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Spiking Arms Proliferation, Organized Crime, Terrorism Part of Fallout from Libyan Crisis Afflicting Sahel, Security Council Told

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Security Council
6709th Meeting (PM)

Under-Secretary-General Briefs Members on Findings Of United Nations Inter-agency Assessment Mission to Sub-Saharan Region

A spike in weapons proliferation, organized crime and terrorism — compounded by a massive influx of migrants returning from Libya — was exerting pressure on already-struggling countries across the Sahel region, the Security Council heard today as the senior United Nations political official briefed members on peace and security in Africa.

Greater efforts were needed to identify the criminal and militia elements that were “reigniting embers of past rebellions”, said B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, adding that terrorists across the Sahel were using weapons smuggled from Muammar al-Qadhafi’s arsenal during the recent conflict in Libya. Moreover, a United Nations inter-agency assessment mission to the region between 7 and 23 December 2011 had found that those new security risks were compounded long-standing challenges, including unemployment, drought, food insecurity and malnutrition.

Despite those myriad challenges, he said, feeding and reintegrating vulnerable returnees arriving from Libya, and helping affected communities cope with the loss of remittances, had now become the top priority for many Sahelian countries. Their leaders were demonstrating “a remarkable openness to engage on the nature and enormity of the challenges”, but the assessment mission’s report made it clear that they could not go it alone, Mr. Pascoe said. Appeals for assistance from the United Nations, the African Union and other international entities were increasingly emanating from the region as countries continued to struggle, he added.

Many representatives speaking during the ensuing discussion supported the report’s recommendations, including, in particular, the urgent need to support ongoing national and regional initiatives to address the Sahel’s looming humanitarian, socio-economic and security challenges. Delegates also called for enhanced coordination agreements on border control and the mobilization of international support for the region, which many stressed should be jointly led by the United Nations and the African Union.

Colombia’s representative said the mission’s report was proof of the need for strong cooperation on the Sahel between the United Nations and regional organizations. There was a need for prompt action to support the initiatives of the Sahelian nations as they attempted to cope with their problems, he said, stressing that the principles of national ownership, effective cooperation and coordination must be respected. While the current problems called for immediate action, he added, a long-term approach was also needed. Capacity should be built to enable the nations concerned to deal with the reintegration of returnees and the proliferation of weapons.

Portugal’s representative said the Libyan crisis had not created the problems of the Sahel, but it had clearly exacerbated them. The integrated concept that had guided the assessment mission should also guide all subsequent efforts to address the problems under discussion. In that context, it was necessary to help the Libyan authorities in dealing with their problems, including border management and arms proliferation, he said.

France’s representative agreed, emphasizing that greater coordination was required to address the region’s complex problems. It was clear that the problems were transnational and therefore relevant to the Security Council, but solutions must nonetheless come first from the Sahelian States themselves, and the international community must support their efforts.

Other delegates underscored the importance of national ownership, including the Russian Federation’s representative, who said that the mission’s report confirmed that the real scope of the Libyan crisis was just beginning to come to light. Its negative impact spanned national and even continental borders, greatly increasing the risk of global terrorism. Meanwhile, the new Libyan authorities had no way to control the situation inside their country, he said, adding that they were allowing weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists and to appear on the black market. There must be a greater effort to reintegrate the migrants, who were “easy prey” for terrorists, he warned.

Delegates from a number of Sahelian nations also addressed the Council, with Mali’s representative saying that his country had indeed experienced serious fallout from the Libyan crisis, as described in the report. In particular, it had witnessed the mass return of migrant workers and heavily-armed former combatants, which had aggravated arms trafficking and threatened peace and stability in the entire region. Mali’s response involved not merely strengthening military security, but also protecting people and their goods and improving basic infrastructure and services, he said, and increasing work on development. Recognizing the responsibility of other Sahelian countries, he nonetheless requested increased international support for their efforts.

Also speaking today were representatives of Pakistan, United Kingdom, India, Germany, China, United States, Guatemala, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Togo, South Africa, Niger and Chad.

The meeting began at 3:16 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m.