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UN, AU, ECOWAS seek joint action against insecurity, poverty in Sahel region

The United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on Tuesday, called for a joint and greater action against insecurity, poverty and others challenges confronting the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin with the view to bringing a lasting solution in the West African region.

They made the position known at the High-Level Meeting of Regional Organisations convened by the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja.

The Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr Ibn Chambas, said efforts were ongoing to tackle the threats to stability and development in the region.

He decried the level of violence relating to pastoralism, noting that it had increased in frequency and geographic scope.

Chambas, who restated the UN’s commitment to supporting Nigeria and other West African countries in tackling the threat of terrorism, said the need for collaboration cannot be overemphasised.

According to him, this year has also shown the continuous impact of climate change and food security on the Sahel population.

He said socio-economic inequalities, including the lack of access to basic rights, services and economic opportunities, violence, and challenges to the role and participation of women, continue to hamper progress and development in the region.

“In view of these challenges for several years, we have mobilised and launched responses, each on our own; gaps in coordination have been raised during meetings of Ministerial Platform since 2014.

“Nonetheless, we should acknowledge valuable lessons learned from various initiatives designed to assist the region and successes achieved; it is relevant to reaffirm our common objectives concerning our difficulties,” he said.

On his part, Representative of the AU for Mali and the Sahel, Pierre Buyoya, stated that all hands must be on deck to combat the threats.

He also called for a regional strategy to better tackle the problems in the region.

He, however, urged the media and civil society organisations to collaborate with the commission in terms of awareness creation on the fight against terrorism, to achieve the desired target.

“There should be advocacy policy to help ease resource mobilisation from international partners, finance programmes and projects by strategies to meet the needs of the people.

“It is more than necessary for stakeholders to be coordinated and to collaborate efforts, to be able to achieve the desired goals,” Buyoya said.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Brou, who restated its commitment to tackling security situation on the region, especially the Sahel part, called for a collaborative effort.

Brou, who was represented by the Commissioner for Political Affair, Peace and Security in the commission, General Abdullah Boureima, expressed worry that the security situation in the region had become fragile and, therefore, the need for renewed efforts.

His words: “We note the increasing violence in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria, violent and terrorist activities, conflicts take a toll on the population and on the future generation.

“The meeting has become important for us to promote cooperation on actions that will benefit people in the Sahel region.

“With a population of more than 350 million the Sahel covers 16.6 million km; ECOWAS is at the heart of the Sahel because it is made up of a large number of Sahelian countries.

“On the other hand, in one way or the other, Sahelian issues directly or indirectly affect all ECOWAS countries.

“The Sahel region faces many challenges such as drought, poverty, malnutrition and illicit trafficking.”

According to him, the combination of these socio-economic problems causes instability, seriously threatening peace and security in both Sahelian and non-Sahelian-states.

“Sahelian issues directly or indirectly affect all ECOWAS; this meeting provides an additional opportunity for us to enhance synergy around issues of common interest to ECOWAS, regional and international organisations,” Brou said.