters defecting from Boko Haram, as was a comprehensive approach to the crisis as a whole.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal), briefing on the deep-rooted causes of the crisis and suggesting possible solutions, said challenges facing the region included the absence of education on climate change, and therefore the lack of resilience to its effects; the demographic explosion of young people; endemic unemployment; falling commodity prices; cross-border crime and trafficking; and clandestine refugee movements.  There was a critical need for international organizations and other partners in the subregion to better coordinate their efforts, he emphasized, warning that the resources required to address various elements of the crisis remained insufficient.

He went on to stress the need to identify new sources of financing, including domestic and private sector funding, underlining that it was also critical to taking the development priorities of the affected States, as well as their regional agendas, into account.  “The Security Council must support the Lake Chad Basin countries in their remarkable efforts to combat terrorism and organized crime,” he said, citing the Multinational Joint Task Force as a positive example of their cooperation.  He called upon for States in the subregion to engage in “hydrodiplomacy”, develop more sustainable agricultural practices and improve their protection of species and landscapes.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) briefed on the humanitarian situation, noting that the United Nations had built up its presence on the ground considerably to deal with the crises threatening hundreds of thousands of people.  With markets in many parts of the subregion at a standstill amid soaring food prices, more than 7 million people were threatened by food insecurity, he said, recalling that the Secretary-General had warned of famine conditions.  He urged the affected countries to ensure unhindered access to emergency aid.  “United Nations action, to be truly effective, can only come in support of the countries concerned,” he emphasized.  Pointing to the additional challenges of restricted access to health care and education, human rights violations perpetrated by Boko Haram and the limited ability of internally displaced persons to return home, he said they were particularly acute for women, as the Council had heard on several occasions.

Emphasizing that the subregion still faced many financial challenges, he noted that Nigeria had recently committed $1 billion to combating challenges in its north-eastern region.  That commitment must be translated into action on the ground as soon as possible, he said.  Meanwhile, international funding remained insufficient, despite the $672 million pledged during the Oslo Donor Conference in February.  Aid must be fairly distributed by the four countries concerned and allocated on the basis of urgency and need, he stressed.  The Council mission had been crucial in validating the strategic guidance being implemented at Headquarters and in setting the crisis as a long-term international priority, and had also confirmed that the United Nations “silo approach” had reached its limits.

AMINA J. MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that Council missions such as the one to the Lake Chad Basin had been instrumental in highlighting the links between peace, development and human rights around the world.  “Lake Chad provides a powerful illustration of the complex multidimensional challenges facing our modern world,” she said, adding that a successful response would require mobilizing the international community’s assets in holistic implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Indeed, addressing the Boko Haram crisis meant looking beyond the security lens and addressing its root causes, including inequality, exclusion and the full array of economic, social, political, cultural and religious grievances.

To that end, she continued, the United Nations continued to encourage Member States, as well as the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to convene a joint summit on Boko Haram.  Some 10.7 million people across the subregion needed humanitarian assistance and 7 million — including 515,000 children with severe acute malnutrition — required food support, she said, warning that there was a “real risk” of famine.  Despite the considerable contributions made at the recent Oslo Donor Conference, demands continued to outstrip resources, she said, urging Member States to ensure that the $1.5 million humanitarian appeal for the subregion was fully funded.

Appealing to Governments in the subregion to ensure full, safe and unimpeded access to all affected areas and populations, she said it was also crucial to close the gap between humanitarian assistance and development interventions.  “Effective prevention of radicalization and violence will also entail comprehensive responses that benefit all members of society, especially marginalized communities and youth,” she stressed.  Describing United Nations efforts to address the grave human rights violations that Boko Haram continued to perpetrate, she underlined the need to strengthen justice mechanisms and ensure due process for defectors, as well as suspected terrorists.

In Niger and Chad, she continued, the United Nations had been able to facilitate the release of dozens of children suspected to be Boko Haram fighters and to deliver them to child-protection actors.  The plight of women and girls associated with and affected by Boko Haram was of particular concern, she said, emphasizing the need to scale up efforts to provide access to sexual and reproductive health care and psychosocial support, as well as livelihood support for female-headed households.  Addressing the root causes of the crisis was necessary in order to establish lasting peace in the subregion, and the United Nations development system was working on national and cross-border initiatives to support the reduction of poverty, development of capacity, effective governance, management of natural resources, early recovery, disaster risk reduction, social cohesion, peacebuilding and resilience.  “The solution lies in holistic thinking,” she said, stressing that the 2030 Agenda provided both a blueprint and a tool for providing a better future for the peoples of the Lake Chad Basin.

Statements

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), taking the floor after the briefings, described the situation across the subregion as alarming.  “Unfortunately, this crisis does not get much traction in the media”, and was, therefore, relatively unknown by the public.  Describing information obtained by the Council mission as “enriching and valuable” — though the testimony of witnesses on the ground had often been heart-wrenching — he urged Member States to bolster support for regional efforts to combat terrorism and improve development.  The subregion’s States must also implement public policies that would allocate more resources to education, public services and job creation, he said.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) urged the rapid disbursement of pledges made in Oslo, emphasizing that his country had already done so, and had managed to reach remote areas.  Noting that the regional nature of the Boko Haram threat required a regional response, he advocated for greater international support of the Multinational Joint Task Force and for rapid deployment of the African Union civilian component.  Counter-terrorism measures must be in compliance with international law, and as such, the United Nations must enhance its presence to support monitoring of human rights and capacity-building.  Noting that the roots of the conflict went beyond the Boko Haram insurgency to include abject poverty, climate change and underdevelopment, he said Sweden would work with the Deputy Secretary-General in efforts to reform the development system so that it responded better to crises.  Improved education for girls and ending early marriage were also essential goals for development in the subregion, he added.

INIGO LAMBARTINI (Italy) said the mission had offered a chance for the Council to demonstrate its strong commitment to countries of the Lake Chad Basin subregion, adding that it had also revealed the crisis to be even deeper than previously thought.  While the Oslo Donor Conference had demonstrated growing international interest, it was crucial to provide further support for the efforts of affected States, as well as those of civil society organizations on the ground.  “There is no underestimating the ties between Boko Haram and transnational organized crime,” he added, emphasizing that combating the latter was critical to defeating the former.

MICHELLE SISON (United States) said the stories and courage of the people with whom the Council had met during the mission would continue to inspire that organ’s efforts to address the subregion’s challenges.  Of particular interest were disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts, as well as attempts to counter gender-based violence and sexual abuse.  The voices of women and young people were especially critical in creating the conditions needed for meaningful change, sustainable livelihoods and preventing extremism, she emphasized.  Recalling that the Council had heard first-hand stories of people released from Boko Haram’s clutches, many of whom still faced stigma and discrimination, she stressed that respect for human rights on the part of military, security and other Government actors was also crucial for establishing trust with affected populations.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said he had been encouraged by a sense of ownership and determination on the part of the subregion’s countries, pointing out that they had clear priorities regarding how to deal with the Boko Haram crisis.  Citing the “energetic” efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force, the Group of 5 for the Sahel, ECOWAS and other subregional groups, he emphasized that international support was particularly crucial in light of those sincere efforts.

For information media. Not an official record.