10 July 2017

Limited Access to Education, Rapid Population Growth ‘Powerful Illustrations’ of Challenges Facing Lake Chad Basin, Sahel, Says Deputy Secretary-General

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed's remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Lake Chad Basin and Sahel at the Family Planning Summit, in London today:

The Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin regions face similar interconnected challenges — climate change, repeated droughts and environmental decline; insecurity and instability caused by violent extremism and terrorism; and growing numbers of internally displaced persons.

There is comparatively low access to education, rapid population growth estimated at 2.8 per cent a year, growing unemployment, increasing poverty and high prevalence of child marriage and female genital mutilation.

These examples provide a powerful illustration of the complex multidimensional challenges facing the region.  They also highlight the compelling need for international response through concerted and coordinated humanitarian and sustainable development initiatives.  They further indicate a need for a much greater focus on tackling root causes.

Rapidly increasing population growth in an environment of diminishing resources is a key factor.  Unless this is tackled, crises and human suffering will continue to escalate, increasing humanitarian needs, driving funding needs higher and diverting limited resources from development to humanitarian response.  In other words, continued unchecked population growth will make vulnerable States even more vulnerable.

There are two very promising regional initiatives that stakeholders can learn from and build on.  One is the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, which seeks to support efforts to address the causes of instability within a sustainable long-term perspective by enhancing inclusive and effective governance, strengthening capacity to address cross-border threats, and integrating development and humanitarian interventions to build resilience.

The other initiative is the Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend.  This multi-stakeholder partnership is being implemented in six countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali Mauritania and Niger.

It emerged from the conviction that peace, security, stability and development cannot be achieved in the Sahel if population growth remains high, if girls and women continue to be denied opportunities to learn and earn, and if adolescent girls are not protected from gender-based violence, including FGM [female genital mutilation] and child marriage.

The countries involved have developed an innovative model of partnership that combines specific national interventions and regional actions integrated with support from the World Bank, ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] and UNFPA [United Nations Population FUND], and strong engagement from the [Bill & Melinda] Gates Foundations and regional African institutions.

The initiative has seen promising results in social and behavioural communication for change and supply chain management with a focus on last-mile distribution, and political dialogues have generated an appetite for a tailored approach for dealing with the root causes of crises.

Given the multifaceted nature of the crises facing the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, I urge all partners to consider the following:

First, immediate and concerted responses from the international community to bridge the humanitarian-development nexus with a particular focus on women and young people.  Second, political commitment from the Governments of the region to implement the African Union Road Map in the areas of health, education, employment and governance.

Third, enhance support to the implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.  Fourth, scale-up and replicate the [Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend] Initiative to other countries in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.  Fifth, support the design and development of a holistic programme to respond to the crises in the Lake Chad Basin.

This programme should look beyond the security lens and address root causes, including inequality, exclusion and the full array of economic, social, political, cultural and religious grievances.

It should empower young people as agents of change.  It should increase access to quality sexual and reproductive health services.  It should protect local populations and migrants.  It should foster a culture of peace to prevent violent extremism.  And it should be able to monitor progress and achievements.

Finally, let me appeal to all to put young people first at the heart of the development process in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.  Given the high proportion of young unemployed young people who currently have no hope for the future, there is a burning need for concerted efforts to invest in them and to make them agents of change and partners for peace and security.

For information media. Not an official record.