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Opening Statement by Mr. Stephen Tull,
UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator, and UNDP Resident Representative in Chad
Conference on Lake Chad Stabilization, DDR
April 10, 2018
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, all protocols observed
Thank you for coming together this week here in N’Djamena, as we formulate a common perspective on one of the four key components of a stabilization strategy for the Lake Chad Basin.
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome representatives from the four affected countries: Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Your leadership will be central to achieving results, and this conference is meant to help you develop a common understanding of best practices and move closer to a regional approach. I would also like to acknowledge the continuing leadership of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the African Union in coordinating our support to the member states.
In my capacity as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Chad, and on behalf of my colleagues in the neighboring countries and throughout the UN system, I reaffirm that the UN will continue our work side by side with all of you to meet the challenges around the Lake. We are focused on delivering urgent assistance to those in need, and to promoting development, peace, and security. The Lake Chad Basin presents the United Nations with the full range of challenges that inspired the Secretary-General’s program of reforms. It also holds great opportunity for progress against the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and the African Agenda 2063.
Today’s gathering, as you know, is a follow up to the conference in November 2017 that launched a process to write a stabilization strategy for the Lake region. The topic of focus this week is the Screening, Prosecution, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Boko Haram associated persons in the Lake Chad Basin Countries. This covers many issues that will enable normalization of life for the people of the Lake. It is part of the puzzle but by no means the whole picture. We must also advance our dialogue, and action, on issues of ending forced displacement, improving the rule of law and resilience, and revitalizing the local economy.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The growth of violent extremism in Africa presents an imminent threat to the search for greater prosperity. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Lake Chad Basin, with 17 million inhabitants adversely affected by the Boko Haram crisis. They have suffered the loss of over 27,000 lives and the displacement of over 2.4 million people internally or across international borders. 7 million people continue to struggle for the minimum food requirements, and those public services and trade that existed before the conflict have been thoroughly disrupted.
The poor, as always, bear the brunt of the violence. Boko Haram targets public spaces, such as markets, and terrorizes entire villages. Women and children have been disproportionately affected.
Besides the insurgency of Boko Haram, multiple stressors that converge around the Lake Chad area include unemployment, competition over increasingly depleting resources, and poverty. These are issues that need to be addressed to address the root causes of conflict and threats to peace and stability in the region.
The country teams working on humanitarian and development assistance at Lake Chad have embraced the New Way of Working since 2016, specifically with the intent to address these root causes. We are pleased also that this has become the common language with the host governments and important regional partners, such as the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the African Union, and ECOWAS. Significantly, the first Stabilization Conference in November agreed that stabilization is not principally a matter of military operations, but rather is more about a harmonized approach with humanitarian and development partners. The Lake Chad Basin communities need a systematic and integrated stabilization strategy to increase resilience, restore essential services, resettle the displaced, and strengthen the rule of law.
This week, we are looking at human rights-compliant disarmament, demobilization, de-radicalization, rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives. It is hoped that we will all find a common terminology, develop common procedures and processes, and establish and improve mechanisms for case management of those associated with Boko Haram. The conclusions of this meeting will feed into the wider stabilization strategy.
This is not Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration or “D-D-R” business as usual. The pre-conditions underpinning successful DDR are not in place: there is no peace agreement nor agreed cease fire among the parties to the conflict. Yet the UN Security Council and regional organizations continue to mandate DDR in resolutions and strategies to indicate that those associated with Boko Haram must be encouraged to transition into civilian life.
This Conference therefore must look for pragmatic solutions to challenges in Screening, Prosecution, Rehabilitation and Reintegration. And ideally the member states will move toward adopting a common strategic framework.
But before closing my remarks, let me emphasize a key point. While all the element of DDR are important, it is reintegration of the ex-combattants and ex-associates of Boko Haram that matters most. Reintegration is the light at the end of the tunnel that should guide the rest of the processes. Ultimately, after careful screening, what matters to the people in terms of normalizing life and stabilizing the affected communities is that individuals and families are given real opportunities to reintegrate into communities, and into a civilian and legal lifestyle. This is needed to generate the pull factor away from Boko Haram. And it is also a necessary step for stabilization, and to open the hope of prosperity.