We welcome SRSG Annadif back in his new capacity -and assure him of Norway’s full support. We also welcome the insights shared by Ms. Ayemou. Women’s rights to full, equal, and meaningful participation and leadership is essential in all aspects, and all phases, of peace and political processes. This is a fundamental basis for achieving and sustaining peace.
Let me first take a moment to recognise a positive development since we last met to discuss UNOWAS:
In April, Niger celebrated its first transfer of power from one democratically elected President to another. We congratulate Niger on this historic and inspirational achievement. We were also heartened to see how President Bazoum immediately put youth, education, and safe schools at the centre of his agenda. As he stated during our recent CAAC debate: educated children are the pillars on which strong nations are built.
However, President, if we needed a reminder of the challenges still facing children and civilians in the region, the Solhan massacre in Burkina Faso was it. Not only were children amongst the 130 + victims of the attack. Children were also used by terrorist actors to carry out the attack.
We condemn this in the strongest possible terms; and the continued targeting of children – for abduction, and as victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable in line with national and international law. We also deplore repeated abductions of school children for ransom in Nigeria. As part of their efforts to find solutions to this trend, we commend Nigeria for hosting the fourth international Safe Schools conference in October.
This Council must remain vigilant, and find ways to support regional responses to terrorism – which is worryingly spreading seawards. Action is also needed in the Gulf of Guinea – still the world’s piracy hotspot. Beside the threat to international navigation, piracy also has detrimental effects on the sustainable development of coastal states -- as well as countries further ashore. To better understand such effects, Norway is currently supporting a UNODC study on this topic.
We also underscore the need for sustainable ocean planning -- to build the foundations for a peaceful and prosperous coastal economy. Last week, the Peacebuilding Commission held a positive meeting on the Gulf of Guinea. For us, this is a topic that this Council should again look into- particularly in support of regional efforts.
Norway recently presented our new holistic Sahel strategy. The strategy mirrors our overall priorities at the Security Council: peace diplomacy, women’s participation and rights, the protection of civilians, and climate and security. Norway appreciates and encourages UNOWAS's continued engagement on all these issues. Our new strategy puts enhanced emphasis on the promotion of good governance, and inclusive political processes -- as ways to prevent violent conflict and recruitment to armed groups.
The strategy also has strong focus on dialogue as a means of conflict resolution -- at local, national, and regional levels. We are encouraged to see that this thinking aligns with signals from the N'Djamena Summit, the “nexus plus” vision of the UN Strategy for the Sahel – and of the People’s Coalition for the Sahel.
The proposed ‘Civilian Joint Project to Address Intercommunal Violence’ could be a good new opportunity for UNOWAS to make a difference. The project should also consider effects of climate on security -- as well as women's roles in peace and security.
On all these issues, it will be vital for UNOWAS to work together with the AU, ECOWAS, the G5 Sahel, and other regional actors to unlock new potential.