Lake Chad Basin: Briefing
Tomorrow (22 March), the Security Council will meet on the Lake Chad Basin to discuss the implementation of resolution 2349 with a focus on the section ‘Root Causes and Development’. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed will brief. Briefings are also expected from Mohammed Bila of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Chitra Nagarajan, a Senior Conflict Advisor with the think tank and public policy consultancy Adelphi.
The Netherlands, this month’s Council president, circulated a concept paper last week. As described in the note, it is organising the session one year after the Council’s mission to the Lake Chad region, visiting Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, and its subsequent adoption of resolution 2349.
The Council visiting mission and resolution both stood out for the focus placed on addressing the root causes of the Boko Haram crisis. These have been identified as poverty, lack of education, poor governance, the need for job creation and development, and the impact of climate change and the shrinking of Lake Chad, which has disrupted livelihoods and the region’s economy. During the Council mission, government and UN officials highlighted these challenges, which they said have fostered radicalisation and, unless addressed, are likely to cause continued instability. The inclusion of a section in resolution 2349 on ‘Root Causes and Development’, according to the concept note, “reflect[s] the Council’s recognition of the interconnectedness of the challenges facing the region”.
More recently, the Council’s 30 January presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel recognised the efforts of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and welcomed the holding of a first regional stabilisation conference in the Lake Chad Basin region. The statement also welcomed the regional initiative spearheaded by Nigeria to revitalise the ecosystem of the Lake Chad Basin to support sustainable livelihoods, security and development in the region. According to the concept note, “The briefing will strive to discuss the relevance of recognising and addressing the root causes of the conflict in the Lake Chad region, as specified in resolution 2349 and the recent UNOWAS presidential statement”.
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed may highlight recent developments in the crisis that reflect the serious threat and havoc that Boko Haram continues to wreak. Over 2.3 million people remain displaced and 4.5 million people are severely food insecure, according to a 22 January report on the Lake Chad Basin by OCHA. Despite repeated announcements by Nigerian authorities of the demise of Boko Haram, the extremist group continues to launch attacks, including kidnapping 110 girls from their boarding school in Dapchi, Yobe State, on 19 February. A Boko Haram attack on 1 March in Rann, Nigeria, near the Cameroon border led to the death of at least three humanitarian workers, four Nigerian soldiers and four Nigerian police, and the apparent kidnapping of a nurse. Council members condemned both the Dapchi kidnapping and this later incident in a 2 March press statement. Mohamed is likely to recognise the news today that Boko Haram released most of the girls kidnapped in Dapchi.
The epicentre of the crisis remains Borno State, Nigeria, where there are 1.63 million displaced persons. The Deputy Secretary-General may highlight the UN’s 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for northeast Nigeria, launched in February, which includes a focus on peacebuilding and ensuring that humanitarian efforts contribute to longer-term development measures that address the root causes of instability. Cameroon’s Far North region is the second most-affected area, with an estimated 236,000 people internally displaced and hosting 89,000 Nigerian refugees.
In his intervention, Bila Mohammed will likely refer to efforts of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and the AU to develop a regional stabilisation strategy. He may refer to the international conference on Lake Chad, organised by Nigeria, the LCBC and UNESCO from 25 to 28 February in Abuja, that focused on solutions to restore Lake Chad, which has seen its water level shrink by ninety percent compared to the 1960s. The Secretary-General was represented at the conference by his Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas. Council members are likely to be interested in these initiatives, having previously called for the region to develop a strategy that tackles the drivers that contributed to the emergence of Boko Haram and longer-term development needs.
Nagarajan is from the organisation Adelphi, which has been exploring the links between climate change and peace and security in the Lake Chad Basin. Nagarajan is expected to cover the various conflict dynamics. These include the perception of and attitudes towards leaders and governance; actions or inaction on the part of security forces that cause harm to civilians; growing concerns about local community self-defence militias; tensions between displaced persons, host communities and returnees; and the impact of violence on inter-communal relations. She is also likely to address the gender dynamics of the violence and climate factors. Nagarajan may discuss how these factors could worsen the conflict and offer recommendations for the Council and the UN.
The Netherlands has outlined several questions for members to consider during their interventions, including: what types of concrete action could the Council consider to strengthen stabilisation and rehabilitation efforts; how can the UN and the Council respond more effectively and coherently in terms of comprehensive risk assessment and management and early warning in the Lake Chad region; and how can the UN contribute to ensuring, as emphasized by resolution 2349, that “adequate risk assessment and risk management”, in particular related to “climate change and ecological change”, is carried out.