Thank you, Mr. President, and good morning to the new Deputy Secretary-General. We look forward to working with you.
The stories and courage of the women, men, and youths we met during our trip are indelibly etched in our minds and will continue to inspire all of us as we work to address the urgent challenges of the people of the Lake Chad Basin. We were particularly interested in our Lake Chad Basin trip in the UN’s approach to demobilization and reintegration and support for the ex-Boko Haram – especially looking at the women and girls coming out of association with Boko Haram – as well as the need to ensure that any accountability initiatives identified are responsive to women and girls, including following up on any allegations of sexual and gender-based abuse, whether this be in the IDP camps or elsewhere.
We also witnessed the extent of the UN’s regular engagement with women’s civil society organizations and women community leaders on peace and security matters. We note that youth and women’s voices and efforts are absolutely critical to re-establishing peace and security in the Lake Chad Basin sub-region and in creating the conditions for meaningful change, sustainable economic development, and the creation of sustainable livelihoods – as you noted, Madam Deputy Secretary-General – especially for the female-headed households. This is also so important in preventing extremism and in creating more inclusive societies.
We also looked at the ongoing training of security forces to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence. Still, the protection challenges, especially for women and children, remain significant. And the leaders and governments of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria recognize this as well in their interactions and conversations with us. Thousands of women have been victims of abductions, sexual slavery, forced recruitment, and other terrible abuses, and we were humbled in our meetings with just a few of them. Furthermore, some of the victims – and we heard firsthand stories – some of the victims, once out of Boko Haram’s clutches, face stigma in their communities or suffer secondary or tertiary displacement as a result of such stigma.
Still, we were encouraged during our trip by reports of defections from Boko Haram and other extremist groups. This trend underscores the importance of establishing regionally-coordinated disarmament, demobilization, de-radicalization, and reintegration programs. Respect for human rights by the militaries, security services, and governments of the Lake Chad Basin is also key to establishing and building trust with local communities that have been impacted by the conflict, and again, this was a subject of conversation with the governments and leaders who agreed wholeheartedly with this approach on respect for human rights.
Finally, and more broadly, the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis is really difficult to overstate, particularly the food insufficiency challenges and the specter of famine. Enabling access for the humanitarian actors – both the UN humanitarian actors and the implementing partners, the NGOs – in each of the four countries we visited will be absolutely essential to turning back famine and for improving food security, especially for these vulnerable populations, such as mothers and their young children.
I think all of us, colleagues – for all of us, the resolve and energy we have voiced here in our interventions today – all of this energy and resolve has got to be sustained if we’re going to make a real difference in the lives of those we met during this very important Security Council trip. Thank you, Mr. President.