Urging Joint Action for Tackling Lake Chad Basin Crisis, Deputy Secretary-General Calls on Partners at High-Level Event to Make It an Example of New Approach

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks to the high-level event on the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, “A turning point?”, in New York, today:

Thank you for being here today to sound the alarm for millions of people caught up in hunger, conflict and horrific human rights abuses in the Lake Chad Basin. This is one of the worst crises in today’s troubled world. Still regrettably, it has struggled for the world’s attention. This high-level event is a sign that we want to focus attention on the Lake Chad Basin.

Across the Lake Chad Basin, over 9 million people urgently need humanitarian aid and 6.3 million lack sufficient nutrition. Civilians have been killed, homes have been torched, possessions looted, livelihoods destroyed. Tens of thousands of people in north-eastern Nigeria are living in famine conditions.

The crimes taking place in the Lake Chad Basin are tearing the social fabric in ways that could take generations to repair unless we get active now. There are so many terrible situations I could point to, but I will focus on just one that we all know.

The abduction of more than 200 girls from Chibok in Nigeria more than two years ago is a horrific example of the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terrorism. I call for the immediate release of all those abducted. And I call for support and care of returning women and girls, who may suffer stigma and isolation.

President [Muhammadu] Buhari, I want to tell you that we have noted your request for United Nations assistance to negotiate the release of the Chibok girls. We are actively looking into it and are in contact with the Special Representative [Mohammed Ibn] Chambas to advise on how we can be helpful.

Even in this troubled situation, there are signs of hope. We are closer to stemming the violence across the region, thanks to the concerted efforts of the Governments of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, and of the Multinational Joint Task Force. I urge the affected countries to ensure that all counter-terrorism operations are conducted with full respect for international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.

I welcome the agreement of the four Governments in the Abuja Action Statement on measures to protect civilians and strengthen humanitarian support for 2.6 million displaced people. The international community must support these efforts.

In the longer term, Governments and their partners must do more to address the root causes of this violence, as the basis for lasting peace. Sustainable development based on good governance and inclusive institutions is vital.

Even before the present situation, this region was one of the poorest in the world, with people in desperate need due to population growth, climate change and lack of investment. Boko Haram’s murderous campaign has now brought the economy of the entire region to a standstill. Farmers, fishermen, cattle herders and traders face economic ruin as borders are closed and as they can no longer trade their goods. Young people are trapped in a vicious cycle as they lose access to education and jobs, putting them at greater risk of alienation and radicalization, indeed a global phenomenon.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises to leave no one behind, by putting the most vulnerable at the heart of development efforts. The people of this region expect the international community to fulfil these pledges and deliver humanitarian and development programmes to strengthen resilience and help communities cope with further shocks. Humanitarian agencies are mobilizing and scaling up. But, humanitarian action is seriously underfunded. Early recovery and development investment is badly lacking.

Today, the four humanitarian country teams called for $542 million for lifesaving humanitarian aid for the next three months. This revised amount is more than the original projected total for the year. I call on donors and partners to rally behind this plan, which promises new hope for the desperate people of the Lake Chad Basin. And let this meeting be a signal to everyone that we must do our best to put the people of the Lake Chad Basin on our agenda.

The urgent needs are great. But, this is not only a humanitarian crisis. It is one where humanitarian and development actors must work together. While providing lifesaving assistance and countering violent extremism, we also need to address the underlying causes of the situation and the long-term development needs.

So, in closing, I therefore call on humanitarian and development partners to make the Lake Chad Basin an example of a new way of working together. We must coordinate across mandates and break down silos, in support of national Governments. This will require development institutions to strengthen basic services and build resilience in areas affected by Boko Haram violence, while humanitarian assistance is still being provided.

We must not let Lake Chad become the “forgotten crisis”. We must work together to place the people who so desperately need our help at the heart of our efforts. Only in this way will we deliver meaningful change and live up to our promise to leave no one behind. Let us make today the turning point.

Thank you.

Source: United Nations.