On 17 July 2019, UNDP Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria in collaboration with the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the African Union launched the Lake Chad Regional Stabilization Facility in the presence of all eight Governors of the Lake Chad Basin at the second Governors Forum in Niamey, Niger. Development partners represented by the United Kingdom, European Union, Sweden and Germany pledged their support to the tune of US$65 million for the first 18-month phase of the project. These tangible outputs were the climax of diverse, coordinated and consistent engagement between four UNDP country offices led by UNDP Resident Representatives (RRs) in Chad (Carol Flore-Smereczniak); Cameroon (Jean-Luc Stalon), Niger (Diana Louise Ofwona) and Nigeria (Mohamed Yahya).
After 10 years of ravaging North-Eastern Nigeria, the insurgency of Boko Haram has spread to neighboring bordering towns of Cameroon, Chad and Niger in the Lake Chad Basin. This is partly due to the porous borders, despite military and humanitarian responses to curtail the insurgency and provide life-saving assistance to affected persons and communities. For UNDP, the response is to address the root causes of the insurgency, notably marginalization and inequality, by adopting a regional approach to stabilizing the Lake Chad Basin. With a strong coalition between the four RRs in the region, national plans of the regional stabilization strategy have been developed. These plans are to help harmonize approaches, stabilize affected communities, provide and restore basic infrastructure, support local governance and social cohesion, and revive the socio-economic environment through jobs and livelihoods for returnees and host communities.
To help stabilize the region, UNDP, with the support of the Governments of Japan and Germany, worked to implement an initial pilot project which constructed over 300 two-bedroom housing units, clinics and schools for the village of Ngwom, Borno state (epicenter of Boko Haram), a community that was completely devastated. The government of Nigeria provided civil servants to man the social services including teachers and health practitioners. That was when two innovative approaches started budding fruits: i) dialogue and collaboration among local governors and UNDP Resident Representatives across the four countries; and ii) expansion of the stabilization approach to the Lake Chad Basin Region.
“I cannot afford not to collaborate with my counterpart RRs across the border; if the facility fails in Chad, I also fail, says Mohamed Yahya, UNDP Nigeria Resident Representative (the Team Leader of the four RRs).
The success of the RRs coalition cannot be told without mentioning the strong collaboration they had on the just-concluded 2nd Governors Forum in Niger. All three country offices and teams from the UNDP Regional Service Center (RSC) in Addis Ababa deployed heavily to ensure that the Forum – which was in effect a meeting of all four countries, was a mega success. Effective collaboration, daily communications, strengthening each other’s capacity where relevant and consulting each other, were cited by the RRs as contributing factors to their success. For the RRs, the encouragement, support and ideas from the Assistant Administrator/ UNDP Regional Director for Africa, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, has been their driving force and the icing on the cake.
“If we are encouraging governments and states to work together with their neighboring countries, it is incumbent upon UNDP to apply the same principles and adopt a regional perspective, in a pragmatic way where Resident Representatives and the UNDP teams work without and across borders to implement our strategy to stabilize the Lake Chad region", stated Ms. Eziakonwa.
No matter how you slice the cake, the regional stabilization facility is a ground-breaking crises response – with ownership from key regional actors such as the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the African Union, as well as all 8 Governors of the Lake Chad Basin Region, from Diffa and Zinder (Niger), Maroua and Garoua (Cameroun), Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (Nigeria) and Lac and Hadjer Lamis (Chad).
African borders must be thinner to facilitate trade, free movement of persons, good and services and this requires effective implementation of the regional stabilization facility in the Lake Chad Basin. Seeing collaboration and great coordination among leaders is surely the best way to support stabilization of the Lake Chad Region.