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Statement on Countering Terrorism in West Africa and the Sahel

Statement by Representative of Slovenia to the UN Security Council Ambassador Samuel Žbogar at the Arria-formula meeting titled “Combating the Rise of Terrorism and Violent Extremism in West Africa and the Sahel”

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair,

I would also like to thank Sierra Leone for convening this timely Arria-formula meeting and today’s briefers for their insightful and comprehensive remarks.

As instability around the world shakes the international peace and security, economic, political, environmental and social shocks intensify in the West Africa and Sahel.

Regrettably, terrorist and violent extremist groups thrive and expand their influence in the situations of instability and insecurity. We need both international and regional efforts in carving the way ahead.

In this regard, I would like to emphasize the following points:

Firstly, Slovenia is deeply concerned by the complex humanitarian situation and suffering of the civilian population due to the rise of terrorism and violent extremism in the Sahel. Attacks by armed groups have led to significant rise in civilian casualties in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

They pushed a record high number of people – majority of them women and children – to leave their homes, rendering them vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and trafficking. We follow with great concern the enduring protection crisis, accompanying the worst food security projections in years.

Civilians living under siege find themselves in a blind spot. Humanitarian response is not reaching them. With the sanctions regime applicable to terrorist groups in the region, we consider the renewal of the humanitarian exemption established by the UNSC resolution 2664 essential.

Secondly, we are alarmed about the rise of grave violations against children. Attacks on schools and widespread insecurity around educational institutions has led a soaring number – over 10.000 schools – to close.

We fear this is leaving children even more vulnerable to risks of recruitment and use, and women and girls at risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Lest not forget, access to education bolsters resilience to violent extremism and helps build resilient and inclusive societies.

Thirdly, a full range of overlapping crises at play must be taken into consideration in the search for lasting solutions. Devastating impacts of climate change, regression of democracy, externally induced economic shocks, lack of counter-terrorism capabilities and feelings of persistent historic injustices all contribute to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism in the region.

When people‘s aspiration for human security and employment represents the primary driver of recruitment to the terrorist groups, a military response in isolation from other dimensions just cannot ensure long-term results.

Community resilience requires civilian-led efforts and whole-of-society approach, including strong partnership with civil society. One that will embrace full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women and youth; just management of natural resources; climate-resilient agriculture and infrastructure. One that will bolster gender-responsive job opportunities, reach at-risk youth and marginalised communities, and attribute special attention to the rural and cross-border regions. Make no mistake – also one that will be rooted in democratic, open and free society.

And this leads me to my final point today. The region requires more, not less dialogue.

Regional partnership and united voice of the region will be central to addressing existing conflicts, preventing new ones and mitigating the spread of terrorism to the Gulf of Guinea. Emboldening counter-terrorism initiatives such as Accra Initiative, as well as reflecting on new innovative approaches, is key.

Slovenia believes that the United Nations system remains fit to offer a helping hand to the nations in need – from the UNOCT capacity-building programmes and the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the brave operations of the humanitarian and development partners.

At the same time, the UN Security Council must play a constructive part, strengthen dialogue with regional organizations and remain seized on this matter that represents a serious threat to international peace and security.

Thank you.

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