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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk press stakeout, concluding brief official visit to Burkina Faso

21 March 2024

United Nations High Commissioner speaking to the Press in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso © UN

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk



Good evening, dear members of the press.

This has been a brief visit to Ouagadougou, but my Office here – established in 2021 – has been engaging intensely with the authorities, civil society actors, human rights defenders, UN partners and others, on many of the multifaceted human rights challenges that the people of Burkina Faso have been grappling with.

The roots of human rights run deep in this region of Africa. It was in the Sahel region that the Manden Charter was adopted in the 13th century. Movements for independence and self-determination, against slavery and against apartheid, among others, have continuously nourished these roots.

I came here to express my solidarity with the people of Burkina Faso at this difficult time, and to engage on the human rights situation at the highest level. I am grateful to the President of the Transition, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, for the in-depth and wide-ranging discussion we had earlier today – on the grave security situation, the socio-economic and humanitarian situation, on climate change and environmental degradation, on civic space, inequalities, the need to forge a new social contract, and on ensuring inclusive participation of all Burkinabe in the transition process.

The suffering of millions of Burkinabe is heartbreaking. There are 2.3 million people who are food insecure, more than two million people internally displaced, and 800,000 children are out of school. In total, 6.3 million out of a population of 20 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Yet it has slipped off the international agenda and the resources made available are totally insufficient to respond to the scale of people’s needs.

The security situation is beyond alarming. Large parts of the country are being terrorized by armed groups. In 2023, my Office documented 1,335 violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law, involving at least 3,800 civilian victims. Armed groups were responsible for the vast majority of violations against civilians – in incidents involving more than 86 per cent of the victims. Protection of civilians is paramount. Such wanton violence must stop and the perpetrators be held accountable.

I understand fully the grave challenges faced by security and defence forces in Burkina Faso, and I am encouraged by assurances that steps are being taken to ensure their conduct fully complies with international humanitarian and international human rights laws. I am grateful for these assurances against the backdrop of reports of serious violations by security forces and by the Volontaires pour la défense de la Patrie (VDP), which need to be thoroughly investigated and acted upon. This is essential to foster a climate of law and order, build confidence between civilians and State authorities, and to counter impunity.

In the context of the transition in Burkina Faso, it is key to ensure meaningful participation and inclusivity, including of women, young people and across all communities, notably the most marginalized ones. It is also key to create an enabling environment for civil society actors, and to listen to divergent views, enabling everyone to exercise their human rights without fear of reprisals.

My Office here will do its best to accompany the people of Burkina Faso through the next steps in the transition, rooted in human rights. I call on the international community to not lose sight of the grave situation the people here face.

For more information and media requests, please contact:

Travelling with the High Commissioner: Ravina Shamdasani - [email protected]

In Geneva
Jeremy Laurence - +41 22 917 9383 / [email protected] 
Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

In Nairobi
Seif Magango - +254 788 343 897 / [email protected]

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