By Ramesh Jaura
BERLIN (IDN) – More than 17 million people across north-eastern Nigeria and parts of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, comprising the Lake Chad region, are facing a complex crisis driven by extreme poverty, climate change and violent conflict compounded by the terrorist activities of Boko Haram, a jihadist militant organization. As a result, more than 2.4 million people are displaced and over 10 million people need assistance to meet their basic protection and humanitarian needs.
Against this backdrop, 70 delegations from governments, regional and international organizations and civil society representatives participating in the High Level Conference on the Lake Chad Region have agreed on an aid package of US$ 2.17 billion to support humanitarian and peacebuilding as well as development activities to ensure security in the area.
The package consists of multiyear contributions from 17 UN Member States, the European Commission, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (US$ 43.64), the UN Peacebuilding Fund (US$32 million), the African Development Bank (US$35.65 million) and the World Bank (US$270 million).
The largest Member States donors are the United States (US$420.13 million), Germany (US$309.30 million), the European Commission (US$269.81 million), United Kingdom (US$186.70 million), France (US$152.68 million) and Norway (US$125.40 million).
In addition to this funding, multilateral financial institutions – the African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and World Bank – announced US$ 467 million in concessional loans.
Senior United Nations officials have welcomed the donors’ decisions.
UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner said the grants and concessional loans pledged for the Lake Chad region “are a strong endorsement of our new way of working together” to address both the humanitarian needs and the root causes of the crisis in the longer term. “In this way, our response to a crisis is also an opportunity to invest in a future where crises are less likely and nations are more resilient,” he added.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock accentuated that over 10 million people in the Lake Chad region still need life-saving humanitarian aid and protection. “Violence, hunger, displacement and fear remain the harsh realities of their daily lives,” he added, “but today we have better access to many communities than we had a year ago.”
Lowcock thanked the donors for their “profoundly generous announcements of support to the humanitarian operation.” This, he added, sends a concrete message of solidarity and hope to the vulnerable people.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of Germany, which joins the UN Security Council next January as a non-permanent member for 2019-2020, said the donor nations had stood together to renew their commitment to the Lake Chad region. “Once the economic hub between northern and sub-Saharan Africa, it must not become a haven for terrorism, crime and human trafficking.”
Problems that transcend borders need solutions that do so as well, said Maas. “This is why Germany supports regional cooperation among the four crisis-affected countries. We aim to bolster local efforts for people to live once again in security and peace, to find rewarding work in their communities, and to be able to go to school.”
Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide of Norway assured that her country remains committed to strengthening the humanitarian response and laying the foundation for a sustainable development in the Lake Chad region. “We want to give priority to the protection of women, children and young people. They often bear the brunt of this crisis. Not least, there is an urgent need to step up the fight against Gender-Based Violence,” she added.
Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama of Nigeria said: “The protracted humanitarian and development challenges in the Lake Chad region have placed enormous responsibilities on both the riparian states and the global community. Without doubt, there is a need for relevant stakeholders to scale up responses to the crisis, by bolstering and strengthening coordination towards ensuring a more synergized delivery of assistance.”
In an “outcome document“, Conference co-hosts – Germany, Nigeria, Norway and the United Nations – note that the conference was a success because stakeholders working on humanitarian assistance, crisis prevention and stabilization, and development came together to identify shared challenges and opportunities.
The conference highlighted the added value of bringing together a range of stakeholders and taking a multi-dimensional approach to the crisis, states the document. Discussions on September 3 and 4 underlined the regional dimension of the crisis that transcends national borders.
The participation of all affected countries, particularly by the governors and civil society representatives, the document adds, was key to ground the discussions in the reality of the everyday experience of people affected by the crisis. “In this regard, the conference underscored the importance of a people-centered approach, building on the capacities of individuals and communities, in shaping responses across all pillars.”
Conference participants agreed that addressing the challenges in the Lake Chad region in a sustainable way requires a coherent and multi-year approach. The three high-level panel discussions recognized that actors in the humanitarian, stabilization and crisis prevention, and sustainable development spheres have distinct but complementary roles to play to address needs, strengthen the resilience of affected populations and countries, and work towards the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution on the situation in the Lake Chad region 2349 (2017) based on their respective mandates.
The outcome document emphasizes that principled humanitarian action is necessary to respond to urgent needs with life-saving assistance and will continue to be required in the short- and medium-term despite improvements. Therefore the participants declared that it is the responsibility of all parties to the armed conflict to protect civilians and ensure safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Actors in the region have already started a process of cross-border cooperation to help resolve conflict, nurture reconciliation and address root causes of the conflict, notes the document. It therefore expresses strong support for these efforts and also takes note of the important contributions that can be made by regional organizations in working towards the stabilization of the region.
The document further notes that strengthening resilience for sustainable development is essential for reducing vulnerabilities in the long term and that efforts are already under way. The conference participants therefore highlight the leadership of governments in the region and the centrality of resilience-building measures at all levels.
The conference stressed that the crisis disproportionately affects women and girls and underlined the importance of strengthening protection in interventions, in particular the need for enhanced protection against gender-based violence and welcomed the north-east Nigeria Call to Action road map.
While the Conference acknowledges the impressive scale-up of humanitarian assistance since the Oslo Humanitarian Conference in 2017, the document notes that current humanitarian appeals for the region are underfunded which impedes the ability to meet the needs of millions of people. Therefore, humanitarian funding needs to be sustained in the short and medium-term.
The conference highlighted that stabilization in the Lake Chad region is understood as supporting political processes on the ground and supporting security efforts in order to reduce violence.
“Stabilization seeks to enable first steps towards reconciliation between parties to the conflict and to establish social and political consensus as a foundation for legitimate political structures and long-term development.” The conference therefore underlined the importance of joint efforts to prevent further outbreaks of violent conflict and an escalation of conflicts into crises.
The conference further underscored that supporting political processes to develop a common regional approach on stabilization is pivotal, and welcomed the establishment of the Governors’ Forum in Maiduguri in Nigeria in May 2018 as an important tool for cross-border cooperation.
“In this regard, we welcomed enhanced cooperation by the Governors of the riparian provinces and states and the consultation processes which increased civil society participation at the local level, especially of traditional and religious leaders, youth and women movements, and community health workers,” notes the outcome document.
The conference further welcomed the success of the collaborative efforts of countries in the region, the African Union and the Lake Chad Basin Commission for having adopted a full-fledged stabilization strategy and encouraged that these efforts be implemented and supported. It was particularly underlined that ownership of these actors is crucial for a successful implementation of common strategies.
The conference highlighted the importance of stabilization efforts to support local governance as well as reconciliation and mediation, ensuring rule of law to achieve reliable, effective and accountable institutions.
Furthermore, the conference emphasized the importance of supporting security sector reform (SSR). This includes all levels of the security sector, from community to regional level.
The conference also underlined the importance of building legal foundations for a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process, and supporting reintegration of former fighters, Civilian Joint Task Force members and vigilantes with reconciliation efforts, education and job perspectives. Besides, it stressed the need to strengthen prevention of violent extremism.
Related IDN article: Conference Comes to the Aid of Drought-Stricken, Boko Haram Terrorised Lake Chad Region. [IDN-InDepthNews – 04 September 2018]
Photo: Nigerian refugees in Gagamari camp, Diffa region, Niger. Violence inflicted by the terrorist group Boko Haram from northern Nigeria has destabilised the entire region and caused large scale displacements of people. Photo: EU/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie
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