West Africa Peace and Security Innovation (WAPSI) Forum

Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Human Security in ECOWAS Region


By Mr. Mahamat Saleh ANNADIF

Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel

9 March 2022 via videoconference

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • It is an honor for me to take part in this first forum of West Africa Peace and Security Innovation. I thank ECOWAS and its partners for inviting me and for associating UNOWAS with this event.
  • This forum comes at the right time, at a time when the West African sub-region is experiencing upheavals in its path to consolidating democracy, even though insecurity threatens to undo hard-won progress.
  • The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has, without a doubt, accentuated the peace and security challenges facing our sub-region.
  • This very difficult situation calls for in-depth reflection to find appropriate solutions and enable the sub-region to regain its stability and continue on the right track of democratic consolidation.
  • This forum offers us the opportunity to deepen this reflection on the challenges facing West Africa and the means to best meet these challenges.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • The security environment in the sub-region in recent years has been dominated by disturbing events, including attacks by terrorist groups that destroy lives, property and livelihoods, putting unbearable pressure on the resources of the governments of the countries of the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria.
  • Other incidents in northern Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo demonstrate that the much talked about threat of acts of terrorism moving from the Sahel towards the coastal countries of the Gulf of Guinea is a reality.
  • Unfortunately, civilians are the most affected in these attacks, which lead to the loss of human lives, the destruction of health and educational infrastructure, and the displacement of populations.
  • Importantly, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing conflict drivers with implications for peace and stability in the region. Among these factors, there are, among others, social inequalities, poverty and the absence of basic services such as health care, drinking water, education; we can also remove the exclusion and marginalization of certain segments of the population, in particular women, young people and the vulnerable; high unemployment rates, particularly affecting young people; polarized political processes, in a context of insecurity caused by violent extremism as well as threats linked to inter-communal tensions.
  • Efforts must be focused on addressing these root causes of conflict to ensure peace and stability

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • As I indicated at the beginning of my remarks, and as you all know, the West African sub-region is currently going through turmoil in terms of democratic governance characterized by non-consensual changes in constitutions and military coups, particularly in Mali, Guinea and very recently in Burkina Faso.
  • This resurgence of coups d’etat is often the consequence of political practices that are totally out of step with the aspirations of the populations. Notably a lack of inclusiveness and consensus in governance and decision-making processes.
  • The active engagement of ECOWAS with regard to the crises in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali must be welcomed. I have also carried out joint missions with ECOWAS in Guinea and Burkina to discuss with the stakeholders on the issue of the return to constitutional order.
  • MINUSMA is also fully engaged with ECOWAS in Mali in the same spirit.
  • I also welcome the decision of the ECOWAS Heads of State to revise the 2001 Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance with a view to adapting it to recent developments. This reform should provide an opportunity to address underlying grievances related to constitutional changes, term limits and other dynamics of political governance.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • Despite the many challenges facing West Africa , the sub-region also continues to make progress in many areas. The examples of the recent successful presidential elections in Cabo Verde and Gambia, as well as the experiences of political dialogue in Côte d’Ivoire and Niger are some examples.
  • This forum should also explore ways to strengthen and multiply these examples in the region. This would help promote peace, stability and development in the region.
  • For my part, I reiterate my availability and that of UNOWAS to work in close collaboration with ECOWAS to support the States and peoples of the sub-region in their efforts for peace, stability and prosperity.
  • I wish you fruitful deliberations and thank you for your kind attention.