SC: West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS)

Statement by Ambassador Mona Juul at the UN Security Council meeting on the West Africa and the Sahel, 11 January 2021.

I thank Special Representative Chambas for his briefing.

But first, let me again express our deepest condolences to our colleagues and the people of Niger following the horrific killing of civilians in Tillabéri this month.

The recent tragedy in Tillabéri is yet another instance where civilians, including women and children, fall victim of violence in the Sahel and Lake Chad area.

This calls for stronger protection of civilians, including implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration. Children have the right to education without fear of attack.

We have seen that COVID-19 has also had a compounding influence on conflict and displacement, which is increasingly putting women and girls at risk of sexual and gender-based violence.

We urge UNOWAS to further prioritize these issues.


We condemn all attacks on civilians in the region.

In order to end them local, regional, and international efforts must be well-coordinated.

Including between MINUSMA and the G5 Sahel Joint Force.

Of particular gravity are the violations against children.

We strongly condemn violations and abuses committed against children, by any party.

It is always imperative that international humanitarian law and human rights are fully respected and implemented. But this is particularly so in the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region.

Victims’ rights must be ensured, and perpetrators held accountable by credible national -- or international -- criminal justice mechanisms.

Impunity must end.

In this, national governments must lead the way.


Security on land is also closely related to that at sea.

We welcome UNOWAS’ and UNOCA’s increased co-operation on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, in line with this Council’s resolutions.

Much of UNOWAS’ work is by nature discreet.

But this makes it no less important.

UNOWAS’ diplomacy has great impact on prevention, mitigation and resolution of conflicts.

UNOWAS’ role before, during, and after the many recent elections is commendable.

Special Representative Chambas’ electoral missions -- together with the AU and ECOWAS -- have been important to mitigate conflict, encourage openness, and discourage hate-speech. 

We appreciate UNOWAS’ strategic support to local conflict-resolution mechanisms.

As we know, localised conflicts often are drivers of instability.

It is worrying that several of the recent elections in the region were marred by: exclusion, electoral violence, and the deaths of civilians.

We call on all stakeholders to ensure that upcoming elections are inclusive, credible and peaceful.

Elections present opportunities to renew social contracts between Governments and the people, and to strengthen democratic governance and inclusion of marginalised groups.

One important way to ensure inclusion, is the full, equal and meaningful participation of women at all levels of decision-making.

UNOWAS’ gender-sensitive reporting reveals mixed progress, but it also highlights positive examples of gender inclusion efforts and law reforms.


Let me commend UNOWAS’ role in highlighting the effects of climate change on security.

Disputes over land, water and food are fertile breeding grounds for violence and terrorism.

As such, it is important that considerations of the impacts of climate-related security risks must be addressed by this Council.

Norway supports the work of UNOWAS in this area, including through the Climate Security Mechanism.

This innovative work helps regional actors and countries to: better understand the effects of climate on security, and to develop risk-prevention and management strategies.

The international community needs to support the implementation of such strategies.     


Regional co-operation is key to unlocking sustainable progress.

In a recent meeting of the Peacebuilding Commission, participants recognised UNOWAS’ leadership role for UN system co-operation and strategies in the region.

We trust UNOWAS to enhance regional and sub-regional partnerships, addressing the cross-border and cross-cutting threats to peace and security.

Lastly President,
Let me end with an appeal: that we ensure UNOWAS continues to get the adequate support, and resources, that its important functions dictate.