Thank you Mr. President. Like others, we would like to congratulate you on your inauguration this month and congratulate Albania on its excellent leadership of the Council in June.
We welcome the Special Representative back to the Chamber and thank him for his very useful information. We also welcome the presence of the Chairperson of the Peacebuilding Commission and thank Ms Magagi for her briefing.
Mr. President, as we have heard, there have been some positive developments since our last meeting. Peaceful elections in Gambia and Senegal are good examples of progress in West African democracy.
We remain very concerned about the political situation in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. Although recent progress on electoral schedules in Mali and Burkina Faso is encouraging. Sustained progress in holding credible elections and a return to constitutional order is vital.
The UK urges UNOWAS to continue to focus on democratic electoral processes across the region in close coordination with ECOWAS and the AU. We also welcome the emphasis we heard today on increasing the participation of women in these processes.
Mr. President, today’s briefing also shows that the security situation in the region remains unstable. Progress in the Gulf of Guinea is welcome, but the UK remains concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria, the central Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and ongoing conflict, including involving extremist groups. The presence of mercenary groups, including “Wagner”, in the region is a dangerous, destabilizing factor.
We encourage UNOWAS to focus on practical steps that the UN can take in a coordinated manner to address the root causes of the conflict, including through the implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, as the Special Representative said.
The UK, for its part, is committed to working with Nigeria in response to our security and defense partnership, and to supporting long-term stability in Mali and the wider Sahel, including through our contribution to MINUSMA. Like others, I would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest condolences for the deadly attack on Egyptian peacekeepers last week.
Mr. President, I also want to focus today on the humanitarian situation, given the disturbing developments we have heard.
We are particularly concerned about the food security situation, especially where humanitarian access is limited and where the effects of the global food crisis and climate change complicate the situation.
The UK is committed to improving the humanitarian situation, including by providing more than $200 million in development aid to the Sahel between 2019 and 2021.
The UK encourages all parties to continue to work with UNOWAS at national and regional levels to facilitate humanitarian access. We hope that the SRSG will be able to use its role of good offices to work with all parties to the conflict and the wider UN system to ensure safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors.
Finally, Mr. President, we are concerned about the difficult human rights situation described in the Secretary-General’s latest report. We call on UNOWAS to continue to work with States to ensure accountability and greater compliance with international human rights standards.