General Assembly Security Council

UNSC briefing, followed by consultations, (VTC) on United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS)
[Monday, 11 January 2021; 1000 hrs]
Statement by Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti,

Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations

Thank you, Mr. President.

            At the outset, let me begin by thanking Special Representative Mr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas for his briefing on the latest report of the Secretary General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and the implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel. His personal commitment and efforts to help countries in West Africa deserve our appreciation.

  1. I once again convey our deepest condolences for the dastardly terrorist attack in Niger which we strongly condemn. We stand in solidarity with the Government and people of Niger in the fight against terrorism.
  1. Presidential elections held in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Niger have further consolidated democracy in West Africa. Although these elections were mired in political tensions, violence and electoral disputes, stakeholders took recourse to legal means for resolving these disputes, which is an encouraging sign of growing confidence and respect for constitutional bodies.
  1. The joint regional efforts involving the ECOWAS and the AU, ably supported by the UNOWAS, have had a positive impact on the election process. The increasing participation of women in the government and decision-making processes in many West African countries is another positive development. We also join others in appreciating the role played by the United Nations Integrated Peace Building Office in Guinea Bissau (UNIOGBIS), which has now completed its mandate, in bringing peace and stability in Guinea Bissau.

  2. India welcomes the positive developments and congratulates the people and leadership of these countries for reaffirming their faith in democracy, and for their commitment to sustainable peace and development. As the world’s largest democracy, we are convinced that effective and strong governance structures will help stabilize peace, safeguard fundamental rights, protect rule of law and make governance more representative, transparent, responsive and human-centric.

Mr. President,

  1. Before we address the situation in Mali, I express our deep condolences over the deaths of French soldiers involved in Operation Barkhane in Mali earlier this month.
  1. We acknowledge the role of ECOWAS in facilitating the swift civilian-led transition in Mali and fully support Mali’s transitional government. The quest for sustainable peace in Mali requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach. The last eight years have exposed the limitations of over dependence on military solutions to redress the problem of violence in Mali and in the wider Sahel region.
  1. We believe that full implementation of the 2015 Algiers Accord, political and administrative reforms, including the decentralization of powers for adequate political participation of marginalized sections of the society, swift Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and electoral reforms are fundamental for restoration of peace and stability in Mali.
  1. It is indeed laudable how countries in West Africa have effectively managed the Covid-19 pandemic. As pointed by the Secretary General in his report, ECOWAS, governments, national stakeholders and the people of West Africa and the Sahel deserve our commendation for their efforts to tackle the pandemic effectively. However, the impact of economic downturn due to the pandemic has been severe and, therefore, the countries of the region need international support to cope with the crisis.

Mr. President,

  1. The security situation in the Sahel and Lake Chad region remains a matter of serious concern. Terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime have continued unabated. The terror attacks in Burkina Faso, particularly in regions bordering Mali and Niger, have again underscored the urgent need to intensify efforts to combat terrorism, which is spilling over into other countries and regions.
  1. The activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria and Lake Chad have not subsided either. The recent terror attacks by the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP) are more brutal than those carried out by Boko Haram. ISWAP, supported by elements in West Asia and North Africa, is emerging as a radicalized and brutal terrorist entity, posing a serious threat to peace and stability in the region.
  1. I would like to emphasize the need to ensure an integrated approach towards the region, because many of their problems are regional in nature, thus requiring an integrated and multi-country approach. For example, the problem of the drying up of Lake Chad, which adjoins four different countries (Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon), has caused grave socio-economic problems and also spurred radicalization and terrorism.
  1. We, therefore, need closer coordination in counter-terrorism cooperation in the region and its periphery, to counter the growth of terrorist entities effectively. The coordinating role of UNOWAS, its support to national governments and its partnership with G5 Sahel and ECOWAS will be critical.

  2. We strongly condemn the terrorist attacks on civilians as well as national, regional and international security forces in the region and support a strong military response. The Governments of the region have shown tremendous resolve to take on terrorist groups. We commend the efforts of regional counterterrorism initiatives such as G-5 Sahel Joint Force, and Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), which is a model that illustrates the ownership taken by countries of the region for their collective security. The Council and international community need to actively support these initiatives.
  1. On the piracy front, it is matter of concern that the Gulf of Guinea remains a piracy hotspot with 17 incidents having occurred during the last six months. Several Indian sailors have also been victims of piracy and kidnappings. There is an urgent need to increase surveillance to ensure maritime security in the area, through increased international collaboration.
  1. While terrorism and piracy need to be effectively and decisively dealt with, international community also needs to develop a coherent, coordinated and cooperative approach to deal with the worrisome humanitarian situation in the Sahel.

Mr. President,

  1. India has been steadfast in extending support to the countries of the region in their efforts to bring back peace, stability and normalcy.
  1. In the Gulf of Guinea, India is engaged in combating piracy and ensuring maritime security and safe navigation. India became a full-fledged member of G7 Group of Friends of the Gulf of Guinea (G7++FoGG) in 2020.
  1. To tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, India has been extending support to governments in the region, including by providing essential medicines to 12 countries in West Africa. India is also participating in the G-20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) to provide debt relief that includes countries in the region as well.
  1. India has, so far, provided soft loans amounting to US $ 3.3 billion for projects in agriculture, irrigation, water supply, energy, solar and health sectors. Under the ambit of the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, we are also providing US $ 9 million for livelihood projects in 9 West African countries.

  2. India has a robust security partnership with countries in the region. We have also commenced counter-terrorism training in the region.  Under our Defence ITEC training program, we are currently providing about 250 training slots to countries in the region. We remain committed to support countries in the region through capacity building and strengthening of democratic institutions.
  3. In conclusion, Mr. President, I would like to re-iterate India’s support to the activities of UNOWAS, its collaboration with sub-regional organizations in achieving political stability, lasting peace and sustainable development of the West Africa and Sahel region.

Thank you.