#NovaScotiaMassShooting; #Canada #PublicInquiry
Ottawa, Jul 29 (Canadian-Media): A full public inquiry into the April 18 mass shooting in the province of Nova Scotia, worst mass shooting in Canadian history, has been ordered by the Canadian government, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a statement.
Shooting. Image credit: Pixaby
A 51-year old man dressed as police went on a shooting spree in Nova Scotia which resulted in the death of 22 people, burning of houses and many animals being shot. Police have not yet identified a motive for the attacks.
"The Government of Canada is now proceeding with a full Public Inquiry, under the authority of the Inquiries Act… into the tragedy that occurred on April 18th and 19th," Blair said on Tuesday.
It was initially announced by the federal government of Canada and the Nova Scotia provincial government to conduct a joint review of the tragedy in Nova Scotia, but public backlash prompted the government to proceed with a public inquiry.
Testimony and documented evidence requisite to the incident would be provided to the panel by the witnesses.
A public inquiry has been pushed by allegations of an attempted coverup of the worst mass shooting in Canadian history.
A Maclean’s magazine report in June suggested that the mass killing has all the hallmarks of a police undercover operation.
The conflicting questions about how the assailant, Gabriel Wortman, was able to get an authentic police uniform and maintained a realistic mock squad car used to carry out the murders.
The confusing details around a police shooting at a Nova Scotia fire hall, that was being used as a shelter for those who had been evacuated from the area of the first crime scene.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers' opening fire on the hall as the manhunt for Wortman was under way has also been described by the witnesses.
The inquiry panel will be led by Michael MacDonald, former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan and former Fredericton, New Brunswick Police Chief Leanne Fitch, who formed the original review commission.
#Nigeria; #UN; #Peace&Security; #ChildrenAbuse; #CJTF
Nigeria/UN, Jul 26 (Canadian-Media): Girls and boys in northeast Nigeria are continuing to endure brutal abuse at the hands of Boko Haram, and are also being deeply affected by military operations taking place to counter the terrorist group, despite noteworthy efforts, according the UN chief’s latest report on children and armed conflict.
15 year-old Dada and her daughter Hussaina at home in a host community shelter in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. Dada was 12 years old when Boko Haram took her and an older sister. Image credit: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII
“The children of Nigeria and neighboring countries continued to endure horrendous violations by Boko Haram”, said Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, in a statement on Thursday, adding that the group’s expansion across the Lake Chad Basin region is “a serious concern” for Secretary-General António Guterres.
Between January 2017 and December 2019, the report described 5,741 grave violations against children in Nigeria.
Moreover, incidents in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger were also reflected in the spillover of Boko Haram’s activities beyond Nigeria’s borders.
In September 2017, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) group, that supports Nigerian forces locally against Boko Haram, signed an Action Plan with the UN to end and prevent violations. Prior to that, the group had recruited more than 2,000 children.
Meanwhile, children detained for their association with Boko Haram remain a grave concern – although actual numbers have proved difficult to assess because the UN was not granted access to facilities that housed the minors, says the report.
“Children formerly associated should not be further penalized through detention and I call on the Government of Nigeria to expedite the release of children from detention and prioritize their reintegration into society”, asserted Ms. Gamba.
“I also urge the Government to review and adopt the protocol for the handover of children associated with armed groups to civilian child protection actors”, she said.
The vast majority of the 1,433 UN-verified child casualties were attributed to Boko Haram, with suicide attacks the leading cause, according to the report.
And while over 200 children were affected by incidents of sexual violence, fear of stigma, retaliation, lack of accountability for perpetrators and lack of resources for survivors, have rendered those crimes vastly underreported.
At the same time, denying humanitarian access to children has affected the delivery of aid to thousands of minors.
The report also detailed that some of the most atrocious incidents by Boko Haram involved the abduction and execution of humanitarian workers.
A signed deal
The 2017 Action plan marked a turning point in the CJTF’s treatment of children.
“Progress has been consistent, and no new cases of recruitment and use have been verified” since the signing, according to the UN official, who urged the group to fully implement the plan and to “facilitate the disassociation of any remaining children”.
Ms. Gamba also stressed the need to provide a regional African response to the situation.
#Israel; #Palestine; #Breakdown; #Covid19; #MiddleEastPeaceProcess
Geneva/UN, Jul 21 (Canadian-Media): Cooperation between Israelis and the Palestinians at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic is breaking down, putting human lives at risk as the economy goes into meltdown and the threat of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank lingers, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process says.
Nickolay Mladenov, briefing the Security Council on Tuesday, said that a dramatic increase in novel coronavirus cases in both the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Israel is having a big impact on the situation on the ground.
Gaza prevention efforts faltering
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have both put restrictions on movement back into place, but the ability to cope with a big surge in cases in the West Bank - and to improve prevention efforts in Gaza – is being “significantly compounded” by the end of coordinated measures seen at the outset of the pandemic, he said.
In addition, the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept any clearance revenues transferred by Israel, is blocking the ability of Gaza inhabitants to travel outside for treatment and triggering delays in the delivery of humanitarian assistance, he added.
The UN is trying to help by engaging with all sides to ensure that humanitarian aid gets through, but there are limits to what it and others can do, he said, stressing that primary responsibility for people’s well-being still remains with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday put the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel at 49,481, with 403 fatalities. In the West Bank and Gaza, it reported 10,052 cases and 65 deaths.
Mr. Mladenov briefed the Council’s monthly debate on the Palestinian question via video-teleconference as several world leaders – including, in a recent op-ed in an Israeli newspaper, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson - echoed Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abandon plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
The Special Coordinator also reiterated the UN chief’s call to members of the Middle East Quartet, Arab countries, and the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to re-engage urgently.
“We need to restart diplomacy”, he said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing economic crisis, which has sent Israeli unemployment soaring past 20 per cent, are a chance to move forward along the path to a negotiated two-State solution in line with UN resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law.
“The ferocity of the COVID-19 virus and its devastating human and economic toll demand extraordinary measures (that) rise above politics-as-usual,” he said.
“Immediate efforts to curb the virus and to mitigate its impact must be prioritized. Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a duty to protect the lives and livelihoods of their populations.”
#UN; Iraq; #ReligiousLeaders; #ISIL; #UNITAD; #Crime
Geneva/UN, Jul 14 (Canadian-Media): Religious leaders from communities across Iraq called for greater “healing and reconciliation” during a UN-organized event on Thursday, reaffirming their commitment to support survivors of crimes perpetrated by ISIL terrorist fighters.
A Yazidi Kurd from Sinjar who was abducted by ISIL, pictured here in Mamilyan Camp for internally displaced persons in Akre, Iraq. Image credit: Giles Clarke/ Getty Images Reportage
Key signatories of a landmark Interfaith Statement on the Victims and Survivors of ISIL – representing Islam, the Christian church and other faiths – joined the discussion online, held under the auspices of the UN Special Adviser who also heads up the Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh / ISIL (UNITAD) and co-hosted by the international coalition, Religions for Peace, which consists of 90 national and six regional Interreligious Councils.
The event was made possible by the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, headed up by Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser, Adama Dieng.
Mr Dieng said it was and honour to be accompanied by religious representatives "whose tireless work, days after day, is making a difference in the lives of all Iraqis. Their leading efforts for justice, peace and reconciliation constitutes an example for all society to follow."
Many still vulnerable: Dieng
He noted that many of the challenges for peace in Iraq did not start with the emergence of ISIL nor have they ended with its military defeat: "Many communities still feel vulnerable and consider that not enough is being done to protect not only their linguistic, religious or cultural heritage, but their very physical integrity. Addressing long-term grievances is one the most effective ways of prioritizing prevention of human rights violations, including atrocity crimes."
He noted that Iraqi society has experienced "the tremendous cost of not addressing long-term grievances. It must therefore work to build and strengthen an inclusive society, where diversity is not perceived as a flaw but as an asset.
The prevention of genocide chief said he was convinced that Thursday's Interfaith Statement on Victims and Survivors of ISIL constitutes "an essential step in this direction, in line with the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes. I am proud to support it and commit my Office’s assistance in ensuring its full implementation."
The participants condemned ISIL’s ideologically-driven acts of terror as being “contrary to the core principles of our religious faiths as well as the fundamental values of humanity”.
"What can religion be if not for peace?", UNITAD Head, Karim Asad Ahmad Khan QC said to the meeting.
Attacks ‘far from over’
The UNITAD chief, expressed gratitude to Iraq religious leaders for their courage “in these difficult times” as they together support survivors and victims of ISIL.
Stressing that as ISIL attacks are “far from over” across the world, he exhorted representatives of all religions to denounce the group's ideology as alien to religious values and those of all humanity.
According to Mr. Khan, the only way to respond to groups like ISIL, is for religious leaders to support each other and each other’s communities.
"Whenever people seek to weigh the worth of humans by their own belief, there should be alarm", flagged the Special Advisor, adding that everyone must "start to implement a zero tolerance to intolerance."
No religion spared
All religions across Iraq have been impacted by ISIL atrocities, the signatories said, as they underlined the importance of supporting survivors within their own communities.
“In showing ISIL crimes are divorced from the values of all faiths, Iraqi religious leaders have exposed crimes of ISIL”, upheld the UNITAD chief.
At the same time, the participants also noted that their brutality had prompted “acts of heroism” in which religious communities rose up in defence of those from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
The most vulnerable
In recognizing the “tremendous suffering” endured by victims of sexual and gender-based violence, the signatories underscored their commitment to ensuring that those individuals are “fully supported” and do not suffer from stigmatization.
And for the “innocent children of God” impacted by ISIL, they stressed that “whatever pain these children have suffered, they are blameless” and called on the terrorists to return every child they have abducted to their rightful families.
Justice will only be delivered for ISIL victims by ensuring that those who fought in its name, are held responsible for their actions, and that people forced to flee the violence, can return home safely.
To this end, they underscored their “strong collective support” for UNITAD’s work while stressed the importance of exposing ISIL’s offenses in a court of law.
“Investigating the cases of disappeared persons and those abducted” not only delivers justice for victims but also promotes “understanding of the severity and scale” of the violence and prevents “future revisionism”, maintained the signatories.
In closing, they highlighted their “common commitment” and “collective stamina” to promote “justice, tolerance, reconciliation and forgiveness” as the most effective way to combat ISIL’s crimes in Iraq.
This also serves as “a key step in preventing the re-emergence” of any similar terrorist ideology or groups, said the religious leaders.
#UN; #WAr; #Peace; #SexualViolence; #Dehumanize; #Destabilize
Geneva/UN, Jul 18: Canadian-Media: Sexual violence is used as a war tactic and a political tool to dehumanize, destabilize and forcibly displace populations across the globe, the UN’s expert on the issue told the Security Council on Friday, pressing countries to adopt a survivor-centred approach that ensures victims will not be forgotten.
“This is a crime that shreds the very fabric that binds communities together, leaving social cohesion and safety nets threadbare,” said Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Wartime sexual violence is a biological weapon, a psychological weapon, an expression of male dominance over women, she said, “a crime that sets back the cause of gender equality and the cause of peace.”
Updating the Council on the Secretary-General’s report, she said it documents almost 3,000 UN-verified cases committed over the course of a single year, the vast majority of them (89 per cent) targeting women and girls.
Accordingly, it emphasizes the imperative of a survivor-centred approach, she said, as articulated by the Council in resolution 2467 (2019), which requires tailored solutions that build resilience, restore voice and choice to survivors, and address the diverse experiences of all affected.
‘Countless’ stories shrouded in silence
“War does not speak with just one voice”, she cautioned, pointing to “countless” stories that are shrouded in silence and left off the historical record. Diverse life experiences must inform policy, operational and funding decisions. “If these decisions are not gender-based in their design, they will be gender-biased and exclusionary in their effect,” she assured.
Ms. Patten also drew attention to the problem of underreporting, which is often linked with fear of stigmatization and reprisals, lack of access to the justice system and harmful social norms around honour, shame and victim-blame.
She called for decisive action to empower survivors and those at risk, through enhanced resourcing and quality service-provision. Acting on reports and information received is also important for bringing parties into compliance with international norms. In addition, greater accountability would serve as a “critical pillar of prevention and deterrence”, ensuring that when parties fail to comply with their commitments, they are duly held to account.
Prevention is the best response, she said. But the Council has struggled to measure – or even define – progress on the prevention pillar of this agenda. “We must keep these crimes and their perpetrators in the spotlight of international scrutiny,” she insisted.
Jolie spotlights child survivors
Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on Sexual violence in conflict, broadly agreed. “Entrenched discrimination in society and the gendered impact of sexual violence demands that actions are taken for survivors.”
She acknowledged that resolution 2467 (2019) was the first to place survivors and their needs at the centre of all action. But words are promises.
“What counts, is if those promises are kept”, she said. Having met child survivors everywhere, she said there is no country, rich or poor, that should not take a hard look at its own laws, agencies, immediate reporting, treatment of survivors and social attitudes.
Services for Yazidis fall ‘far short’
She drew particular attention to the plight of Yazidi women and children in Iraq, who were abducted, enslaved and tortured by the thousands by ISIL terrorists in 2014. Many children were murdered. Nearly 2,000 returned and now suffer from post-traumatic stress. Many had witnessed the murder of their relatives and the rape of their mothers.
Yet, there are “very few” services available for Yazidi child survivors and children born of rape, she said. According to a new Amnesty International report, psychosocial services for Yazidi children fall “far short” of meeting their long-term specialist needs.
“I have heard this replicated in every conflict setting that I have visited for nearly 20 years with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)”, Ms. Jolie said, stressing that the lack of services flows from the international community’s failure to provide the funding or political will.
Sexual and gender-based violence is the most chronically under-funded sector of United Nations humanitarian appeals and receives less than 1 per cent of humanitarian assistance. “Think of how many lives could be saved if we simply doubled that percentage.”
She described today’s world as one where child survivors live with stigma, gaslighting and fear of retaliation at the hands of powerful perpetrators. More often than not, including in Syria and Myanmar, not a single perpetrator of alleged systematic conflict-related sexual violence has been held to account.
“These are all choices, choices of the Member States,” she said, pressing countries to “do the hard work” of supporting survivors, changing laws and attitudes, and bringing perpetrators to account.
#UN; #Qatar; #ICJ; #UAE; #ICAO; #InternationalAirSpaceDispute
Qatar/UN, Jul 14 (Canadian-Media): The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected an appeal, brought by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which called into question the authority of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO).
President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), H.E. Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf. Image credit: ICJ/Frank van Beek
The background to the case involves a package of sanctions brought against Qatar in 2017 by the four countries, including the closure of Qatar’s sole land border, with Saudi Arabia; blocking Qatari ships from docking at their ports; and an air blockade, preventing Qatari aircraft from entering their airspace.
The sanctions were imposed in retaliation for Qatar’s alleged support for groups that the plaintiff nations view as terrorist organizations, which, they say, violates agreements aimed at improving diplomatic relations in the region.
Qatar rejects the allegations, arguing that the air blockade goes against the 1944 Convention on Civil Aviation, the international agreement which led to the creation of ICAO, the UN’s international aviation agency.
Case goes to court
Qatar decided to fight the blockade by taking the case to the ICAO, but the plaintiff nations complained that only the ICJ has the authority to decide on the dispute, arguing that the case goes beyond solely civil aviation matters. However, on Tuesday, that complaint was not upheld by the ICJ judges, who ruled that the ICAO is competent to hear the case.
In a tweet, the State of Qatar welcomed the decision, and the country’s Minister of Transport and Communication, Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, reportedly expressed his confidence that the ICAO will find in Qatar’s favour, and rule that the air blockade is unlawful.
The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at The Hague responded with a tweet confirming that the country will now put its legal case to ICAO, supporting its right to close its airspace to Qatari aircraft, and the country’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Hissa Abdullah Al Otaiba, reportedly described the ICJ decision as “technical and limited to procedural issues and jurisdiction to address the dispute”, which has nothing to do with the merits of the case itself.
Now that jurisdiction has been decided, the ICAO is expected to deliver a final ruling on the air blockade next year.
#UN; #Peace&Security; #CentralAfrica; #MINUSCA; #Crime; #Punishment
Geneva/UN, Jul 13 (Canadian-Media): A UN peacekeeper from Rwanda was killed and two others were wounded in a deadly attack in the Central African Republic on Monday, UN reports said.
Peacekeepers serving the UN mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) patrol the country's capital city, Bangui. Image credit: UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina
The blue helmets from the UN mission in the country, MINUSCA, were in a convoy in Gedze, Nana-Mambéré prefecture, located in the northwest.
The UN Secretary-General has strongly condemned the attack, which was allegedly carried out by elements with the Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (3R) armed group.
António Guterres expressed his deepest condolences to the family of the victim, and to the people and Government of Rwanda, according to a statement issued by his Spokesperson.
“The Secretary-General recalls that attacks against United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law. He calls on the Central African Republic authorities to spare no effort in identifying the perpetrators of this attack so that they can be brought to justice swiftly”, it said.
“The Secretary-General reaffirms that the United Nations will continue to support national efforts to advance peace and stability in the Central African Republic, working closely with the country’s international partners.”
MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic, works to protect civilians and support transition processes.
The authorities and 14 armed groups, which included 3R, signed a Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in February 2019.
“This criminal attack constitutes a new violation of the peace agreement by the 3R & its leader Abass Sidiki”, the mission said on Twitter.
The head of UN Peacekeeping has also weighed in on the incident.
Writing on Twitter, Jean-Pierre Lacroix strongly condemned “this cowardly attack”, adding that “this crime must not go unpunished.”
#US; #ICE; #Chicago; CitizenAcademyForPublic; ERO;
Chicago (US), Jul 13 (Canadian-Media): Chicago’s first ERO Citizens Academy for public, scheduled to begin Sept. 15, has been offered by the United States (US) Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), US Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported.
ICE. Image credit: Twitter handle
Working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other federal, state and local agencies to ensure personal health and safety during the academy, ERO Chicago would issue personal protective equipment to the participants, and expected to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Modeled after other law enforcement academies, including ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and local police departments, ERO plans, through the academy, to directly engage and educate the public about its mission .
“The academy is a natural progression from the outreach work we have already been doing with our community,” said ERO Chicago Field Office Director Robert Guadian in a news release. “This is an opportunity for the community to get to know our officers, understand our mission, and see firsthand how the agency enforces the federal immigration laws enacted by Congress.”
This interactive program would be a six-day program, occurring weekly for six weeks, and would enable participants to hear directly from ERO officers and learn about ICE policies and procedures.
ICE is also enabled by the Citizens Academy to vail of the opportunity to hear from participants, understand their perspectives and debunk myths.
The curriculum will include, but is not limited to, classroom instruction, visiting an immigration detention center, learning more about the health care provided by ICE to those in its custody, and examining ICE’s role to ensure dignity, respect and due process of an immigration case from start to finish.
Participants from a variety of stakeholder backgrounds are bing invited by the ICE, including community groups, state and local elected leaders, Congressional staff, consular officials, and business and religious leaders.
Due to the limitation of space, participants must commit to complete the entire course and pass a background check.
Interested applicants Are asked to email CommunityRelations.Chicago@ice.dhs.gov to receive an application. Applications must be received by Thursday, July 30.
#UN; #MultilateralCooperation; #Terrorism; #UNOCT; #DigitalCooperation;
Geneva, Jul 10 (Canadian-Media): Although COVID-19 has tested “national resilience, international solidarity and multilateral cooperation”, we must not “pause our efforts” in the battle against terrorism, the UN counter-terrorism chief said on Friday.
Consequences of cyber terrorism span across borders. Image credit: UNODC
Although the pandemic has posed one of the greatest challenges since the UN’s founding 75 years ago, Vladimir Voronkov, head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) closed a week of events devoted online to countering the scourge, by echoing the Secretary-General in stating the “need to keep up the momentum” in countering the global threat of terrorism.
Setting out key conclusions of the discussions, the counter-terrorism chief spoke of the need to invest in strategic preparedness to build societies able to cope with global challenges, including terrorism.
The UN official also underscored the importance of strengthening multilateralism and international cooperation, calling the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact, “a dynamic platform” to enhance coordination in delivering UN technical assistance to Member States.
Pointing out that “all events underscored the need to fully respect human rights and the rule of law in the fight against terrorism”, he maintained that this was not just the UN’s fourth pillar, but integral to the entire UN global counter-terrorism strategy.
“Much more is needed to translate this into practice…to ensure that measures to counter terrorism do not shrink civic space or hinder humanitarian activities”, upheld the counter-terrorism chief.
To this end, he shared his plan for a regional high-level conference on human rights and counter-terrorism when the COVID-19 context allows.
The UNOCT chief stressed that the threats posed by bio and cyber terrorism have “consequences that span across borders”.
“Pandemics magnify these threats, putting additional pressure on emergency response and security structures, and increasing the risk of weaponization by non-State actors”, he highlighted, lauding the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, designed to help address this.
While protecting freedom of expression, the particpants emphasized the need to prevent terrorist misuse of social media and the Internet, further unleased by COVID-19 pandemic-fueled hate speech and xenophobia.
“These efforts must be underpinned by strong partnerships between governments, tech companies and civil society, and a strategic communications approach with credible voices and positive messages to counter terrorist narratives”, said the UN counter-terrorism chief.
Meanwhile, he relayed the “grave concerns” of participants regarding foreign terrorist fighters who remain at large, citing women and children with suspected links to UN-listed terrorist groups who are stranded in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
“I urge Member States to take swift action regarding their nationals to meet their international obligations and prevent this issue being used to radicalize future generations”, spelled out Mr. Voronkov.
He also flagged the importance of better understanding how “terrorists prey differently on women and men to incite and recruit, the range of roles women and men play in both terrorism and counter-terrorism, and the differentiated impact of terrorism and counter-terrorism on women and men, also in this pandemic environment”.
The UNOCT chef said that the week’s discussions would feed into the first Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism, scheduled for next year.
In closing, he underlined the need to remain vigilant and united; anticipate the evolving threat posed by terrorists; and adjust our responses to changes from the pandemic.
Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week drew over 1,000 participants with representatives from 125 Member States and over 150 from international and regional organizations, 200 from UN entities and 80 from civil society and the private sector.
#UN; #Africa; #UNpeace; #UNSecurity; #Violence; #Covid19; #ClimateChange; #UNOWAS
Africa/UN, Jul 09 (Canadian-Media): Intercommunal violence and persistent attacks by extremists, continue to undermine peace and security across West Africa, the UN’s top official in the region warned the Security Council on Thursday, calling for sustained engagement with all partners to urgently advance a holistic approach to peace.
A young boy in Ghana. Image credit: © World Bank/Curt Carnemark
Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), said that despite “intense and sustained” efforts by concerned countries, violent extremists continue to attack security forces and civilians alike, with children recruited into fighting in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.
Presenting his latest report, the UNOWAS chief described security conditions as “extremely volatile”. In Burkina Faso alone, as of June, 921,000 people have been forced to flee, representing a 92 per cent rise over 2019 figures.
In Mali, nearly 240,000 people are internally displaced, 54 per cent them women, while in Niger, 489,000 people were forced to flee. This includes internally displaced persons, Nigerian and Malian refugees. In Nigeria, 7.7 million people will need emergency assistance in 2020.
As national and multinational forces intensify counter-terrorism operations, some communities have organized volunteer groups and self-defence militias for protection. Human rights groups have raised concerns over alleged abuses by these militias, as well as by security and defence forces.
“The growing linkages between terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence cannot be overemphasized”, he said. “Terrorists continue to exploit latent ethnic animosities and the absence of the State in peripheral areas to advance their agenda.”
He urged the United Nations to remain committed to working with all partners, building national and institutional capacity, improving community resilience, and advocating for good governance, political inclusion, respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law.
COVID-19 and climate change
Mr. Chambas said COVID-19 is only amplifying these conflict drivers, with grave implications for peace and security. Its disproportionate effect on women and girls has placed them at increased risk of femicide and sexual violence.
Speaking to those vulnerabilities, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad, said COVID-19 is exacerbating the impact of climate change. People in her nomadic community depend on the environment to survive.
They used to follow the rainfall in the Central African Republic (CAR), but due to lockdowns brought on by the pandemic, they remain in their area – and cattle are dying. “When there is drought for cattle, there is food insecurity for the people,” she said.
Climate change in the Sahel has become “a nightmare” for millions. “Whether we have a lot of rain that floods crops, or drought, which shrinks resources, it ends in conflict among communities fighting for access to land or water,” she told the Council.
Lake Chad has shrunk by 90 per cent since 1960. Today, 40 million people now depend on these resources. “Let me tell you today: climate change is the reality of our community.” Across the region, people used to live in harmony. Today, they are killing each other. “Not for power – just for the water”.
Growing linkages between terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence cannot be overemphasized -- UNOWAS head
The role of rain is to feed people, she explained. Without it, families must find other solutions. The crisis is forcing men from her community to seek jobs in big towns. “They are not going there to be rich,” she said. “They are going there for their dignity.” The women left behind, who raise their children alone, are at risk of being enslaved by Boko Haram. “We do not have a supermarket where we can go buy food,” she insisted. There is only what nature provides from the rainfall.
‘This is not the future we want for people’Climate change is a major security issue in the Sahel. “A military gang cannot feed an empty stomach and a humanitarian response cannot build a sustainable future for a community,” she said. While it is important to have the military and the humanitarian response – the only tools currently available – they are not enough.
She urged the Council to envision the region 10 years down the road if its young people – 55 per cent of the population – have only bleak opportunities. “This is not the future we want for people.”
Rather, she called for a “green new deal” for the Sahel, which would promote its ecology and its nature-based solutions. People need direct access to finance and adaptation projects, she said, describing a “3D” mapping exercise she led which involved farmers, pastoralists, fishermen and intergenerational leaders who shared their expertise on stemming the effects of climate change.
“We have the solutions,” she said. “But they will not work if there is no support from you – and if climate change is not considered a major driver of conflict.”