Fast, Coordinated Multi-platform Efforts Critical to Overcoming Recurrent Crises, ‘Fragile’ Humanitarian Situation in Sahel, Special Envoy Tells Security Council

Report
from UN Security Council
Published on 19 Jun 2014 View Original

SC/11445

Security Council
7203rd Meeting (AM)

The recent deterioration of the political and security situation in the Sahel region was a cause for alarm, the senior official there told the Security Council today, emphasizing that implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy would require sustained political will on the part of neighbouring Governments, and profound transformations on all political, economic and social platforms.

"Acting fast, and in a coordinated manner, is necessary to overcome the current patterns of recurrent crises and move towards a future of stability and development in the region," said Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, Special Envoy for the Sahel, characterizing the humanitarian situation in the Sahel as “extremely fragile”, with at least 20 million people at risk of food insecurity and nearly 5 million children at risk of acute malnutrition.

The United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, endorsed by the Council last year, had raised high expectations among the people of the region, with many of whom were looking for tangible benefits as quickly as possible, she pointed out. The Strategy’s implementation would require sustained political will on the part of the Governments of the Sahel countries, and more broadly, profound political, economic and social transformations in the region.

In her briefing to the 15-nation body, she also voiced concern about the fragile situation in Libya, political and security challenges in Mali and persistent terrorist attacks throughout the region, including those carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s representative, calling the situation in the Sahel "precarious", said that multiple challenges, including political instability, and the presence of extremist armed groups, were significantly contributing to the current security situation. However, those challenges could not be met by any one country acting alone. The cooperation of all countries in the region, and indeed, the international community, would be essential in order to achieve stability.

Chad’s representative urged that women in the region be given support through financing and land use credit. He also encouraged investment in pastoral groups and the creation of "development epicentres" to help improve the quality of life. In addition, it was essential to resolve the Sahel’s energy crisis, including through large-scale investments in geothermal, wind and other efficient technologies.

Rwanda’s representative, emphasizing that the pace of implementing concrete projects must be accelerated, stressed that national ownership, political will and trust among the Governments in the region was of paramount importance. Several other delegations echoed that sentiment, including the representatives of Argentina and Lithuania, as well as the Russian Federation, who welcomed the creation of a regional ministerial coordinating platform.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Republic of Korea, Australia, Chile, Jordan, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, United States and China.

The meeting started at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 11:58 a.m.

Briefing

HIROUTE GUEBRE SELLASSIE, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, said that her short time as Envoy, she was struck by the region’s deterioration of the political and security situation. She voiced concern about the situation in Libya, the political and security challenges in Mali and the persistent terrorist attacks throughout the region, including those carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria. The humanitarian situation in the Sahel remained extremely fragile, with at least 20 million people at risk of food insecurity and nearly 5 million children at risk of acute malnutrition.

She stressed that the implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel required sustained political will on the part of the Governments of the Sahel’s countries, and more broadly, profound political, economic and social transformations in the region. At every level, the quality of governance was crucial for effectively reducing the risk of identity-based conflict, religious radicalization and the recruitment of youth into terrorist or other criminal networks. The Integrated Strategy had raised high expectations among the people of the region, many of whom were looking for tangible benefits as quickly as possible.

The dramatic surge in Boko Haram’s terrorist acts in northern and central Nigeria was now threatening Cameroon, Niger and Chad, she went on to say. The conflict and State collapse in the Central African Republic had led to higher insecurity in Central Africa. North, West and Central Africa had formed a contiguous geopolitical region where short-term, as well as mid- and long-term multidimensional responses to threats to peace and security needed to be implemented collectively.

Last November, the Ministers of the region had established a Coordination Platform for the Sahel, entrusted with the overall coordination of initiatives in the region, she said. The broad membership of the Platform, including Capo Verde, Sudan, Cameroon and Tunisia, reflected a flexible geographical definition of the region, which was necessary for the successful implementation of the Integrated Strategy. Moving forward, it was important to support the Platform to strengthen coordination and cooperation among all concerned regional and international actors.

Although the United Nations had significantly improved internal coordination and promoted a more coherent response, she emphasized that more needed to be done to effectively respond to the persistent challenges facing the Sahel. If the international community did not improve coordination, then the limited resources that had been made available so far would not have the desired impact. "Acting fast, and in a coordinated manner, is necessary to overcome the current patterns of recurrent crises and move towards a future of stability and development in the region," she said. The United Nations priority during the next year must be to amplify joint actions by harmonizing and aligning political, security, development and humanitarian efforts throughout the region.

Statements

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) said political crisis, drought, proliferation of weapons, youth unemployment and other challenges in the Sahel had made an already precarious situation more complicated. The High-level Meeting on the Sahel in September 2013, and the visit to the region by the Secretary-General and the World Bank President shortly after were welcomed support, as was the announcements of investments of $6.78 billion from the European Union and $1.5 billion from the World Bank to the region. He also acknowledged the multi-dimensional efforts of the United Nations aimed at solving the region's governance problems, including conflict prevention, job creation, risk assessments, and birth certificates and registration. The deployment of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) had helped stabilize Mali, but ongoing clashes between Government forces and rebels in Kidal had made an already fragile situation worse. Welcoming the recent ceasefire agreement between the parties, he strongly condemned last week's attack in Aguelhok that killed four Chadian peacekeeping soldiers.

He went on to say that in Libya, despite progress in transitional justice and elections, enormous challenges remained. In Nigeria, terrorist attacks and the kidnappings of children were extremely worrisome and he hailed regional projects to install security in Nigeria, including those of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Department of Political Affairs. Strengthened cooperation with Maghreb through police and intelligence services was also needed. However, security alone would not be enough. Urging that particular support be directed towards women, including financing and credit for land use, he also encouraged investments in pastoral groups and creation of "development epicentres" to help such groups improve quality of life. It was essential to resolve the energy crisis in the Sahel, including through large-scale investments in geothermal, wind and other efficient technologies. He counted on the support of the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and other multilateral institutions toward that end. The post of the Special Envoy should be elevated to the level of Under-Secretary-General.

GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said the Integrated Sahel Strategy must define a transnational approach for all the Organization's agencies and a common approach to combating terrorism. Without security, there was no development and vice versa. All United Nations actors must coordinate efforts. The multiple initiatives on the Sahel must be coordinated effectively and the Special Envoy played an important role in that regard. In security, terrorist attacks in the Maghreb-Sahel region had increased exponentially since 2012. France was very involved in helping the region's countries. In December 2013, it had sponsored the Paris Summit on Peace and Security to encourage greater cooperation for the region. The United Nations could contribute to that effort. He welcomed the launch by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of a three-year, $2 billion consolidated appeal for the Sahel. France would increase its commitment to the Sahel to €900 million for the 2015-2016 period. The Integrated Strategy must serve the interests of the region's people and lead to concrete achievements.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said that the deteriorating situation in Libya and Mali, as well as the activities of Boko Haram, provided an enabling environment for potential instability in the subregion. The pace of implementing concrete projects and the creation of a resilient population must be accelerated. National ownership, political will and trust among the Governments in the region was of paramount importance. The development of the Implementation Strategy was encouraging, including the areas that addressed the participation of women, initiatives for youth and job creation. The region was facing chronic humanitarian needs, but the response to those needs was less than hoped for. The countries of the Sahel, and in fact, all African countries must improve the management of natural resources. Terrorism and extremism had not spared the Sahel and there must be increased coordination in counter-terrorism efforts due to the interconnected nature of the threat.

PAIK JI-AH (Republic of Korea) said the Sahel region faced many complex and inter-connected challenges, while remaining vulnerable to food insecurity, terrorism and drugs and arms-tracking. The security challenges in Libya, clashes in northern Mali and the activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria all had a negative impact on the economies and people of the region. The full and timely implementation of the Integrated Strategy was of utmost importance. It was critical to strengthen the long-term capacities of the Governments in the region. Given the seriousness of security challenges, capacity-building in the areas of border control and counter-terrorism needed to be urgently implemented. The numerous on-going efforts in the Sahel must be coordinated, with a view towards building synergies. More focus must also be placed on the role of women and youth, who had great potential to spur future development in the region.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said that just as violence, food insecurity, terrorism and organized crime transcend borders, “so, too, must their solutions”. The Sahel Strategy not only provided a truly cross-regional platform, but was also a tool for coordination both within the United Nations and internationally. It was vital to ensure complementarity and synchronization between the Ministerial Coordination Platform and the “Sahel G5” consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Africa had become a central theatre in the fight against terrorism. Regional Governments must diminish the appeal of terrorism to youth, the largest constituency in the region. The Council’s Al-Qaida sanctions regime could be effective if affected States used it as part of their national and regional strategies. Underscoring that, in the Sahel, over 20 million people, including 5 million children — nearly the population of Australia — were threatened by food insecurity, he said that Australia’s humanitarian assistance had aimed to bridge the gap between humanitarian relief and development, while building community resilience and addressing the root causes of chronic malnutrition.

EDUARDO GÁLVEZ (Chile) called for concerted efforts to strengthen the rule of law and institutions in the Sahel, saying that the elections in the region over the next two years needed to be credible, transparent and clean. Furthermore, the full, effective participation of women in all aspects of the electoral process, and in the political and public spheres, was vital. The 60 per cent increase in terrorist attacks in the Maghreb-Sahel region between 2012 and 2013, and the increased presence of extremist group required a redoubling of efforts by the international community. Mechanisms and instruments must be set up to enable the region to respond to those threats. He welcomed the first meeting on border control of police, customs and intelligence agencies from the region's 11 countries, and voiced hope that the first-ever triennial plan intended to create a multisectoral response would lead to more coordinated efforts, drawing on lessons learned. In the midst of donor fatigue, it was necessary to rethink mechanisms. The risk of not responding appropriately to situations could create voids that extremist organizations would exploit to their own advantage. All aspects of the Integrated Strategy must be duly coordinated.

MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) said the countries of the Sahel were in dire need of sustainable support in order to build appropriate Government structures. Stability and security were prerequisites for that process. Security challenges were not confined to containing or ending civil conflicts; they also were the result of the smuggling of small arms and livestock, which were being used to finance terrorist activities. Inclusiveness and partnerships among ethnic and religious groups was vital to build strong, cohesive States. Addressing the difficult humanitarian situation required concerted national and international efforts to lessen the suffering. The burden must be shared among national, regional and international partners. Jobs must be created, especially for youth and for diaspora populations, through promotion an enabling investment climate. It was important to bolster and rebuild judicial institutions to ensure the rule of law. He stressed the importance of accurately measuring the Integrated Strategy's impact in the field and of channelling resources appropriately.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) said terrorist groups operating in the Sahel were trans-border threats to peace and security, undermining the authority of States and hampering the development of the region. The strengthening of regional coordination and the help of the international community was needed. It was important that the States of the Sahel make concerted efforts to come up with sustainable solutions. There must also be continuous efforts to address the structural humanitarian crisis, including food insecurity. Special attention should be paid to border regions and the infrastructure that facilitated regional integration. The strengthening of democracy and the establishment of governance structures conducive to development, the fight against corruption, and the pursuit of reconciliation and decentralization must be at the very heart of peace and security initiatives. A pragmatic approach was needed, with the Coordination Platform for the Sahel playing a key role.

DOUGLAS WILSON (United Kingdom) said recent events underscored the deep interconnected nature of the Sahel’s countries. The complexity and scope of the challenges in the region justified the Integrated Strategy's flexible definition of the broader Sahel and Sahara region. He voiced full support for the Integrated Strategy's three-pillar approach, noting that governance, security and resilience issues were all linked. Without improvement in those areas, it would be difficult to make overall progress. More still needed to be done, including efforts to alleviate the hardship of food insecurity. The international community must help the Sahel’s countries manage their porous borders more efficiently, while encouraging the development of the “Sahel G5”.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina), noting that the Sahel region had one of the world's lowest human development indicators, emphasized that religious beliefs in themselves were not a cause of conflict. Rather, they were politicized. Poverty and inequality themselves were not a threat to security, but a challenge to sustainable development. She stressed the importance of the Integrated Strategy and called for greater effective coordination of the many national and regional programmes aimed supporting the Sahel. The focus should be on the women and children living in poverty. Although national ownership by countries in the region was essential and that the countries themselves had primary responsibility for development and security, the United Nations’ support was essential to deal with challenges, such as climate change, the economic and financial crisis, and inadequate financing for humanitarian aid. Many of the region's problems were due to deep-rooted scenarios that required meaningful, not palliative solutions. She also called for details on the World Bank's $1.5 billion disbursement to the region and objective data on the financial totals aimed toward the Integrated Strategy's pillars.

DAVID DUNN (United States) stressed that the immediate crises in the region, such as those in Libya and Mali, and the growing threat posed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, required a coordinated response. It was estimated that Boko Haram had killed more than 1,800 civilians this year alone. United States President Barack Obama recently announced a counter-terrorism partnerships fund to respond to the violent threat of extremism, including in the Sahel. As youth were the hardest hit by growing unemployment and were at risk of being recruited by terrorist groups, opportunities for them must be expanded. The various regional and multilateral approaches for the Sahel were essential, but the actors involved must avoid overlap and prioritize resource. Investment was needed in prevention and resilience. In addition, the international community must do a better job of addressing long-term chronic problems. In February, the United States Agency for International Development announced the creation of the Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced Initiative, aimed at helping the region's countries address drought, floods and other unforeseen natural disasters. The Government had dedicated $132 million to the programme in its first two years, which was already working to produce heartier crops in Niger and to reduce malnutrition in Burkina Faso.

DAINIUS BAUBLYS (Lithuania) said that coordinated international engagement was of utmost importance as the Governments in the Sahel region had limited capacities to address the multifaceted, cross-cutting security, political and humanitarian challenges there. Yet, the primary responsibility and ownership for fostering peace, security and development should be in the hands of those countries. With so many tools and initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of the region’s crises, including the Ministerial Coordination Platform and the “Sahel G5”, it was crucial to ensure their coherence and avoid duplication. The United Nations Integrated Strategy and its implementation plan were proper tools to ensure the cooperation and coordination of the activities of various actors. Setting clear benchmarks would be useful for monitoring progress and identifying issues requiring more international attention. The Council should be regularly informed on the status of the Strategy’s implementation.

WANG MIN (China) said that, in recent years, the situation in the Sahel region had stabilized and positive progress had been made in the implementation of the Integrated Strategy. However, the Sahel’s countries still faced multifaceted challenges, including uneven development, ethnic tensions, the threat of terrorism, the proliferation of illegal weapons and the rise of transnational organizations crime. He expressed support for efforts by regional organizations to maintain peace and security. Those initiatives would be key to improving the overall security and humanitarian situation. Focus must be given to addressing the root causes of conflict, such as poverty and underdevelopment, for they were the very basis upon which lasting security and development could be achieved. The international community, through regional cooperation, must actively help the countries in the Sahel through capacity-building efforts in the areas of security, such as the recent initiatives undertaken by the African Union.

KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) noted that more needed to be done by the Sahel’s countries in the area of governance to promote greater inclusiveness and increase the participation of marginalized groups, including women and youth. Security, regional integration and economic development were all negatively affected by ineffective State institutions and weak border management. Voicing concern that the situation in the Sahel remained "precarious", he noted that multiple challenges, including political instability, the activities of organized groups, terrorist activities and the presence of extremist armed groups were significant contributors to the current security situation. Those challenges could not be met by any one country acting alone. The cooperation of all countries in the region, and indeed the international community, would be essential in order to achieve stability. Countries in the area had formed a regional intelligence fusion unit to combat terrorist organizations, most notably Boko Haram. In addition, the fragile humanitarian situation was of great concern, and she urged the United Nations and other humanitarian actors to remain engaged and supportive.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said problems in the Sahel required comprehensive, continuous solutions by the international community, including ones that addressed sustainable development challenges. The load-bearing architecture of the Integrated Strategy had been crafted properly, but more time was needed to have it operate properly. He welcomed creation of a coordination platform for the region at the ministerial level, and the work of the “Sahel G5” forum, and stressed the need to create a common vision to eliminate the root causes of instability. Regional initiatives should be backed by a broad spectrum of international measures. While global and regional financial institutions should be involved, the Sahel’s States must have the leading role in implementing the Integrated Strategy. Efforts must be coordinated at all levels to avoid fragmentation. He expressed serious alarmed over the growing risk of the region turning into hub for terrorist organizations. Youth were at risk for being recruited by them. It was also vital to agree on common approaches to combat transnational crime. The results of the Arab Spring, which were not certain before, were now blatantly clear. Chaos in Libya continued to spill over. The crisis in Mali posed serious challenges to the region’s other States. There was no positive trend in the region. An Integrated Strategy was vital to address that.