I thank SRSG Fall for his briefing, which reminds us what enormous areas UNOCA covers. We commend UNOCA's preventive diplomacy, including around elections. It is key that you get sufficient resources to carry out your mandate.
The Norwegian Refugee Council’s recent list of the most neglected displacement crises in the world was topped by three Central African countries. This illustrates the challenges you face.
Let me touch upon three issues - ones that will also guide our approach to the upcoming mandate renewal: Peace diplomacy, maritime security, and climate change and natural resources.
First: Peace diplomacy and peacebuilding. We know that some of the country situations under UNOCA's purview are formally not on this Council's agenda. That, however, should not prevent us from having conversations on how conflicts can be prevented – including through cross-border cooperation.
Persistent armed violence in the Lake Chad region continues to increase human suffering and humanitarian needs. We need to address the root causes of this violence, including through political dialogue, and conversations with the affected communities. The joint efforts of UNOCA, UNOWAS and other UN entities in the region is positive, and should be strengthened.
The situation in Cameroon is a reason for concern. We condemn attacks against schools, civilians, the UN, and humanitarian actors - as well as high rates of sexual and gender-based violence. We urge both the Government and armed groups to respect international law - including international humanitarian law, and human rights law.
We call on all actors, including in the diaspora, to participate in constructive dialogue. We support the Swiss-led efforts in this regard. In Chad, we welcome the AU’s call for an inclusive transition culminating in restoration of constitutional order through elections - in accordance with AU timelines.
The death of late President Déby also highlights cross-border linkages to Libya. Last week's clashes of soldiers around the Chad-CAR border is another reason for concern.
Recalling the recent Council meeting on the Great Lakes and the PBC meeting on Burundi, we underline the need for updates on Burundi - including in UNOCA's reports.
Second: Maritime security. We welcome UNOCA and UNOWAS’ increased cooperation on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, in line with Council resolutions. Out of the 135 crew members kidnapped globally last year, 130 were kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea. This worrying trend has damaging effects on security and development in the region - as well as on international navigation.
Building on regional institutions and initiatives, we should also take a fresh look at what this Council can do to support.
Third and finally: The effects of climate change and natural resources on security. We welcome UNOCA's two-year project to strengthen knowledge on interlinkages between climate change and security in Central Africa. While awaiting further findings, the report already tells a story of severe droughts and flooding – leading to food insecurity, forced displacement, natural resource scarcity, land conflicts, and farmer-herder conflicts – with women and girls often most affected.
Add to that conflicts over scarce natural resources, including minerals – and it all points to the need to address climate change and natural resources as a security issue.
President, in conclusion:
Amid often complex and interconnected developments in the region, we are encouraged by the increasing engagement of ECCAS. We also believe that there is untapped potential for even stronger cooperation between UNOCA and the AU. When actors like ECCAS, UNOCA, and the AU work closely together on key issues, we know that progress will happen.