Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa, delivered the third annual Kofi Annan/Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture. The annual lecture, held this year on April 21 and organised jointly with the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), honours both Secretaries-General for their unflinching support to ensuring global justice, peace and respect for human rights.
Over the past decade, West Africa has gained considerable ground in consolidating peace and democratic governance after having been ravaged by conflicts, widespread human rights violations, and political instability. “These hard-won gains have generally brought stability to the region and enabled positive economic growth and development with the potential to reverse the trend of widespread poverty, youth unemployment, and to promote sustainable livelihoods, good governance and democratic practice,” said Dr Chambas in his speech.
While Dr Chambas noted the great strides that have taken place in the region, he tempered his remarks by highlighting the devastation that has occurred as a result of the Ebola outbreak. Over the past year, three countries in the region have been ravaged by the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease. This unprecedented public health disaster, which prompted the establishment of a first-ever UN emergency health mission – UNMEER – has isolated Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea in the region and left their economies and communities badly affected.
“Post-Ebola reconstruction is very urgent. The effected countries have been set back by decades by the Ebola crisis and these countries need urgent help by a forceful, collective effort by the international community to be able to recover quickly,” said Dr Chambas.
Other issues brought forward in his speech included the instability in the Gulf of Guinea and the importance of maritime stability. Dr Chambas also spoke about the many elections taking place in the region in 2015 and 2016 and the importance of inclusive dialogue on political participation and transparent electoral processes: “I am happy to say that West Africa now counts very successful elections that make us to hope for a better democratic future. Ghana, Sierra Leone, Benin, Cape Verde, Senegal have all been cited as success stories in free, fair and transparent democratic elections, with power alternating from one party to another. Not least the recent election in Nigeria should set a very positive example.”
Dr Chambas also noted the brutal on-going conflict with Boko Haram, now in it’s fifth year and which has had a devastating impact on the lives of civilians — thousands of which have been murdered or displaced inside and outside of Nigeria, and the spread of Boko Haram in neighbouring countries.
Dr Chambas concluded by noting that peace and security are attained through collective efforts. Even if the responsibility for global peace and security lies with the United Nations, it is the government’s role to protect its citizens. Africa took a major step with the adoption of the AU Constitutive Act in 2000, which provides a normative framework for an intervention of the continental body in cases of grave violations of human rights, for instance, thus bridging the gap between “non-interference” and “non-indifference”.
“We must do more to engage with the living voices in these societies and help build and improve civil society-driven conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms throughout the region,” said Dr Chambas.
The lecture prepared the stage for the regional consultation for the Review of UN’s Peacebuilding Architecture that followed the lecture.
The Growing Challenges of Peace and Security in Africa: A West African Perspective Speech delivered on the occasion of the 2015 Kofi Annan/Dag Hammarskjöld Annual Lecture by Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA)