Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Anna Evstigneeva at the VTC of UNSC members on the activity of UNOWAS
We thank Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel Mohamed Ibn Chambas for the briefing.
We share the concerns expressed by Mr. Chambas regarding challenges that exist for many countries of West Africa and especially the Sahel. This region is literally “encircled” by expanding terrorist activity, inter-ethnic and inter-communal conflicts, as well as organized crime. Throughout the year 2020, we received tragic reports about heinous terrorist attacks killing people. Unfortunately, the beginning of this year was no different – attacks by militants resulted in the death of civilians and French military servicemen in Mali. We deeply sympathize with the peoples of these countries and express our support for all those who are carrying out the complicated task of combatting terrorism in the region.
Coronavirus pandemic became another dangerous factor affecting security and stability in West Africa. It hits all countries indiscriminately – both the strong and the most vulnerable ones. It causes blackouts in the functioning of social services and overburdens the work of schools and healthcare institutions. This is beneficial only for those interested in further destabilization of the region – terrorists and other subversives. We are glad to hear that many West African states were able to contain the spread of the epidemic, yet it is obvious that economic development will not remain unaffected by the coronavirus.
Political life in the region shows that even amidst pandemic-prompted restrictions African states and public institutions – with few exceptions –are generally coping with the tasks at hand. In this regard, we expect that parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in many West African countries for the first half of 2021, will convene in democratic environment, meet the requirements of transparency, legitimacy and legal order, and fully respect national sovereignty of states. Any external interference in these processes must be excluded.
UNOWAS is facing ambitious and complicated tasks: foster resolution of local crises, take part in political mediation, help strengthen state institutions, add to fulfilling the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, and coordinate other UN presences on the ground.
Effectiveness of the Office directly depends on how well it coordinates with such regional organizations as the African Union, ECOWAS, G5 Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin Commission. On some issues, like countering piracy and demarcation of border between Nigeria and Cameroon, there is great demand for cooperation between UNOWAS and its southern “sibling” – UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA).
After closure of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), UNOWAS has assumed responsibility for monitoring developments in this country. In these circumstances, it appears absurd to be preserving UNSC sanctions against Guinea-Bissau, as those are measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, that are only envisaged for situations characterized by threats to international peace and security. We call to start dismantling those measures gradually.
Russia welcomes your personal commitment and efforts you take to help countries of West Africa, Sahel, and Lake Chad Basin overcome the current difficulties. It raises no doubt that the results of UNOWAS work deserve the highest assessments.