Northeast Recovery: The European Union Example
The European Union is taking the lead in the on-going collaborations for recovery, resilience and reconciliation in the communities devastated by the Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria’s Northeast region. This is typical. The European Union has always been ready to be part of the required response to crisis situations that can undermine the stability of any part of the country.
Whenever crisis, whether natural or man-made, erupts, the first EU representatives to arrive on the scene are the humanitarian workers providing emergency assistance, and funded through the EU’s humanitarian office, ECHO. Since 2014, when the Boko Haram insurgency reached frightening peaks, ECHO has been present in the Northeast. Well ahead of many other humanitarian aid agencies, it has been providing the much-needed life-saving assistance to the local population directly affected by the crisis. Through ECHO alone, the European Union has provided about €160 million over the last three years in food aid, primary health care and shelter for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). It has been an important partner in the overall response, which was stepped up by the national authorities, the United Nations and partner countries, including EU member states, in 2016.
However, providing humanitarian assistance alone can never be enough as we have learnt from other regions that have witnessed unfortunate protracted crises, Darfur, for instance. Experience has shown that the longer people and communities are kept on a life support through the provision of food aid and other basic commodities, the more difficult it will be for them to become productive again. The affected people of Borno have to be supported to pull their lives together again, if possible in their villages of origin, otherwise in their sites of relocation. They need to earn their own living instead of remaining dependent of hand-outs. It is, therefore, crucial that humanitarian assistance be complemented by longer-term development aid, aiming at recovery, rehabilitation of basic social infrastructures, creation of jobs, restoration of livelihoods and strengthening resilience, that is, an increased capacity to quickly recover from adverse economic, climatological or violent situations.
That is exactly what the EU has been doing. In close coordination with ECHO, State Governments, the Federal Ministry of Budget & National Planning and other donors, we are already supporting resilience programmes worth around €250 million (about N100 billion), which are already ongoing or in an advanced stage of preparation.
Of course, the EU is not a stranger to the Northeast of Nigeria. For predating the Boko Haram crisis, Adamawa has been benefiting from long-term EU-funded programs. Such programs aimed at improving maternal and child health, renewable energy and water and sanitation will continue as planned. Adamawa is also included in the first phase of the resilience projects. Yobe and Bauchi are also partnering with the EU in several areas.
On the basis of the Recovery and Peace Building Assessment (RPBA), conducted jointly by the EU, the World Bank and the UN in 2016, and which indicated that about 70 per cent of the destruction caused by the Boko Haram insurgency is borne by Borno State, the EU services decided to shift the focus of support to Borno.
Funding agreement for a specific “Borno package” amounting to €143 million was signed in Brussels in the month of June. The related programmes are in the contracting phase, and are expected to be in implementation before the end of 2017. The projects will be implemented by reputable UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) with proven track records of working in harsh and difficult environments such as Borno. The main objectives will be to restore basic services and livelihoods (e.g. agricultural production) and create employment opportunities in selected communities affected by the crisis. Specific attention will be given to women and youth, who can also benefit from psychological and social support as victims of violence. Women in the North often head households and are essential in reconciliation and peace building efforts.
Through these programmes, the EU is trying to install ownership among state and local authorities. After their construction or rehabilitation, the social infrastructure needs to be maintained and manned by teachers, nurses, policemen etc. That is why strengthening administrative and financial management capacities is integral to the EU efforts.
Borno is a challenging environment. The EU is very conscious of the persistent security risks which hamper access to many communities. There is a need to work very closely with specialised UN agencies, the security forces and other agencies as well as the Office of the National Security Adviser to get regular updates and support in relation to the security challenges.
The EU is also working with relevant partners on such delicate issues as reconciliation, reintegration of people formerly associated with Boko Haram and the judicial prosecution of terrorists, to ensure that social peace and respect for human rights are achieved. De-radicalising and providing counter-narratives to young people that are vulnerable to the rhetoric of the insurgents are crucial to combat violent extremism. The EU is also prepared to engage in those areas, if possible jointly with local and international partners.
Only a comprehensive, holistic approach will bring back peace and stability in the wider Lake Chad area. The EU is working with actors in the neighbouring countries and supporting initiatives to restore regional stability and target the economic development of the wider Lake Chad Region. These initiatives should respect the traditions and history of the area: traders using Maiduguri and Lake Chad as access route for doing business at the heartland of Sub Saharan Africa. Until this strategic geographic and economic role of Borno is restored, we cannot claim to have solved the crisis in North Eastern Nigeria.
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