Local communities are fighting against desertification in Lake Chad region
Local communities are fighting desertification in the Lake Chad Basin. @Jean Damascene Hakuzimana / UNDP Chad

Maiduguri, Nigeria – Governors from countries in the Lake Chad Basin gathered in Maiduguri, the epicentre of the Boko Haram crisis, in Borno State of Nigeria, to discuss and agree on a framework for stabilizing, building peace and fostering sustainable development across the Basin.

Diminishing water levels of the Lake Chad, shared by eight countries in the region has pushed an estimated 12 per cent of the more than 370 million people who depend on it for crop and livestock farming, fishing, commerce and trade to abject poverty.

The situation has triggered mass migration, conflicts and crises in the region, including the nine-year long Boko Haram insurgency, which resulted in mass displacement of millions across the region.

The diminishing water levels of Lake Chad, shared by eight countries, have pushed an estimated 12% of over 370 million people who depend on it for crop and livestock farming, fishing, commerce and trade, to abject poverty.

The situation triggered mass migration, conflicts and crises in the region, including the nine-year long Boko Haram insurgency, which resulted in mass displacement and caused billions of dollars in damage to property and disruption of livelihoods in North-Eastern Nigeria.

During the inaugural meeting, organised by UNDP Nigeria with funding support from the government of Germany, 7 Governors from States and provinces in Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Nigeria emphasized that tackling the challenges faced in the Basin required collective effort by all countries affected.

The Governors agreed to establish the Lake Chad Basin Governors’ Forum, a platform that will serve to enhance joint efforts towards stabilizing, building peace and fostering sustainable development across the region. The Governors affirmed their commitment to using the platform to promote dialogue and exchange of information in responding to the crisis.

The Governors, who acknowledged the importance of human rights in the whole process, also agreed to use the Forum to promote a bottom-up approach to stabilization and peacebuilding of the Basin in recognition of the role that communities as well as traditional and religious institutions, women and young people play in driving the agenda towards stabilization and peace.

The Forum will also support ongoing national, regional and multilateral efforts towards stabilization of the region, including those by the African Union and the Lake Chad Basin Commissions to develop a Regional Stabilization Strategy, and efforts of restoring the Lake Chad waters as part of a long-term solution to ensure sustainable development of the region.

In his opening remarks, UNDP Resident Representative Edward Kallon stated that while progress had been made in stabilizing the region, more needed to be done to ensure the safety, human rights, dignity, livelihood, and prosperous future of the people living in the Basin. “The crisis cannot be solved through a unitary approach. We must pursue a multi-pronged approach – humanitarian, development, peace and counterterrorism,” he added.  

The meeting, attended by over 150 stakeholders representing regional and multilateral organisations, development partners and State Governments, discussed critical issues that needed addressing for the region to be stabilized and fundamental elements to consider for successful reintegration of former Boko Haram fighters into society.

Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and Head of the UN office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohammed Ibn Chambas, commended efforts made by the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in narrowing the space occupied by Boko Haram in the region. He stated that the efforts had facilitated return of displaced people and have given back hope to communities who have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram for a long time. Chambas added that recharging the Lake Chad remained a priority intervention if the crisis was to be abated.

Speaking at the event, George Schmidt, Africa Director of the German Foreign Office, pointed out that external partners stood ready to help in addressing the regional crisis as long as governments, businesses, civil society, traditional and religious leaders worked together.

Birgitte Markussen, Deputy Managing Director of Africa European External Action Service added that ending the humanitarian crisis needed to be “joined by decisive effort to secure long-term development.” She noted that this was a daunting challenge that could only be overcome by working together, across borders. “The crisis is regional and the response must be regional,” she added.

The Lake Chad Governors' Forum will be an annual event organised with support from UNDP. The next Forum will be held in the Republic of Niger in 2019.

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