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Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2021/442)

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I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2391 (2017), in which the Council requested the Secretary-General, in close coordination with the members of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and the Niger – and the African Union, to report on the activities of the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel and the support provided by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in this regard. The Council adopted resolution 2531 (2020), renewing the mandate of MINUSMA and recommending enhanced support to the Joint Force.

2. The report provides an update on progress made in the operationalization of the Joint Force since the report of 2 November 2020 (S/2020/1074), including international support for the Joint Force and implementation of the technical agreement signed between the United Nations, the European Union and G5 Sahel States in February 2018. The report also highlights the challenges encountered by the Joint Force and the implementation by the G5 Sahel States of a human rights and international humanitarian law compliance framework. Finally, as requested by the Security Council in its resolution 2531 (2020), the report includes an assessment of the implementation of paragraph 13 of resolution 2391 (2017), including with regard to the human rights due diligence policy and the prospects of the G5 Sahel executive secretariat and the Joint Force improving their autonomy and setting up their own procurement system.

3. The reporting period was marked by a deterioration of the security situation in the Sahel, with continued complex terrorist attacks on positions of national and regional defence and security forces, especially in the Liptako-Gourma region, where the borders of Burkina Faso, Mali and the Niger converge. The tri-border area remains the main hotspot, despite the pressure of counter-terrorism operations and infighting between the two main terrorist armed groups, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin, affiliated with Al Qaida, and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. An uptick in attacks against civilians has been registered, including against local authorities and religious figures. The western regions of the Niger have s een a growing death toll among civilians in 2021. At least 300 people have been killed in three major attacks in 2021, including the most recent attack on 21 March in the Tillia area, in which at least 137 people were killed. The frequency of the use of improvised explosive devices against civilians and defence and security forces increased in December 2020 and January 2021, in particular in central Mali and the south -west region of Tillabéri in the Niger. Meanwhile, the number of financial extortions of th e populations has continued to rise, notably in Mali and the Niger. While enhanced regional military action is aimed at reversing the balance of power in the Liptako - Gourma region, the threat of further destabilization and concern over the spread of the security threat to the south and the West African coast are real.

4. Intercommunal conflicts continued to add to the complexity of the security environment in which the Joint Force operates. Often instrumentalized by local armed groups and terrorist organizations, local conflict dynamics are exacerbated by an acceleration of resource pressures driven by climate change and demographic pressures, unmitigated by economic development or adaptation. The compounded crises are devastating the region, putting millions at risk. The latest available data indicate that, in 2021, 6.8 million people were food-insecure in G5 Sahel countries. The threat of famine is now looming in Burkina Faso. Also, since 2018, in the Liptako-Gourma region, the number of internally displaced people has risen twentyfold. In G5 Sahel States, close to 2.2 million people were internally displaced and more than 880,000 people were refugees. Large-scale displacement continued to have an impact on State service provision and the availability of natural resources, further exacerbating tension and social conflicts.