We thank Sierra Leone for convening this important meeting. Our thanks also go to the speakers for their insightful presentations.

Today's discussion highlights the continued increase of terrorism and violent extremism in West Africa and the Sahel, where - according to the Monitoring Team of the 1267 sanctions regime - UN designated terrorist groups continue to increase their attacks and expand their territorial control.

In order to effectively tackle this threat, we must address the grievances these groups seek to exploit, among others the lack of economic perspectives, marginalization, ineffective governance, or systemic human rights violations – including sexual and gender-based violence. We must also consider the adverse effects of climate change, such as increasing droughts and desertification, which may contribute to food and water insecurity and loss of livelihoods. Armed groups, including UN-designated terrorist groups, benefit from these circumstances for their recruitment efforts, specifically targeting and recruiting marginalized youth. Understanding these dynamics is essential to develop comprehensive strategies addressing both the symptoms and underlying causes that fuel violence and drive recruitment by terrorist groups.

It is crucial to approach conflict resolution holistically, aligning it with the New Agenda for Peace in emphasizing prevention. To give you an example, Switzerland, together with the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, recently organized a seminar in Togo to discuss the root causes behind the demand for arms and behind violent extremism, which are often the same. The report, which also includes ways to address these root causes, will be published this Friday.

Our experience underscores the importance of gender-responsive approaches and close collaboration with civil society, which must be able to operate without fear of reprisals. We also advocate for forward-looking strategies to implement democratic governance, ensuring the full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women and of youth. They are vital partners in our common endeavors for building resilient communities, resolving conflicts through community dialogue and mediation, and facilitating post-trauma healing. Finally, as outlined in a recent study by the UN Development Programme, offering employment opportunities can address the economic vulnerabilities that often contribute to radicalization, providing a sustainable path to peace and stability.



To tackle the multifaceted root causes, we encourage a collaborative approach between the African Union, ECOWAS and relevant UN entities, including UNOWAS, as well as increased dialogue and strong partnership with the private sector and civil society. We also encourage exchanges of best practices among countries from the region.

Finally, the fight against terrorism can only succeed if our collective response always respects international law, particularly human rights law and international humanitarian law. This is also how we can prevent exacerbating the grievances that terrorists exploit.

I thank you.