Delivered by: His Excellency Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
Mr. President, Nana Akufo-Addo, Deputy Secretary-General, I thank Ghana for organizing and presiding over this important discussion on the growing threat of terrorism in coastal West Africa and the Sahel. In a region suffering from extremism, the Accra Initiative is a vivid illustration of Ghana’s wise vision and active role in counter-extremism and terrorism in the region.
I would also like to thank all the distinguished briefers for their valuable insights.
There is no doubt that terrorist groups have had a particularly corrosive impact on various regions in Africa. According to the World Terrorism Index, almost half of the terrorism-related deaths last year were in sub-Saharan Africa. Extremism leads to terrorism and fuels terrorist groups. It greatly hampers productivity and development, including social development opportunities, while undercutting access to basic services and challenging state authority. Extremism dashes the hopes and aspirations of local communities, particularly the youth, and undermines the creation of economic opportunities. The impact of this scourge extends beyond national borders – therefore, any meaningful and effective response must concurrently address the root cause and the transnational nature of this threat. This is where regional and international coordination must come in.
The African Union and subregional organizations are central to counter-extremism and terrorism. The United Arab Emirates commends the efforts of African leaders to strengthen the African Peace and Security Architecture in order to meet today’s challenges – chief among them being cross-border terrorism. This sentiment was reflected in the meeting convened by the AU Heads of States last May in Malabo, who committed to developing a Continental Strategic Plan of Action on countering terrorism and to establishing the AU Ministerial Committee on Counter-Terrorism.
We stress here the considerable importance the UAE attaches to combating extremism and terrorism. From our own experience, it is essential to have effective policies in place to address the challenge. We have strongly supported regional and international efforts, including through contributions to the G5 Sahel Joint Force and our membership in the Global Coalition against Da’esh. We have also supported the establishment of the Coalition’s Africa Focus Group, which will work to counter the threat posed by Da’esh across Africa.
I would also like to share three recommendations for our collective pursuit of countering extremism and terrorism in the coastal West Africa and the Sahel:
Firstly, effectively countering extremism requires an integrated approach, combining all the tools at the disposal of the international community, in a way that addresses the local contexts of this threat. The extension and maintenance of state authority is key and can only be sustained in the long term through the provision of basic services and support for sustainable development, both of which enhance stability and weaken the ability of extremist actors to exploit the grievances of affected populations as a tool to radicalize and recruit. Inclusive governance is critical to addressing the root causes of extremism and terrorism through building community resilience.
Countering extremism in all its forms is essential. Prevention includes the development and deployment of effective counter-narratives, increasing awareness, and promoting the values of tolerance and peaceful co-existence. However, this must be done in coordination with the leaders of local communities, including religious leaders. This is critical as terrorist groups, such as Da’esh, hijack the moral practices of religion to spread extremism and recruit fighters.
Second, climate change has the potential to exacerbate the consequences of terrorism. Shifting climate patterns, such as extreme weather events, can lead to the loss of livelihoods, thereby allowing extremist actors to exploit the resulting economic vulnerabilities and attempt to recruit local populations by offering alternative sources of income. Well-financed climate adaptation strategies are not just a moral imperative for all of us – they are a security requirement to combat extremism in Africa and elsewhere.
Third, the frameworks built by the Council over the last two decades must be adjusted to ensure that they contain the right tools to address the threats of extremism and terrorism. Da’esh, Al-Qaida, and their affiliates remain a clear threat to international peace and security, but we cannot neglect other terrorist organizations, including those labeled as such by the Council, whose activities continue to evolve. To be able to keep pace with threats to international peace and security, the Council must consider the challenges arising from its counter-terrorism approach focused on Da’esh and Al-Qaida to the exclusion of others.
We must also delegitimize terrorist groups that claim to act in the name of religion or that suggest that they constitute a “state” or “province”. Accordingly, we should refrain from using the terms “Islamic State” or “ISIL” in reference to Da’esh and its affiliates in coastal West Africa and the Sahel and in the world. We must deny terrorist groups their self-proclaimed connections to Islam.
In conclusion, Mr. President, we affirm the UAE’s full support for all international and regional efforts to combatting terrorism and extremism in the continent. They must succeed in achieving the stability, security, and peace that Africa and all its people deserve.
I thank you, Mr. President.