Geneva, 30 January 2023 (TDI): The United Nations (UN) Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), calls for a Regional Approach to Local Ownership to stabilize the Lake Chad Basin Region.

Lake Chad Basin Region

Around 45-50 million people live around Lake Chad. Most of the people include fishermen, farmers, herders, and petty traders. They depend on the Lake for their livelihoods and economic well-being.

Over the years, the combined effects of the Lake’s shrinking and variability. Mainly, due to climate change that resulted in the increasing loss of livelihood for the region.

Lake Chad Basin
An area that used to be on the edge of Lake Chad. The drying lake has exacerbated suffering for millions.

The continuous lack of revenue and support led to different types of self-help survival measures. That includes arms trafficking and the development of a smuggling industry exacerbated by the porous borders between Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad.

This only fostered violent extremism in the region. Many young become recruits of extremist outfits. Others become arm bandits.

The situation created violent clashes between farmers and herders. As there is an increase in cross-border transhuman activities that destroy farm crops.

Terrorist Outfits

The multidimensional nature of the crisis created a space for the rise of terrorist outfits. Boko Haram and Islamic State-West Africa Province (ISWAP) played havoc in the region.

The crisis stalled development, impaired peaceful co-existence, and triggered a humanitarian emergency. More than 10.6 million people are in a need of assistance. Along with 6.2 million people facing food insecurity.

Lake Chad Basin Region
Conflict over many years has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in north-east Cameroon

Required Assistance

UNOCHA estimated that $2.5 billion is needed for humanitarian assistance. Moreover, there is a need to rebuild communities, restructure the economy, and restore the social contract between local authorities and communities. The cost of this is higher.

To resolve the crisis, there is a need for a multidimensional approach. The area requires a unique approach that recognizes the transnational nature of the crisis, the imperatives for local ownership, and the pragmatic vertical and horizontal relationships required.

It calls for actors and stakeholders to join efforts beyond national frontiers to ensure the “glocalization” of ideas.

Stabilization Recovery and Resilience

This strategy provided the need for a strategic overarching framework for the promotion of ownership. Also, creating the space for pragmatic partnerships for the region to transition from stabilization to recovery and development.

The strategy would enable and implement the Nexus Approach. The approach ensures the convergence of Humanitarian, Development, and Peace (HDP) actors within the same framework.

Similarly, it ensures the establishment of coordination structures to address the multidimensional crises in the Basin region.

The strategy was established in 2018, it enabled local ownership. Thus, empowering the local actors to lead stabilization efforts. The Lake Chad Basin Governor’s Forum was used as a forum for the implementation of the strategy.

It activated an innovative and unique platform for upscaling and bringing local issues to regional and global attention.

In 2021, the Forum convened its third edition which led to agreements on critical cross-border interventions and infrastructure, creating further opportunities for cross-border trade and human mobility.

Moreover, vertical partnerships with local civil society organizations engineered local demands for accountability, the development of innovative approaches for strengthening the integrity of local civil society groups, and project opportunities for sustaining stabilization efforts in the region.

Strong partnerships on vertical and horizontal lines are imperative for the stabilization of the region and transitioning to long-term recovery and development.

Lake Chad Basin Commission

The commission was over two years built on mutually reinforcing partnerships that aimed to produce results at the local and regional levels.

One such collaboration is with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Regional Stabilization Facility (RSF).

UNDP and the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) helped to restore social contracts. Moreover, it built a new sense of trust between governments and communities. Millions of people benefited from the facility since 2019.

Under this mechanism, a total of 25 Joint Action Plans were delivered from 2019 to 2021, and 31 Joint Action Plan (JAP) sites were active in 2022, targeting 2.6 million people across Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria.

About 400,000 people that include 54% of women, were able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

Furthermore, according to safety and security perceptions, 46 percent of people across target locations in Nigeria and Chad consistently demonstrates that more and more communities feel safer and more secure.

The commission’s efforts are imminent through the building and rehabilitation of security and justice infrastructures and social service infrastructures.

Also, with the provision of housing, healthcare access, and skills-building opportunities for the millions of marginalized people, particularly women and youth, in the region.

The commission is continuing to provide service despite the fluid nature of conflict and the fragile security situation.

The commission also helped to reinstate security and increased the sense of safety for the affected communities while providing alternative livelihood options to families.

Inclusion of more Institutions

In this framework, more institutions are included to strengthen the efforts. Such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Support Group (ISG).

Furthermore, the UN mobilized its agencies such as the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding funds, and the Inter-Agency Task Force of the Lake Chad Basin, reaffirming the relevance of the strategy as the melting point of HDP actors in the region.