The mandate of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) conferred by the UN Security Council was extended for a further three years. It covers 16 countries in the region, where millions of people face multiple, complex challenges that pose a threat to regional security. The commitment of UNOWAS is therefore crucial.
As the lead country for this dossier together with Ghana ('co-penholders'), Switzerland is contributing its expertise to the debates in the Security Council. It has long worked for peace and development in the Sahel, pursuing the same goals as UNOWAS, including protecting civilians, promoting sustainable peace and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change on security in the region.
A holistic approach is required for conflict prevention and promoting stability in the affected countries. Switzerland also represents this position in the Security Council as an actor on the ground. Central pillars of its work include climate security and the prevention of violent extremism.
Droughts or floods exacerbated by climate change threaten the livelihoods of many people and can forcibly displace them from their homes. This can further increase the potential for conflict. Switzerland also advocates in the Security Council that addressing these impacts be integrated into the solutions-based approach in the region. On the ground, Switzerland strengthens the resilience of the local population and works to preserve their natural resources. Switzerland is also committed to increasing the participation of women in political decision-making processes in the region.
The prevention of violent extremism is important for the sustainable security of the population in West Africa and the Sahel. In 2016, Switzerland, together with regional partners and UNOWAS, launched an initiative for regional talks on the prevention of violent extremism in Africa. Over 1,000 people regularly take part in this exchange. The focus is on approaches to prevention, networking of regional actors and positive alternatives to violent extremism in West Africa and the Sahel. The next round of talks will take place in Dakar at the end of February 2023. Carol Mottet from the FDFA's Peace and Human Rights Division talks about the context in the following interview.