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 The Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), dedicated its 707thmeeting held on 8 August 2017, to an Open Session on the theme: “Humanitarian response for the victims affected by terrorist activities”.

Council and Participants took note of the opening statements made by the PSC Chairperson, H.E. Ambassador Mmamosadinyana Molefe of the Republic of Botswana, and the Commissioner for Political Affairs, H.E. Mrs. Minata Samaté Cessouma. They also took note of the presentations made by the Representative of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nigeria, on behalf of the countries of the Lake Chad Basin, as well as by the representatives of the United Nations Office to the African Union, on behalf of the United Nations institutions, and the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC). They further took note of statements by PSC Member States, AU Member States, Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution (RECs/RMs), AU partners, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations and the European Union. 

Council and participants recalled African and international instruments, as well as PSC relevant communiqués and press statements, relating to the prevention and combating of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa. In this regard, Council reaffirmed Article 4 (o) of the AU Constitutive Act that underlines the sanctity of human life.

 

Council and participants also recalled that the report of the Chairperson of the Commission on Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Africa, to the PSC, at its 455th meeting held in Nairobi on 2 September 2014, at the level of Heads of State and Government, noted the need to fully acknowledge the plight of victims of terrorist acts and reaffirmed AU’s commitment to provide the victims with a platform to share their experiences and to identify modalities through which Member States can incorporate victims assistance into their national counterterrorism strategies including their active role in countering radicalization and violent extremism.  In this context, they took note of the AU specific activities dedicated so far to victims of terrorism, in particular the convening of the AU Symposium on Victims of Terrorist Acts in Algiers, from 27-28 October 2014, and the subsequent convening in Addis Ababa, from 17-18 November 2016, of the Workshop on the Establishment of a Network of African Associations of Victims of Terrorist Acts.

Council and participants expressed their deep concern that innocent civilians continue to bear the brunt of terrorist acts, depriving them of their most fundamental human right to life and physical integrity and resulting in forced displacements, psychological trauma, destruction and loss of livelihoods. They expressed their renewed solidarity to African people affected by terrorist activities, in particular those living in parts of the continent suffering from attacks by Al-Shaabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin, Al Qaida and all the related groups in Mali and the Sahel region, as well as in areas where the Lord Resistance Army continues to operate.

Council and participants commended the countries of the region who have opened their borders and provided refuge to thousands of civilians forcibly displaced by terrorist acts and called on the international community to support their efforts in providing protection and basic assistance.

Council and participants expressed particular concern over the impact of terrorist acts on women and girls who are often forced into sexual slavery, forced marriages and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. They further expressed their deep concern over the abhorrent violations against children and women and their increased use as combatants and suicide bombers by terrorist groups. They called on Member States and the humanitarian actors to pay particular attention to this matter and ensure that adequate protection is provided to vulnerable groups in refugee and IDP camps as well as other affected areas.

Council and participants expressed their deep appreciation to humanitarian actors, including UN agencies, regional and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society associations, that are providing life-saving assistance to affected communities in refugee and IDP camps, as well as in affected areas.

Council and participants strongly condemned hostile actions and attacks against humanitarian actors, including murder, injury, intimidation and confiscation of assets. They noted with concern the increasingly limited humanitarian space and denounced unjustified restrictions imposed on humanitarian actors to access affected communities in different settings. In this regard, they called on the concerned Member States to lift such restrictions, in accordance with the relevant national laws, and in a manner consistent with meeting the humanitarian imperative and with a strong sense of urgency to respond to the needs of the victims. 

Council and participants stressed that counter-terrorism efforts and military operations must be conducted in full compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and does not exacerbate the humanitarian situation in the affected areas, as this would only serve to alienate communities, embolden the narratives of extremists, and provide further fuel to the advocates of violent extremism.

Council and participants emphasized the need to focus counter-terrorism efforts and operations on creating the conditions conducive for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and IDPs, and in this regard, stressed the need to enhance governance, service delivery and livelihood restoration in cleared areas through recovery and development interventions. They further called on Member States to deploy more efforts to protect schools and other vital infrastructure while preserving their civilian nature.

Council and participants commended Member States and humanitarian actors for their continued commitment to deliver critical humanitarian assistance with increasingly limited financial resources. In this regard, they called upon international donors to deliver on their pledges made in respect to humanitarian emergencies in different parts of the continent, in particular the Oslo humanitarian Conference for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, held in February 2017. They further referred to the AU Common Position on Humanitarian Effectiveness and stressed the need for sustained and predictable funding for humanitarian operations.

Council stressed that preventing radicalization and violent extremism should remain at the heart of efforts to prevent terrorism and its humanitarian consequences. In this regard, Council recalled the Communique of the 455th meeting of the Council, held at the level of Heads of State and Government, on 2 September 2014, which provided a comprehensive framework for preventing and countering terrorism.

Council and participants commended efforts by AU Member States to address humanitarian situations in the continent, in particular through the Sub-Committee of the Permanent Representatives Committee on Refugees and Internal Displaced Persons and the Sub-Committee on Emergency Situations for their efforts aimed at expressing solidarity to and assisting needy people in affected parts of the continent.

Council and participants emphasized that the AU should assume a leadership role in mobilizing, coordinating and delivering humanitarian assistance and to promote an AU homegrown agency for this. In this regard, they recalled its previous communiques on the establishment of an AU Humanitarian Agency, to take the lead in humanitarian issues within the continent and called the Peace and Security and Political Affairs Departments to take the necessary steps to this end. They took note of progress made with regard to the guidelines and the normative framework for this AU home grown humanitarian perspective.

Council and participants called on Member States to address the root causes of radicalization, violent extremism, terrorist attacks and conflicts as a way of alleviating terrorism activities on the continent. They further called on countries to continue enhancing governance, rule of law and respect for human rights structures and institutions, as preventive measures against conflict and violent extremism on the continent.

Council agreed to remain seized of the matter.  

Posted by Abraham Belayneh

Last updated by Lulit Kebede

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