Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message to the International Conference on Lake Chad, in Abuja, Nigeria today:
I am pleased to send greetings to this International Conference on Lake Chad, and I commend the Government of Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin Commission for organizing it.
Lake Chad was once a major source of livelihoods for millions of people living throughout its basin. Today, the lake’s water level has shrunk 90 per cent compared with what it was in the 1960s, and its surface area has decreased from 22,000 square kilometres to a mere 1,350 square kilometres.
As desertification advances and trade routes between the affected countries are interrupted, food security has become a major concern. There are 4.5 million food insecure people across the region. This is projected to increase to 5.8 million by August this year.
Furthermore, this environmental tragedy has had a deep impact on the area’s socioeconomic outlook and has led to increased insecurity in a region already affected by violent extremism. More than 10 million people currently require humanitarian assistance, including 2.3 million people displaced due to continued insecurity and violence.
Our common efforts to counter Boko Haram must include a regional strategy that addresses the root causes of instability, including environmental degradation and socioeconomic marginalization. We must also support States in building and buttressing the capacities they need to enable the people to enjoy their fundamental rights.
The United Nations stands ready to work closely with the Lake Chad Basin Commission to support the implementation of the Lake Chad Development and Climate Resilience Action Plan. The Organization is implementing development projects focusing on natural resource management and the rehabilitation of Lake Chad ecosystems. We are also directing attention on livelihoods and reintegration, community rehabilitation and local governance activities to prevent violent extremism and radicalization.
The visit by Security Council members to the region last year and the subsequent resolution 2349 (2017) created a new momentum and shone a spotlight on the crisis. This visibility and advocacy need to be maintained. The ongoing development of a stabilization strategy by the African Union and the Lake Chad Basin Commission represents an important opportunity for peace and sustainable development.
Today, I call on the Governments of the countries of the Lake Chad area and the international community at large to take decisive action to save Lake Chad. Doing so will help restore lives and livelihoods for millions of people, foster regional integration and development, and offer a durable solution to the Lake Chad Basin crisis. I wish you a successful meeting and look forward to learning the outcome of your deliberations.