I would like to thank SRSG Chambas for his comprehensive briefing on the most recent developments in West Africa and the Sahel region. Estonia fully supports the work and the good offices of UNOWAS under the leadership of SRSG Chambas that has remained very active over the past six months despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We commend ECOWAS for their role in facilitating the dialogue with various national stakeholders.
Unfortunately the negative trends in the security situation continue to characterise the developments in West Africa and the Sahel region. The attacks against civilians, such as the 2nd of January attack in Niger’s Tillabéri region, are especially egregious and need to be condemned in strongest terms.
Every step needs to be taken to tackle the threat of terrorism and to prevent it from spreading further. Estonia commends the efforts of the region’s states through the G5 Sahel Joint Force and the Multinational Joint Task Force in addressing the transnational threat of terrorism. We encourage the states to further enhance the cooperation amongst themselves as well as with the international community. Estonia from our part will continue contributing to the fight against terrorism through Barkhane operation and the Takuba task force.
The past year saw significant developments in many countries of the region through the various electoral processes. While a number of the elections were conducted in a relatively peaceful environment, it was not the case everywhere and the loss of life through election related violence was especially concerning. On a positive note, however, we congratulate Togo for electing their first ever female Prime Minister and we encourage all countries in the region to take further steps in fully, equally and meaningfully including women and youth in all stages and aspects of the political processes.
Security-focused approach alone will not bring lasting peace to West Africa and the Sahel region. It is of crucial importance to understand and effectively address the root causes of conflicts and to design an approach that would take into account the various interlinkages between the security, development and the humanitarian dimensions. In this regard one of the key aspects to consider are the adverse effects of climate change that in many instances is further exacerbating the underlying grievances along the community lines.
Another key aspect in bringing the societies back together is reconciliation and restoration of the state’s presence. Making sure that all perpetrators of human rights abuses and violations as well as violations of international humanitarian law are being held accountable regardless of their status and systematically fighting against the culture of impunity is essential in restoring the trust of the people. It is only through a full political ownership of the region’s countries that the long lasting stability in the region can be achieved.
Finally, Mr. President, we remain concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation, not only through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We call on all parties to allow humanitarian access and facilitate the delivery of emergency assistance to populations in need, especially to those more vulnerable in the society.