The crisis of Lake Chad, and the situation of the people who live around its shores, is of global concern It is epic in scale, with complicated and intractable causes that will take a generation to resolve Much is being done, but a step change is required in focus, approach, and the dedication of resources, if the world is to rise to the challenge.

There are many ways to define the situation around Lake Chad, and even more ways to conceptualise the response that is required In essence, three separate but inter-related and mutually reinforcing crises have converged in the same locale: a structural and persistent development deficit; a breakdown of the social contract that has manifested in lawlessness and a violent extremist insurgency; and an unfolding environmental disaster that cannot be stopped, but which requires attention and resources to mitigate the impact on people, and to help them to absorb shocks and adapt over time

A regional response is required because neither causes nor effects of the crisis respect national borders Human development indicators for all areas around the Lake are some of the worst in the world; the insidious evil of violent extremism is immune to border control while the current reality and future threat of climate change humbles all human institutions and authority

The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) has been tasked by its Member States to organise and facilitate the mechanisms and processes required for enhanced cross-border cooperation on security and stabilization, early recovery and development In March 2015, the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) authorized the deployment of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) as an expression of its support to the efforts by the Member States of the LCBC and Benin to “create a safe and secure environment and contribute to stabilizing the situation in the areas affected” by Boko Haram activities

Despite the significant progress made by the MNJTF, overall success of the collective effort will be contingent upon coherent acceleration and completion by the LCBC Member States, together with all stakeholders, of the second Phase of the mandate as highlighted in the Strategic Concept of Operations of the Force, namely to “facilitate the implementation of overall stabilization programmes by the LCBC Member States and Benin in the affected areas, including the full restoration of state authority and the return of IDPs and refugees”.

This Strategy has been prepared by LCBC, with support of the AU It seeks to establish a common approach and an inclusive framework for all stakeholders to support a timely, coordinated, and effective transition from stabilization to early recovery and the resumption of stalled development processes Implementation of the Strategy will be guided and overseen by a Steering Committee, reporting to the LCBC Ministerial Council

It is necessary to act with urgency and conviction if this transition is to be achieved and the successes of the MNJTF consolidated The Lake Chad crisis offers both opportunity and obligation to operationalise the “New Way of Working” called for at the World Humanitarian Summit of 2016 Recognizing that humanitarian and development actors, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector actors have been progressively working better together to meet needs for years, the New Way of Working aims to offer a concrete path to remove unnecessary barriers to such collaboration in order to enable meaningful progress.

Wherever possible, those efforts should reinforce and strengthen the capacities that already exist at national and local levels. Although regional in scope, this Strategy is predicated upon the principle of national ownership and will be implemented by the national Governments of the affected states Cross-border political cooperation is conceived as the first pillar of this Strategy. Facilitated by the LCBC, the recently established Governor’s Forum for the Lake Chad Basin will be the primary vehicle to secure its realisation

The scourge of Boko Haram requires continued military operations to contain it This Strategy salutes the bravery and sacrifice of the MNJTF, and of all those in the uniforms of their countries who risk, and have sometimes given their lives to the struggle against violent extremism. Their work is unfinished and requires further financial and technical support.

Military operations and the demobilisation and disarmament of former combatants must continue until the State regains its monopoly on violence This is unlikely to be fully achieved, however, if that monopoly is misused Violent extremism feeds on grievance, and smart counter-insurgency tactics demand zero tolerance of human rights abuses This Strategy seeks to ensure accountability as well as capacity of security forces to uphold basic principles of human rights in the discharge of their duties Security and Human Rights thus, represents the second work pillar of the Strategy; the specific needs of the MNJTF to fulfil its mandate.

National efforts for demobilisation and disarmament of Boko Haram must be accompanied by a harmonised, regional approach to screening, prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration of combatants and persons associated with Boko Haram, in line with international standards This is the third work pillar of the Strategy The four affected countries have developed and agreed on the approach, prepared with technical support of the AU as well as relevant UN Agencies and entities

The scale of the Lake Chad crisis is such that humanitarian assistance will be required for many years to come. The stabilization process must ensure access and security for its provision on the basis of need alone, according to the inviolable international principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence Humanitarian assistance constitutes pillar four of the Strategy

In many places around the Lake, the State is effectively absent, or maintains very weak presence in the lives of the people. Pillar five of the Strategy outlines how capacities and standards of governance must be improved if the social contract is to be restored, the development process restarted, and the environmental crisis managed

Pillar six of the Strategy seeks to ensure that sustainable livelihoods replace provision of humanitarian assistance sooner rather than later Infrastructure projects and other public works can provide immediate short-term employment and a fiscal boost to local economies. For the foreseeable future, socio-economic recovery in the Region will remain dependent on farming, fishing and livestock husbandry, and the early recovery and expansion of these is vital

through grant and credit programmes  Value-chain development and a resumption of cross-border trade can play a major role In the long term, as peace is consolidated, and infrastructure rebuilt, demographic trends – the youth ‘bulge’ – will also require a conducive business environment that aims squarely to provide jobs through innovative policy and legal frameworks that promote investments, trade, and economic activity

All future investment in socio-economic development must be climate-proofed: climate change fragility assessments should underpin the planning process to build resilience to shocks, support adaptation and mitigation, and ensure long-term sustainability

Education is at the heart of the problem and will be key to its solution, and thus constitutes pillar seven of the Strategy Schools must be rebuilt, teachers recruited and trained, enrolment rates improved, and attainment rates in literacy and other basic skills increased Catch-up education must be available to those who have missed out, and non-State schooling must be subject to appropriate processes for registration, approval of curricula, certification of teachers and monitoring of quality Basic education must be complimented with targeted vocational training and entrepreneurship initiatives to give young people the skills they need to join the labour market and earn a living

Specific initiatives will be required to build the capacities of authorities and communities for the prevention of violent extremism, and this is the work of pillar eight Communities need to be mobilised to challenge extremist narratives and public debate promoted to reject and denounce violent extremist ideology Cross-border cooperation of all stakeholders needs to be enhanced, and local, national and regional peace architecture must be established and operational to ensure early warning of all forms of conflict, and the capacities of relevant stakeholders for timely response

The Lake Chad crisis has disproportionately affected women and girls. A gender-sensitive approach must be mainstreamed into the response. Pillar nine of the Strategy therefore calls for specific actions to tackle a culture in which sexual and gender-based violence has become endemic. It is necessary also to undertake gender-specific research, and to design and implement initiatives that empower women and youth, supports their participation in all processes for stabilization, early recovery and development, and establishes mechanisms for improved gender- sensitive monitoring, reporting, analysis and advocacy

It is intended that the implementation of all the work pillars of this Strategy should be linked and coordinated in the development of separate Territorial Action Plans for the eight worst-affected States or Regions around Lake Chad, and that LCBC with the support of the AUC will ensure coherence and coordination at regional level, as well as facilitation of the cross-border cooperation that will contribute significantly to their realisation.

This Strategy cannot, and does not, attempt to do everything. It is a first five-year down payment on what will be a generational effort Limited and precious resources must be carefully targeted, and the current reality of weak governance and poor absorption capacities must be recognised and addressed

Annex I of this Strategy establishes an indicative budget of an estimated 12 billion US dollars for its achievement

This is a huge and daunting figure. It becomes more palatable when understood as a grand total for all stakeholders

– national and local Governments, as well as international technical and financial partners – and that is includes all foreseeable military, humanitarian, and development assistance The largest single contributor will be the Governments of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, through allocations of their national development plans, sectoral programmes, and crisis-specific initiatives that target the States and Regions concerned.

While this Strategy asks international partners to move beyond ‘business as usual’, and to increase levels and predictability of assistance, it recognises that we are not starting from scratch – the European Union in particular continues to provide significant levels of support through a range of mechanisms and programmes. Vision and implementation must ensure value-for-money. Articulating the stabilization process as the New Way of Working offers an opportunity to reduce the requirement for humanitarian aid year-on-year by initiating parallel processes for early recovery and development that can promote sustainable livelihoods and improve resilience for the future

The Lake Chad crisis is a complex and urgent challenge, and only a regional approach, based on continental and international frameworks, and inclusive of the efforts of all stakeholders, can provide the necessary means for its resolution.


Posted by Limi Mohammed

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