Delivered by Permanent Representative Mr. Sven Jürgenson
Thank you Mr. President,
I thank the briefers for their comprehensive overviews and the Chinese Presidency for organizing today’s debate. We welcome efforts to move the Security Council more into prevention mode and discuss solutions over symptoms.
The discussion today is very timely in light of the nearly daily reports about attacks and killings by the violent extremist groups. Sexual and gender based violence against women and girls, as well as the use and recruitment of children has become a systematic feature of terrorism in Africa. We are seeing an uptick in violence in the Sahel region that is now threating to spread to the wider West Africa, including to the coastal states. Moreover, the blurring of lines between groups in the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel is extremely concerning.
Terrorism and violent extremism in Africa is a cross border phenomenon, exacerbated in areas where borders are porous and state authority insufficient. A year ago, this Council adopted a resolution on terrorist financing, which highlighted the reliance of terrorists on the illegal, often cross border activities. Therefore, a truly effective response can only come through closely coordinated regional and international action. In Africa, the role of the African Union and sub-regional organisations is essential. Estonia further welcomes the cooperation of the G5 Sahel countries and continues supporting these efforts by contributing with military personnel to the French-led Barkhane operation.
States carry the primary responsibility for the safety of their people. Effective state engagement includes enabling access to basic services such as health care and education, and ensuring an adequately trained security presence. States must ensure that all counter terrorism measures comply with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Ignoring these obligations can undermine counter terrorism activities and lead to increased radicalization fed by violence and a sense of impunity.
We need a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of violent extremism. To build truly resilient communities, more attention needs to be given to lowering intercommunal tensions and nurturing reconciliation processes. Such activities often start at the level of a local village or a town’s neighbourhood and to succeed they must be inclusive. It is important to support forums for intercommunal dialogue. Only through equal and meaningful participation of women, youth and other relevant stakeholders will we be able to achieve a lasting solution. It is not a quick fix, but it is the only way forward.
Improving the socio-economic situation and ensuring access to resources and governmental services reduces the space for violent extremist groups to act. People that have alternatives to earn their living will be less vulnerable to the recruitment efforts of violent extremist groups. Research shows that the main reasons for joining violent extremist groups revolve around people’s sense of identity, perceptions of neglect, and lack of opportunities. Most recruits give up violent extremism when given the chance of a better, peaceful life.
For improving people’s livelihoods throughout Africa, the effects of climate change need to be taken into consideration. This is especially relevant in the Lake Chad Basin, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel region. It is important to track the roots and impacts of climate related tensions and assist key stakeholders in providing support to those most affected. The UN has an important role to play here. Estonia supports the innovative initiatives adopted by UNSOM, such as drought coordination and appointment of an environmental security adviser, and encourages further efforts in this line of work that will proactively address the threats.
Finally, the question of accountability and denying impunity to the perpetrators of crimes against civilians is an essential part of countering terrorism. It is also a vital part of a holistic approach to healing communities, restoring trust and creating conditions for sustainable peace.