Delivered by His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Abushahab, Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.
I want to begin by extending sincere congratulations to SRSG Simão on his appointment and express deep appreciation to Deputy SRSG Biha for her engagement with the Council. The UAE remains steadfast in its support to the SRSG’s important work, and that of UNOWAS.
I also thank SRSG Simão and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Touray, for their insightful briefings today. Further, we welcome the advice from the Peacebuilding Commission, which informs the Council’s understanding of the region. Its continuous contributions are vital to our work.
Our briefers today elaborated on how the countries for which UNOWAS has responsibility are facing the dual challenges of insecurity and a changing climate.
According to the Secretary-General’s report, 6.3 million individuals remain displaced across the Sahel and coastal countries, and more than 37 million people require humanitarian assistance.
Addressing these challenges necessitates a rethink of the long-held assumptions and approaches previously deployed.
Not only focusing on the current challenges of the present, but the longer-term efforts needed to help shape and build a more stable, secure, and peaceful horizon for the region.
And not only focusing on the national level, but also considering the challenges on a region-wide basis.
Today I wish to make four brief points to this effect.
First, maintaining security in the region demands a multitrack approach.
According to the Global Terrorism Index, four countries across West Africa are among the top ten most impacted by terrorism.
Protecting civilians is not simply an exercise in response to threats; it must also be about proactively creating a secure environment from the ground up.
In this light, soft and hard security solutions – including building resilience of the community through basic services – all form part of a comprehensive security strategy for the region.
Beyond national efforts, regional security cooperation has paid dividends in tackling cross-border threats and transnational organized crime. We have seen a decline in terrorist incidents in the Lake Chad Basin as well as improved maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea owing to best practices being shared from country to country.
We welcome the growing coordination between ECOWAS and the Accra Initiative.
Second, all parties to conflict must adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law.
Humanitarian actors currently face significant challenges in reaching those in need. We urge all relevant actors to facilitate their safe access to civilians requiring lifesaving assistance.
Against this backdrop of great insecurity, women and girls in the region are at greater risk of sexual violence and abduction by armed groups. Humanitarian actors must be allowed to provide the necessary services to those impacted by these violations and perpetrators must be held accountable.
Third, the Council must approach insecurity in this region through a climate-sensitive lens.
Increased desertification and reduced rainfall are shrinking the already scarce food and water resources. Agricultural work is hindered, leaving citizens without food and employment, and rendering them increasingly vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups.
In West Africa we see these dynamics writ large.
Climate change has also further entrenched the epidemic of gender-based violence and inequality, as women and girls are exposed to more precarious situations when food insecurity persists.
We must therefore make concerted efforts to better understand and address the interplay between climate change, peace, and security.
Fourth, and finally, long-term stability for the region will be built on a foundation of resilient institutions.
Part and parcel of building resilient institutions in West Africa is the conduct of free and fair elections.
The holding of peaceful elections in Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and other countries are a positive step forward. So too are the ongoing dialogue initiatives, as well as the efforts to ensure the participation of women in the upcoming elections in the region.
Regarding the transition process underway, it is important to continue making headway as agreed with ECOWAS, and we welcome the SRSG’s close coordination with ECOWAS to engage the authorities of the concerned countries to uphold their commitments to an agreed timeline. In this respect, we also welcome the establishment of the ECOWAS Presidential Task Force.
As MINUSMA begins its withdrawal, we encourage UNOWAS to sustain UN engagement with Mali’s authorities, including regional and national authorities, and to help ensure a smooth transition.
We look forward to the Secretary-General presentation of the plan in August for the transfer of MINUSMA’s tasks, bearing in mind the possible contribution of UNOWAS and other stakeholders.
The UAE believes that the implementation of the Peace Agreement is essential, not only for Mali, but for the region. Therefore, we encourage parties to remain engaged in its implementation.
As this is the UAE’s final statement for a scheduled UNOWAS meeting during our Security Council term, I wish to reflect one final time on its legacy and significance.
To date, the ability of UNOWAS to promote inclusive political processes and regional cooperation has come a long way. Looking to the future, its role in implementing the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel will help address the root causes of violence and foster community resilience. In the long run, the gains made by UNOWAS thus far can only be sustained if international efforts are harmonized with national priorities through ECOWAS and the African Union, among others.
The importance of this Council finding unity and speaking in one voice on UNOWAS cannot be understated, especially to adopt the UNOWAS Presidential Statement. If we succeed in doing so, our efforts will help the SRSG deliver on his mandate to support the region. Ultimately, the Council’s continued commitment to UNOWAS remains crucial for the well-being, prosperity, and peace of present and future generations in the region. Thank you, Mr. President.