Mr. Chairman,

I thank the speakers for their precious presentations. I would like to express our appreciation to the former Special Representative of the Secretary General, Mr. Mahamat Saleh Annadif, for guiding the work of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel. We look forward to working with his or her successor upon appointment. We also thank Ms. Giovanie Biha for her work as interim head of the Office. 

Switzerland has a long-standing commitment to peace and development in the Sahel. Our priorities - protecting civilians, building sustainable peace and addressing climate security - are at the heart of UNOWAS' activities.

The people of West Africa and the Sahel face multiple challenges. They bear the cumulative burden of climate change, armed conflict, food insecurity and energy prices. While this burden is heavy for everyone, the vulnerable feel it particularly. An alarming 40 million children are not in school in the Sahel, according to the Secretary-General's report. The future of these children, especially girls, is at stake.

Mr. Chairman,

We must not delay in providing opportunities for these populations, especially the youth, to develop their potential and that of their region. Let me mention three concrete ways to do this: 

First, it is essential to address the root causes of violent extremism and conflict in a holistic manner - as UNOWAS is working on it and the Peacebuilding Commission recommends. This is essential to address the persistent insecurity in the region, including the terrorist threat in the central Sahel and the risk of spillover to coastal countries. Counter-terrorism measures must comply with international law, including human rights and international humanitarian law. We also wish to emphasize the importance of inclusion and respect for human rights in the prevention of violent extremism. Their key role has been emphasized repeatedly during the regional conferences that UNOWAS and Switzerland have been organizing since 2016, the next edition of which is scheduled for late February in Dakar.

Secondly, at the political level, the support of states in transition, in particular Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, must remain a priority in the collaboration with ECOWAS. Switzerland stresses the importance of inclusive dialogue in these contexts and calls on all actors to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law. We are encouraged by the peaceful elections in Senegal, the progress towards social cohesion and reconciliation in Côte d'Ivoire, as well as the progress of transitional justice in The Gambia. At the same time, we regret the limited progress in women's representation and participation in political and decision-making processes. We encourage UNOWAS to continue to advocate for the full, equal and meaningful representation of women in the electoral processes scheduled for this year.

Finally, the Secretary-General's report illustrates the multiple effects of climate change on living conditions, food security and conflict in West Africa and the Sahel. Helping communities adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change must be an integral part of the response to the region's challenges. In order to create local economic opportunities, Switzerland is making investments that aim to strengthen the resilience of the countries concerned and preserve their natural resources.

Mr. Chairman,

The Secretary-General's report is further evidence of the importance of UNOWAS in addressing the challenges in the region. As part of our joint leadership role with Ghana, we will work with all members of the Council for the continued support of the work of the office and for the UN presence in the region. In closing, I echo my Ghanaian colleague and announce negotiations for a presidential statement that we hope to bring to the attention of the Council in the near future.

Thank you for your attention.