Delivered by: Mrs. Ghasaq Shaheen, Political Coordinator
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I thank Ms. Giovanie Biha for her informative briefing and her efforts in leading the vital work of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS). I take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to Mr. Annadif for his tireless efforts during his tenure. I also thank Mr. Omar Touray, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, for his briefing.
Despite the crises in West Africa and the Sahel region, the UAE believes that the region has immense potential to yield sustainable peace, security, and development. This requires doubling our collective efforts to find innovative and inclusive solutions to respond to the threats facing the region.
We stress in this regard the importance of focusing on steps to enhance dialogue and constructive engagement in the region and prevent it from drifting deeper into fragmentation and instability. Such steps include maintaining and building upon the current diplomatic efforts among the countries of the region, particularly their efforts to create conducive environments that enable elections and the needed governance reform and foster long term growth and prosperity.
We reaffirm the vital role of regional organizations, as well as the United Nations and its entities including of UNOWAS and the Peacebuilding Commission, in supporting the States of the region and enhancing their capabilities in building their institutions, maintaining their political unity, and deepening partnerships among them. Therefore, we believe that progress must be made in the implementation of the “United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel” and the “United Nations Support Plan for the Sahel”. We hope that the recommendations of the Independent Commission, led by His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou, will provide a clear assessment of the region’s needs and help us devise effective and innovative solutions.
Considering the continuous deterioration of the security situation, we support the regional efforts to address the cross-border security challenges in the region, especially extremism and terrorism. We are concerned over the expansion of terrorist activities along the Gulf of Guinea and the coast of West Africa as well as its accompanying repercussions on security and development. We believe that some of the existing regional initiatives, such as the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework and the Accra Initiative, are essential for strengthening the regional peace and security architecture. We reiterate here that regional stakeholders with strong support from international actors are key to identifying gaps that undermine stability and providing recommendations on how to resolve them.
West Africa and the Sahel are among the continent’s most vulnerable to environmental threats that further exacerbate insecurity and undermine stability. It is essential therefore to keep the issue of climate change at the front and center of this Council’s approach to the region, including by strengthening UNOWAS’s role to help States in confronting climate change and in risk assessment and management. We consider the appointment of a Climate, Peace and Security Adviser to the Office to be an important step towards that end.
As the host of the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) this year, we look forward to continuing the important discussions held during the previous session, including with the UNOWAS Office and other relevant regional and international actors. We encourage the Office to continue its efforts in this regard, including those aimed at enhancing youth participation in providing innovative solutions to adapt to climate change.
We cannot also ignore that climate change impacts humanitarian conditions and stability in the region. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 15% of the region’s population suffers from food insecurity resulting from the impacts of climate change and droughts that have caused a shortage of wheat and fertilizers and a rise in food and energy prices. This highlights once again the need for measures to address climate change. Although we realize that such measures alone are insufficient to improve the humanitarian situation in the region, they will help lessen the food crisis and provide an opportunity for a more sustainable approach in the future.
In conclusion, Mr. President, the UAE affirms its continued support for the mandate of the UNOWAS Office and its local and regional partners, as well as its efforts to integrate youth and promote the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women. We hope that all these endeavors will contribute to peace and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region.
Thank you, Mr. President.