The Security Council underscored today the importance of addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism in West Africa and the Sahel, as well as the need for a holistic approach to address the causes of intercommunal violence in the region.
The representative of the United Kingdom, Council President for February, issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/3), requesting the Secretary-General to explore the feasibility of a civilian joint project between the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and regional organizations, such as the G5 Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, with the aim of stemming and preventing intercommunal violence. The Council likewise requested the Secretary-General to include in his next UNOWAS report recommendations with viable options for establishing such a project, and his Special Representative to update the 15-member organ on these recommendations during his next briefing.
In that context, the Council condemned in the strongest terms the 2 January terrorist attacks in the villages of Tchoma Bangou and Zaroumadareye in Niger, also condemning the 28 November 2020 attacks against civilians in Nigeria’s Borno State and the 11 December 2020 abduction of more than 300 children in Katsina State.
Stressing the importance of the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all efforts to maintain peace and security — as recognized in resolution 1325 (2000) — the Council, in later provisions of its statement, commended country efforts to advance women’s participation in political processes, with a view to increasing the number of females appointed to senior Government positions. It welcomed in that regard the active leadership of women in recent electoral processes in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Niger, as well as the appointment of a new female Prime Minister in Togo and proportion of women in the new cabinet of Liberia.
On the humanitarian front, the Council expressed concern over the deterioration in the overall humanitarian situation in the region, exacerbated by COVID-19 and notably characterized by the impact of forced displacement, extreme poverty, food insecurity, social inequalities and violence — including sexual and gender-based violence. It called for safe, sustained and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian and medical aid, including access to comprehensive health care and services for survivors of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations, without discrimination.
Acknowledging the effort of West African countries to respond to COVID-19, the Council noted that the pandemic — and more so, its second wave — has exacerbated conflict drivers and caused severe socioeconomic, political and security repercussions. It called for continued support to ensure a comprehensive response, including equal, affordable access to a vaccine. It likewise called for actions to prevent the harmful effects of the pandemic on the right of every child to education, and to support education that is inclusive and equitable, using distance-learning solutions to close the digital gap.
“The Security Council reaffirms that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes a threat to international peace and security,” members said through the presidential statement, expressing concern over the threat that piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea pose to international navigation, security and development in the region. Welcoming the 2020 initiative to deploy an African Union-led force in the Sahel, which it “looks forward to”, the Council underlined the need for security efforts to be aligned with political objectives and to promote the restoration of civilian security, among other initiatives.
Recognizing the adverse effects of climate change, ecological changes and natural hazards on the stability of West Africa and the Sahel region, the Council continued to stress the need for long-term strategies, based on comprehensive risk assessments by Governments and the United Nations, to support stabilization.
The Council went on to welcome the holding of presidential and legislative elections in 2020 in some countries of West Africa and the Sahel, which has “strengthened the roots of democracy in these countries”. It encouraged national stakeholders in other regional countries with upcoming elections to work together to facilitate the preparation for, and holding of, genuinely free and fair, credible, timely, inclusive and peaceful elections.