Resolution on the Lake Chad Basin
The Council is about to adopt a resolution on the Lake Chad Basin, where the terrorist group Boko Haram continues an insurgency that has resulted in one of the world’s greatest humanitarian crises. The draft resolution follows Council members’ visiting mission from 2 to 7 March to Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria to assess the security and humanitarian situation, and better understand the conflict’s root causes. The UK, which co-led the mission with France and Senegal, prepared a draft presidential statement that it eventually chose to present as a resolution. The draft text was circulated to the full membership on 25 March. Following lengthy negotiations on Tuesday, a revised text was circulated, which required further negotiations yesterday among some members, before being placed in blue yesterday evening.
By the end of the visiting mission, the three co-leads were interested in having a presidential statement, which would address the multi-faceted dimensions of the Boko Haram conflict. During the mission, it became clear that the four Lake Chad countries have made significant progress over the last two years in combatting Boko Haram, but that the group remains a threat. The humanitarian emergency, which includes continued displacement of civilians and widespread food insecurity, needs to be dealt with effectively to prevent a possible famine and a worsening of conditions that Boko Haram could exploit. Also critical is addressing the underlying causes of the conflict, such as poverty, and the underdevelopment of the region, where there is a lack of jobs, education and poor governance, that has fostered radicalisation and is likely to lead to continued instability.
This is the first Council resolution related to Boko Haram, despite the conflict’s destructiveness and brutality that over the last few years has killed 20,000 people and left 2.3 million internally displaced persons and refugees. One of the purposes of the mission, and it seems of this draft resolution, is to ensure greater international focus on the conflict. The draft resolution is divided into several sections which reflect the different areas of focus of the visiting mission: security, including protection of civilians and human rights; the humanitarian crisis; and root causes and development. There is also a section on disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration. A fifth section of the text encourages the Secretary-General to undertake a high-level visit to the region and to produce a report within 5 months assessing the situation in the Lake Chad Basin with possible measures for the Council’s consideration.
Throughout the visiting mission, Senegalese Ambassador Fode Seck highlighted to interlocutors that the three African members, commonly known as the “A3”, represent the views of African countries. Upon returning to New York, Senegal coordinated closely with Egypt and Ethiopia to ensure a common A3 position on the draft text. As it prepared a draft, the UK consulted with the A3, who expressed a number of concerns, which it seems contributed to some of the delay in the circulation of the draft text to the full Council membership. The A3 felt that the text was too prescriptive in pointing to actions that the regional governments should take, particularly with regard to human rights and security forces. They also believed that it did not sufficiently acknowledge the efforts that the four countries, with very limited resources, have so far taken in confronting Boko Haram.
At Tuesday’s negotiations, the A3 continued to express these concerns, and they were not satisfied by a revised draft circulated on Wednesday. In particular, regarding the new draft they were unhappy with references to international humanitarian law and human rights violations by national security forces that the A3 felt was not appropriate for the Council to assert as it had never received a Secretary-General’s report documenting such abuses. Consultations yesterday between the UK and the A3 resulted in the removal of language expressing serious concern about abuses in counter-terror operations. Attempts were also made to address A3 concerns implying security force violations against civilians. Additionally, the A3 felt that a paragraph calling for the deployment of UN human rights and sexual violence expertise and enhancing national human rights desks within military divisions was too intrusive. As a part of a compromise, more general language was adopted.
Russia, which had apparently raised concerns over the extent to which the draft resolution referred to human rights issues, broke yesterday afternoon’s silence procedure. It objected to the term “conflict” to describe the situation, which it seems Russia felt carried certain legal implications.. Russia also opposed including the EU High Representative among the representatives of different intergovernmental organisations that the Secretary-General consider inviting as part of a high-level visit to the Lake Chad Basin. As a result the reference to the EU High Representative has been removed from the draft text that will be voted on, and language related to conflict in one paragraph was modified.
During the negotiations, it seems that the A3 sought to highlight the region’s capacity needs. The draft resolution calls on the international community to provide greater support across a range of areas. This includes urging swift disbursement of donor funds committed at a 24 February Oslo conference, and of swift implementation by Nigeria of its commitment announced at Oslo to dedicate $1 billion for development and humanitarian activities in its northeast. During the Council mission, the UN humanitarian team in Nigeria highlighted that while there is increased attention to the region, it is concerned that donor funding pledged for 2017 may not materialise soon enough in order to take the immediate action needed to avoid a possible famine.
There is a strong emphasis in the draft on the gender-related dimensions of the conflict, and on the importance of women’s empowerment, reflecting some of the Council’s interactions with women IDPs and refugees, as well as meetings with civil society and government authorities.
Although some members anticipated that the section on development and root causes would prove contentious, this was not the case. This may have been due to a broad consensus among Council members that the Lake Chad Basin’s underdevelopment is at the root of the conflict, requiring a holistic approach. There was resistance on the part of the US to the inclusion of a paragraph on the effect of climate change and the shrinking of Lake Chad, in spite of Council members having been told clearly during the mission that this was one of the drivers of the current instability. Ultimately, this paragraph was retained, with some modification.