Ministers and Government representatives from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger reaffirmed today their commitments to protect civilians in a context of counterterrorism operations in the Sahel. It was at the margins of UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting in Geneva where they also pledged to reduce intercommunity violence, ensure access to asylum and protection against forced returns.
I encourage the Sahel governments to coordinate the implementation of the Bamako conclusions and recommendations said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, at the opening of the event. Mr Grandi also offered his agency’s support to the regional efforts to maintain the civilian and humanitarian nature of asylum and to facilitate humanitarian access, adding UNHCR will remain at your side.
Emphasizing the importance of a coordinated regional approach to addressing the humanitarian, development and security challenges in the Sahel, Grandi added I urge the Governments which took part in the protection dialogue to consider preparing a joint pledge which they can also renew at the first Global Forum on Refugees. Scheduled for 17 and 18 December, the forum is geared towards making sustainable improvements to the lives of refugees and host communities worldwide as part of the Global Compact on Refugees.
On 11 and 12 September the government of Mali hosted the Regional Dialogue on Protection and Solutions amid growing violence in the Sahel where over half a million people are internally displaced in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Another 138,000 Malian refugees are still unable to return home.
The “Bamako Conclusions” made recommendations on strengthening coordination between security and humanitarian actors in view of ensuring humanitarian access, protection and assistance to affected populations. They also highlighted the needs for greater access of displaced persons to civil status documents, identity documents and nationality to prevent statelessness, but also to access education, jobs, housing or healthcare.
The regional dialogue brought together representatives of the Governments of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger as well as humanitarian, development and civil society actors, refugees, internally displaced people and returnees. Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, and Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Situation also attended the meeting in Bamako.
With over six million people uprooted by conflict or at risk of statelessness in West and Central Africa, UNHCR has been rallying support in the region for greater protection of civilians and humanitarian access. The Bamako regional dialogue followed several similar initiatives such as the regional protection dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin, the initiatives of the G5 Sahel, the commemoration of the year of the African Union of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons, and the operationalization of the Global Compact on Refugees.
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees