Your Excellency, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission,
Your Excellencies, Special Representatives of the UN Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission,
Distinguished representatives from regional and international organizations,
I thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the European Union at this United Nations Peacebuilding Commission meeting.
The European Union remains committed to the Lake Chad Basin region, more so as the security situation deteriorates and the humanitarian crisis worsens. This ten-year-long crisis is the product of a complex combination of factors such as extreme poverty and underdevelopment, bad governance and marginalization of local communities, as well as a changing climate and other drivers of violent conflict.
Such a complex crisis requires an integrated approach. Thus, our actions cover security, as well as humanitarian assistance and development. We remain politically engaged and we provide assistance not only to strengthen governance and security, but also to support basic social services, food security, job creation, girls' access to education and to fight sexual and gender-based violence.
The EU and the United Nations have indeed built a strong partnership in this region as well as in many others. I must recall the EU-UN joint visits to Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria in 2019. These visits allowed Special Representative Chambas, Special Representative Fall and me conclude that short-term humanitarian and security actions are important to ensure peace and to cover immediate needs, but they need to go hand-in-hand with long-term development measures which address the root causes of the situation.
Between 2014 and 2019, the EU alone has mobilized 700 million euros in the Lake Chad region through instruments such as the European Development Fund, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace or the EU Trust Fund window for the Sahel and Lake Chad.
The EU's strategic integrated approach is exemplified in both the "Borno package" and the later "Yobe package", which account for 245 million euros and make effective the "Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus". Specific projects such as "FonTchad" and "SecuTchad" also contribute to the stabilization of the region, for instance through improving the governance and capacity of security forces and their relationship with the population.
Setting aside economic contributions, the EU continues to support regional initiatives recognizing that only a regionally coordinated approach can durably tackle security challenges and avoid a mere displacement of the threat As your Excellencies know, the EU participated in the Lake Chad Basin Governors' Forum in Maiduguri (Nigeria) in 2018 and in Niamey (Niger) in 2019. We look forward to the following meeting to continue discussions. Additionally, the EU reiterates the leadership of the four riparian countries and the African Union and encourages the implementation of the Regional Stabilisation Strategy.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly having an effect on the region, adding new challenges to the current crisis in a number of aspects.
Firstly, authorities have had to take measures to contain the virus, which include movement restrictions and constraints on transport and logistics. As a consequence, vulnerable groups are suffering the most, as humanitarian aid and regular supplies cannot get through to them as they did before. Refugees and asylum seekers may not be able to move safely and risk stigmatization.
Secondly, the pandemic further threatens the lives of 4.8 million displaced people in the region, hosted in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria as refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and third country nationals. Health facilities are overstretched and equipment is lacking. COVID-19 is yet another problem to add to the precarious situation in congested camps and settlements.
Team Europe has reacted quickly by mobilizing 200 million euros in the four riparian countries. As a complement to the United Nations Global Humanitarian Response Plan, an EU humanitarian air bridge was set up in Chad and Nigeria. In Nigeria, the EU has mobilized 50 million euros to support the UN Development Program's "One UN basket fund" and close to 10 million euros to support a response to COVID-19. In Chad, the EU has pledged 34.42 million euros to counter the effects of the pandemic. In Cameroon, 10.8 million euros will address both the health response and the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19. Finally, in Niger, the EU is supporting the emergency health services' response with 8 million euros, which are to be added to the 87 million euros destined to respond to the macro-economic impact of the pandemic, mainly through budget support.
Thirdly, terrorist and armed groups are profiting from the situation by increasing the number of attacks on military forces and civilian population, including deliberate attacks on aid workers. To be specific, during the month of July, incidents provoked by Boko Haram have increased in 112% by comparison to the same period last year. To illustrate the gravity of the situation: IOM indicates that over half of the population in the Chadian Lake province is currently displaced. As a consequence, providing humanitarian aid is becoming more difficult.
The EU continues to support the Multinational Joint Task Force and the strengthening of the civil-military coordination. We stress the importance of advocating for improved access for aid workers and respect for humanitarian principles and International Humanitarian Law.
To conclude, the COVID-19 pandemic is having both direct and indirect effects on the Lake Chad Basin crisis. The EU remains engaged in the region and will continue to support the affected countries, together with the United Nations' efforts. I hope our discussions today will bear fruit soon.