Statement at Dakar International Forum

State Secretary Marianne Hagen's statement at the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Senegal.

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Distinguished Hosts, Chair, Colleagues, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Let me start by saying how pleased I am to attend this year’s Dakar Forum.

I would like to extent my gratitude to our Senegalese hosts for the warm reception you have given us, and congratulate you on the high quality and importance of this event.

The subject of this Conference – International and Regional Cooperation in the field of Justice and Security - is of crucial importance.

The majority of countries on the continent are on a steady path to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.

Many are turning their back on conflict to lay the foundations for peace and prosperity.

West African countries such as The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire have taken important steps from internal conflict to peace, stability and democracy.

However, in some regions, the combined effects of armed violence, terrorism, organized crime, poverty and climate change are preventing development and creating intolerable human suffering.

The Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin are among the regions that are most affected.

There is considerable potential for economic growth in the Sahel. Solar energy, minerals and agro-business are only a few examples.

But economic development requires private sector investments. Today, insecurity represent a major obstacle for unlocking this potential.

Violent extremism, terrorist armed groups and criminal networks are undermining stability, exposing vulnerability, and risks spreading to other countries in West Africa, and to Europe.

In addition, the impacts of climate change are gradually eroding the livelihoods of millions of people.

Against this background, Norway is increasing its engagement in the Sahel, and we have recently launched a holistic strategy to guide our efforts.

The strategy builds on Norway’s previous engagements in conflict related regions and our long-standing engagements to foster durable peace and sustainable development, in Africa and other regions of the world.

The strategy rests on the premise that security, political engagement, respect for human rights and the rule of law and sustainable development are closely interrelated.

It makes a strong case for partnerships and cooperation in order to respond effectively to the transnational challenges in the region.

Chair,

I would like to make five points based on these initial observations:

First, national ownership and leadership must be ensured at all times, and the international community should act coherently and effectively when we engage to support.

In particular, international support and regional cooperation is needed to assist the countries of the region in extending their authority and presence in the vulnerable border areas, so that they can establish trust among the local populations.

Given the transnational nature of organized crime and terrorism, effective international and regional cooperation is vital.

During the last few years, we have seen a remarkable shift towards more cooperation among the states in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, both in the judicial field and regarding security.

We are impressed by how far initiatives such as the G5 Sahel and the Multinational Joint Task Force (the MNJTF) have come in a short time, and we look forward to seeing these initiatives develop in the years ahead.

Our engagement in Minusma is the core of Norway’s security support in the region. We will maintain it at least through 2022, with participation in the multinational rotation of military aircraft as our main contribution.

Norway is pleased to support the civilian aspects of the G5 Sahel through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). We will continue to look for ways of supporting the G5 Sahel.

We also support an increased role for the African Union in the Sahel, in close conjunction with the G5 Sahel and the MNJTF.

Second, in order to succeed in the long run, we need to employ a broad approach to security.

Experience has shown that security interventions are only effective, if they respect human rights and respond to the needs of the population.

This is true for national, regional and international security operations.

Violations of human rights, weak systems of justice and corruption, erode trust in institutions and government processes.

It feeds a sense of injustice.

It undermines democracy and the rule of law.

And it creates a fertile breeding ground for extremism, violence and conflict.

All our efforts must therefore seek to enhance the legitimacy of the state, and address the root causes of the conflict.

We must invest in people, men and women, girls and boys and provide hope for the future.

Norway places particular emphasis on education.

Today, millions of primary school age children are out of school across the Sahel, many of them in the conflict-ridden areas.

Education is not only a human right; it is a prerequisite for both security and development.

Third, the root causes of conflict are often political: marginalization, weak representation and lack of development are often among the drivers.

It follows from this that political solutions need to address such issues.

In Mali, for instance, we strongly welcome the Government’s renewed effort to ensure full and inclusive implementation of the Algiers Agreement.

We now sense an increased political will by all the parties to move decisively forward on outstanding issues.

Fourth, parts of the Sahel and the Lake Chad region has become one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time.

In 2017, Norway co-hosted the first high-level conference on the Lake Chad Region in Oslo, and in September, we co-organized the follow-up conference in Berlin.

While these conferences have contributed to averting famine, fundamental challenges remain unsolved.

We must continue to strengthen the humanitarian response, in accordance with the humanitarian principles to protect and assist people in need.

And we must further strengthen cooperation between governments, civil society and the international community to resolve conflict, create stability and lay the foundation for sustainable development.

We must address both the humanitarian consequences and the root causes of this crisis.

Again, national leadership is crucial.

Finally, in most conflicts, women and children often suffer the most.

Protection of women, children and young people should therefore be given the highest priority.

Sexual and gender based violence continues to destroy individuals and communities. And it undermines peace and development.

Women and girls are often targeted specifically.

We know that where there is political will, sexual violence can be addressed effectively, even in a humanitarian crisis.

Parties to conflict must take responsibility for preventing such crimes and for ensuring humanitarian access to survivors.

Women should have the same opportunities as men to plan and make decisions concerning the future of their lives and their societies.

Empowerment of women is crucial to peace and security – in the Sahel region and elsewhere.

Chair,

Norway has a long history of partnerships with African countries,

Our new Sahel strategy is the backbone of an increased effort in the wider West Africa and Sahel region in the coming years.

We are confident that a holistic approach is the right way ahead.

We look forward to close dialogue and partnership, and you can count on our consistent support also in the future.

To quote a well-known African proverb:

If you want to go fast – go alone.

If you want to go far – go together.

Thank you.

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