National Statement by Sweden on the Situation in the Lake Chad Basin Region

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National Statement by Sweden on the Situation in the Lake Chad Basin Region, Thursday, 12 January 2017, New York.

Yesterday, during our open debate on Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace, my minister, Margot Wallström, said that “Prevention requires addressing the root causes of conflict and instability before they reach the front pages or this Council’s agenda. The subject of today’s briefing, the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin Region, is a vivid example of the consequences a failure to act early in response to fragility and underdevelopment.

The conflict in the Lake Chad Basin Region is complex and multifaceted. On the surface, the conflict and violence that is leading to immense human suffering and humanitarian needs are the result of an insurgency by Boko Haram, which indiscriminately targets civilians, even attacking them in the places where they have fled to find shelter and safety. However, the root causes run deeper. They include: a lack of investment in the region by central governments, leading to vulnerability and poverty; the increasing negative impacts of a changing climate on farming and livelihoods; and the challenges presented by a growing population of young people with little hope for their futures.

The result is a massive humanitarian crisis, with over 10 million people – some of the most vulnerable in the world – in need of humanitarian assistance. Over seven million people are food insecure, with famine suspected to have occurred in some regions last year. This has led to as many as over 500,000 children suffering from malnutrition – which, if not addressed, will further diminish their prospects for the future. Boko Haram violence has undermined protection, as well as access to food, water and shelter, causing massive displacement and disrupting lives and livelihoods. Inaccessible areas where needs are as yet unknown remain. Psychosocial support needs to be given to both IDPs and refugees and host communities. The needs of children must be at the centre of humanitarian response.

Sweden appreciates the work of the OCHA and its humanitarian partners in response to the crises. The humanitarian community continues to work in desperate conditions, including under an ongoing threat of suicide bombings and attacks on those they are trying to support. It is telling that such attacks often go largely unnoticed. Sweden calls on all actors to respect the human rights of civilians, including of women and children.

Sweden welcomes the recent efforts by countries in the region to respond to the crises. It also commends regional efforts, and encourages further efforts in this regard.

The multifaceted nature of this crisis requires an integrated and comprehensive response. Working with national governments and regional organisations, the United Nations should enhance system wide analysis tools, in order to better understand, and respond, to the root causes of instability in the region. Particular attention should be given to reconstruction, including in the agricultural sector, in order to create conditions for return of displaced populations and to build resilience to future crises. The voices of women are critical to rebuilding livelihoods and stability and should inform strategies to sustain peace.

In responding to the crises, Sweden sees two immediate priorities:

Firstly, we must step up humanitarian assistance in 2017. A planned conference in Oslo on 24 February presents an opportunity to further mobilise support.

Secondly, early recovery is at the core of generating self-sustaining, nationally owned, resilient processes to ensure speedy return to longer term development. For this reason, short-term humanitarian relief needs to be better linked with longer-term development efforts.

Thank you