Mr President,

I would like to welcome the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Leonardo Santos Simão. I wish you every success in your new position, and look forward to continuing our fruitful cooperation. I would also like to thank the Chairman of the ECOWAS Commission for his statement, and the Peacebuilding Commission for its written advice.

We are pleased to note some positive developments since our last meeting, for example with regard to the elections and transitional justice and accountability efforts. However, today's briefing shows that the security situation in the region remains very fragile and that humanitarian needs are increasing. Allow me to highlight three points:

Firstly, with regard to the elections: We are pleased to note that the polls have so far been largely peaceful. We welcome UNOWAS' ongoing commitment to promoting democratic governance and peaceful electoral processes. This is a long-term effort, based on trust and regular dialogue. It reflects the good reputation UNOWAS enjoys. Although some notable progress has been made at state level, notably in Benin and Mauritania, women – and the Special Representative mentioned it - remain largely under-represented throughout the region in political processes and decision-making. We call for a more in-depth and contextual analysis of the underlying reasons for this, in order to ensure the full and meaningful participation of women throughout the electoral process cycle.

Secondly, on the security front: investing in violence prevention and peace-building requires a commitment to various security, political, economic, cultural and social causes. This was reiterated in February at the "Grand Rendez-vous pour la prévention de l'extrémisme violent" conference, organized by UNOWAS, Switzerland and Senegal in Dakar. It is imperative that States and regional organizations, in particular the African Union and ECOWAS, make the UN's PVE Action Plan a reality. This conference has shown us that dialogue - including with violent extremists - is essential to achieving lasting peace.

Finally, we are facing a serious humanitarian crisis due to instability, conflict, forced displacement, food insecurity and climate change. It affects millions of people in the region. The situation of young people and children in West Africa and the Sahel remains particularly worrying. Attacks on schools are often accompanied by other serious violations, such as sexual and gender-based violence. In general, we are seeing a deterioration in access to health and education services. We cannot remain indifferent to these developments.

Switzerland welcomes the work of UNOWAS on climate change, peace and security in the context of the Dakar Call to Action. We welcome the ongoing analysis of climate security risks. As Ms. Aïssatou Diouf told the Council in May, "It is no longer appropriate to address the Sahel crisis solely through security issues. We need multi-sectoral responses, which must necessarily include consideration of current and future climate issues". This will ease the pressure on humanitarian aid in the long term and help communities to recover. With this in mind, in order to strengthen the resilience of more than 700,000 people in Burkina Faso, Switzerland is supporting a program aimed at easing conflicts between farmers and herders, by adapting farming methods and subsistence livelihoods to climate challenges.

Mr President,

The Secretary-General's report once again highlights the importance of UNOWAS in meeting the many challenges facing the region. The extension of the mandate last January testifies to the Council's continued support for this mission. Switzerland is ready to promote dialogue between stakeholders to assess the possibility of entrusting certain tasks carried out by MINUSMA to UNOWAS, should this prove appropriate. In addition, as co-penholder together with Ghana, we will continue our efforts to ensure the adoption of a presidential statement as soon as possible, in order to underline the strong interest that this Council brings to the region. After two years, it is time to reiterate our joint support for the valuable and important work of this regional office in all areas of its mandate.

Thank you.


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