Peace in Sahel Requires Tackling Causes of Instability, Special Adviser Tells Security Council amid Calls to Advance Development, Fight Terrorism
The Sahel is awash with challenges — from food insecurity and terrorist-related security threats to the negative impacts of climate change — but it has the potential to change for the better through an ongoing focus on sustainable development, speakers in the Security Council agreed today.
Debating the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, endorsed by the Council in 2013, and the United Nations Support Plan for the Sahel, unveiled earlier this year, Council members stressed the need for a holistic approach that brings together the political, security and development dimensions of a vast section of Africa that includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Ibrahim Thiaw, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Sahel, said that with the subregion at a turning point, ensuring peace involves tackling the causes of instability. A purely security approach is not enough. Broad development programmes will be needed to transform economies, improve living standards and give young people hope. Solutions must come from local, national and regional stakeholders, assisted by external partners as needed. Perceptions of the region must also change, he said, with more focus placed on assets and potential in such areas as solar energy and wind power. Progress will also depend on good governance and a “rethink” of the way the United Nations operates on the ground.
Hafez Ghanem, Vice-President of the World Bank for Africa, speaking via video teleconference from Washington, D.C., stressed the need to address the economic and social drivers of conflict. The World Bank has committed more than $9 billion to the development and resilience of the G5 Sahel countries over the last five years. Such financing, together with policy advice and technical assistance, attempts to address the drivers of fragility and conflict, including lack of basic services, high unemployment and limited opportunities.
Rémy Rioux of Alliance Sahel said that since its launch in 2017, the organization has financed and coordinated more than 500 projects. The fight against violent extremism cannot succeed unless development is pursued with vigour, he assured. To harness the Sahel’s full potential, Alliance members pulled their knowledge to help local stakeholders and conduct outreach operations. He called for collective efforts to uphold security and advance development in the region.
In the ensuing debate, Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity to underscore that the Sahel provides a snapshot of the challenges facing the subregion. He called for stronger cooperation with partners as a precondition for implementing Council resolutions on the Sahel. He also drew attention to the World Bank’s crucial role in financing projects and called for a long-term vision that takes into account people’s aspirations.
Equatorial Guinea’s delegate meanwhile said that ending the security threat in the Sahel requires not just military action, but also a focus on development. Welcoming efforts by the United Nations to recalibrate its Integrated Strategy through a more cross-cutting approach, he said the G5 Sahel’s Priority Investment Programme has done much to tackle the negative forces sowing the seeds of despair. In the long term, he added, it will be the development dimension that defeats terrorism – with the results having a positive impact throughout Africa.
France’s delegate said there can be no stability without full implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. She called for a merciless campaign against terrorist groups, as well as deeper partnership among the various security presences in the Sahel: national armies, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the G5 Sahel Joint Force, France’s Operation Barkhane and European missions.
The representative of the United States voiced particular concern over unrest in central Sahel driven largely by scarce resources. He noted his country’s involvement in multisectoral projects, with $460 million invested in the region in 2017. He welcomed that the G5 Sahel Joint Force is now operational and working to establish long-term security, stressing that the United States is committed to providing equipment, training and advice to fulfil capability gaps.
The representative of the Russian Federation advocated for an integrated approach that includes, among other things, building institutions, promoting youth job creation and human rights. Only through targeted, collective efforts that do not create a conflict of remit can the desired results be achieved. Condemning external interference, he said that if not for the violent coup d’état in Libya in 2011, Council members would not be discussing some of these issues today.
Also speaking today were representatives of the Netherlands, Kuwait, Peru, China, Poland, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, United Kingdom and Bolivia.
Ion Jinga (Romania), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, updated the Council on that body’s work since the 20 January 2017 presidential statement (document S/PRST/2017/2) on the situation in the Sahel (see Press Release SC/12689).
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m.
IBRAHIM THIAW, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, said the Sahel — one of the world’s least developed regions — faces many simultaneous challenges, including extreme poverty, climate change, food crises, rapid population growth, fragile governance and terrorist-linked security threats. Conflict over access to land, water and other resources is growing, while criminal activities have reached levels that could threaten the stability and social fabric of States. Despite a slight improvement in the humanitarian situation, thanks to a better rainy season, more than 8 million people in the region are liable to face food insecurity in 2019, he warned.
Recalling the Security Council’s 2013 adoption of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, which recognizes the transboundary nature of the region’s threats, he pointed to the United Nations Support Plan for the Sahel, presented earlier this year, which aims to bolster coordination and cooperation among various actors in the region. He added that, since taking up his role, he has constantly sought to promote dialogue and partnership, meeting regional leaders and institutions, as well as civil society, including representatives of women, young people and traditional chiefs.
With the Sahel at a turning point, he said ensuring peace involves tackling the causes of instability. A purely security approach is not enough, and he called for broad development programmes that will transform economies, improve living standards and give young people hope. Not only should official development assistance (ODA) be expanded, but conditions should also be created for significant private investment. Solutions must come from local, national and regional stakeholders, assisted by external partners as required. He underscored the contributions by the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), United Nations Development Group for West and Central Africa, and United Nations country offices in the region’s 10 countries.
Perceptions of the region must also change, he said, calling for a focus on the Sahel’s assets and potential. The development of solar energy and wind power would help the Sahel better adapt to climate change. Progress will also depend on good governance. For its part, the United Nations has rethought the way it works in the region, setting up a dedicated Sahel mechanism within the Sustainable Development Goals Fund to reduce fragmentation and make the Organization’s work more effective. He concluded by hailing the renewed international attention to the Sahel. With a strategy, a common vision and a support plan in place, the time has come to turn words into action.
ION JINGA (Romania), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that since the 20 January 2017 presidential statement (S/PRST/2017/2) on the situation in the Sahel, the Commission has convened a series of meetings on the issue, with the participation of countries in the region, the G5 Sahel Joint Force, African Union, European Union and other national and regional actors. In that connection, the Commission has been primarily focused on deepening partnerships and ensuring coordination and coherence within the international community. Detailing visits to West Africa and the Sahel — during which he met with various actors across government, civil society and the international community — he said those interactions allowed him to gain a better understanding of the important role the Commission can play in support of the Sahel. More recently, the Commission held its annual session on the situation in the Sahel on 12 November 2018, followed by a joint annual meeting with the Economic and Social Council on 13 November. Both meetings underscored the importance of the Commission using its platform to sustain global attention on the issue and advance a more coherent, coordinated and action-oriented approach to peacebuilding in the Sahel. Overall, the Commission has used every opportunity to address the region’s multifaceted challenges and — with the Council’s support — will continue to prioritize the Sahel region.
HAFEZ GHANEM, Vice-President of the World Bank for Africa, speaking via video teleconference from Washington, D.C., said peace and stability is needed for economic development in the Sahel, but the reverse is also true. Underscoring the need to address the economic and social drivers of conflict, he said the World Bank has committed more than $9 billion to the development and resilience of the G5 Sahel countries [Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger] over the last five years. Such financing, together with policy advice and technical assistance, attempts to address the drivers of fragility and conflict, including lack of basic services, high unemployment and limited opportunities.
He said the World Bank is also changing the way it works in the Sahel, placing greater emphasis on quick results that unlock opportunities created by the stability brought about by security forces. It is also placing more people on the front line, with a stronger presence in country offices. He noted as well efforts to improve supervision, including the use of satellites. He drew attention to a project in central Mali where the rehabilitation of a fishing port is being supplemented by investment in solar energy, improved roads and cash transfers, in addition to cash-generating activities. Such a new approach holds promise and will be replicated beyond Mali. More than ever, the World Bank is convinced it can support the Governments and people of the Sahel along the path to peace and development.
RÉMY RIOUX, Alliance Sahel, said the organization’s goal is to contribute to the development of the Sahel and render the institutional fabric of its countries less fragile. The fight against violent extremism cannot succeed unless development is pursued with vigour. The Alliance’s work is in line with the Secretary-General’s priorities, focusing on conflict prevention and building resilience in the most fragile societies. It seeks to include young people, women and the marginalized in a participatory approach at all levels, carrying out development projects in the G5 Sahel countries around six priority areas: education and youth; agriculture and food security; energy and climate; local infrastructure; governance; and domestic security — a €9 billion portfolio.
All these programmes have been produced taking into account national strategies on the ground, he said. To harness the Sahel’s full potential, Alliance members pulled their knowledge to help local stakeholders and conduct outreach operations. More recently, rapid-impact projects were launched to stabilize border regions by locating sensitive cross-border areas and tackling specific sectoral issues. The European Union has played a driving role in this work and has contributed €266 million to emergency response projects. The Alliance is looking to implement projects that achieve results quickly. It has allied with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which is steering its governance committee. He called on the international community to work together to uphold security and advance development in the region.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) emphasized the importance of combining the political, security and development pillars, stressing that there can be no stability in the region without full implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. The start of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, while encouraging, must be consolidated, she said, also calling for a merciless campaign against terrorist groups and deeper partnership among the various security presences in the Sahel, notably the national armies, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the G5 Sahel Joint Force, France’s Operation Barkhane and European missions. Multilateral support for the G5 Sahel also must be strengthened. She welcomed efforts by Alliance Sahel, as well as those to improve coordination with Sahel countries, stating that development strategies devised exclusively in the capitals of developed nations cannot succeed.
RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) said the Sahel is an important region filled with potential, but its people face daunting challenges. He expressed particular concern over unrest in central Sahel driven largely by scarce resources. The United States continues to invest in multisectoral projects to bolster stability, with $460 million invested in the region in 2017. He welcomed projects that focus on unlocking the private sector’s potential to engage youth, expressing support for priorities that are Africa-driven, have cross-border impact and a maximum chance of success. He called for greater empowerment of youth and women, noting that women-led projects create a multiplier effect in their communities. However, women face high barriers to finance, education gaps and social and cultural norms. In Niger, the United States Agency for International Development is engaging women and youth to help prevent extremism from taking root. On security, he welcomed that the G5 Sahel Joint Force is now operational and working to establish long-term security. The United States is committed to providing equipment, training and advice to fulfil capability gaps. Nevertheless, only through good governance, human rights and economic opportunity can States in the region make progress in addressing the challenges, he said.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) focused on the need for a coordinated and integrated approach; combating climate change, water stress and other root causes; and building peace through the inclusion of women and children. The shockwaves of instability in the Sahel go far beyond the region, even reaching the shores of Europe. Consistency and coordination are, therefore, crucial for the international community to act on the six priority areas of the Support Plan. It is especially important to enhance coordination among development and security stakeholders. Turning to climate change, she said the Sahel is greatly affected by climate change and water stress. Noting that the Support Plan focuses on strengthening resilience and risk management, she said risk assessment can be used to develop responses that consider those factors. She drew attention to the close link between the Support Plan and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, emphasizing that women and children often pay the heaviest price during conflict. Young people in the Sahel must be involved in decisions about their future.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) said ending the security threat in the Sahel requires not just military efforts, but also a focus on development to tackle the causes of instability. He welcomed efforts by the United Nations system to recalibrate its Integrated Strategy through a more cross-cutting approach. The G5 Sahel’s Priority Investment Programme has done much to tackle the negative forces that sow the seeds of despair, he said, adding, however, that it should focus more on development projects. In the regard, the region’s partners, such as the European Investment Bank, must honour their financing pledges. In the long term, it will be the development dimension that defeats terrorism, and the results will have a positive spill-over effect throughout Africa.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) described the Integrated Strategy as a comprehensive approach that aims to achieve peace, stability and the Sustainable Development Goals in the Sahel. Every effort must be made to achieve its aims. He drew attention to Kuwait’s financial support for development in West Africa, with $439 million invested since 2015 for health care, roads, airports and water infrastructure, among other things. He welcomed steps taken by regional organizations to promote sustainable development, as well as efforts by the Peacebuilding Commission, while stressing the need for better coordination among the various stakeholders.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) said his country is monitoring with great concern the worsening security situation and humanitarian needs in the Sahel. It is imperative to tackle the causes of the many challenges which have created a fertile ground for conflict. He hailed the important role played by the G5 Sahel Joint Force against terrorism and criminal activities, adding that the international community must do its part by providing predictable and sustainable financing. Institutional capacity to support the rule of law, human rights and sustainable development must be strengthened. Calling the Support Plan vital for promoting better results, he emphasized the importance of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as creating jobs for young people.
WU HAITAO (China) said the Sahel had recently seen economic growth, but crime and poverty threaten peace and development. It is important to seek political settlements to achieve regional stability and create conditions for long-term development. The international community must continue to support Malian partners to help expedite the Mali peace and reconciliation agreement, as well as help accelerate development, address the causes of conflict, and assist Member States in upgrading their security capabilities to counter regional threats. It must also respect the need for countries in Africa to seek ownership of African issues, he said, stressing that priority should be given to regional and subregional organizations and better coordination on country-specific strategies.
MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland) said the causes of the challenges in the Sahel are interdependent and of a cross-border nature, requiring transnational responses. While welcoming the adoption of a regional strategy, he said the region’s issues are diverse and complex. Importantly, the European Union committed €4 billion from 2014 to 2018 to address them. Emphasizing that terrorists continue to have a devastating effect on communities, he said winning the minds and hearts of the people is key in the struggle against terrorism. In that regard, an institutional framework to translate strategic decisions into tactical measures is needed. More broadly, to achieve stability and peace, security, development and human rights must be addressed. The lack of good governance and inequality, worsened by climate change and a growing population, remain at the core of instability. A military solution cannot ensure lasting peace, he said, adding that greater opportunities are necessary to reduce dependency on humanitarian assistance.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said the Sahel countries have faced growing challenges to their security and stability, impeding their ability to overcome other social and economic problems. Terrorism is now spreading and combating this must be a top priority. He commended efforts by Sahel States to counter growing threats and expressed support for the G5 Sahel Joint Force. He advocated for an integrated approach that includes, among other things, building institutions, promoting youth job creation and human rights. Meanwhile, it is also important to increase the effectiveness of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, whose full potential has not been maximized, he said. Only through targeted, collective efforts that do not create a conflict of remit can the desired results be achieved. Condemning external interference, he recalled that if not for the violent coup d’état in Libya in 2011, Member States they would not be discussing some of these issues today.
CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden), acknowledging the many interconnected challenges faced by the countries of the Sahel, commended their regional security initiatives. As a comprehensive approach is needed to address causes of conflict, he welcomed the adoption of the United Nations Support Plan for the integrated Sahel Strategy. It is important that the initiatives of the African Union and ECOWAS, as well as those of partners such as the European Union, are well coordinated in the framework of the Strategy. All efforts should build on the strong potential that the region offers, particularly through its young people. Empowerment of youth and women, as well as sustainable agriculture, is therefore an important focus for the Support Plan. Strengthening the social contract between States and people is also critical, especially in the areas of security, basic services and human rights. He noted that Sweden’s support on the ground, in line with priorities of the integrated Strategy, have increased by €40 million in the current three-year period, in addition to existing bilateral and humanitarian contributions and European initiatives. The Peacebuilding Commission can play a pivotal role to ensure coordination of the broad range of partnerships needed, he said, requesting written reports on the Support Plan’s progress.
DIDAR TEMENOV (Kazakhstan) noted the regional security situation continues to deteriorate due to expanding terrorist and extremist groups, aggravated by their alliance with transnational organized crime and arms proliferation. He voiced strong support for a three-pronged strategy which strengthens the security-development nexus, adopts a regional approach and streamlines the United Nations system. The recently calibrated Integrated Strategy, Support Plan and African Union Strategy for the Sahel Region will form a robust, comprehensive framework to achieve peace and prosperity. Welcoming that the Joint Force is fully operational, he called on regional States to strengthen its coordination with other local forces including MINUSMA. He agreed with the Special Adviser that a military approach and humanitarian assistance should include addressing the causes of conflict, and development funding. Efforts must focus on the structural drivers of instability by reducing poverty, providing basic services, bolstering local governance and mitigating climate change. He underscored the importance of preventing radicalization by investing in education and employment, calling on all parties to redouble efforts to involve youth in peace and security approaches.
ESHETE TILAHUN WOLDEYES (Ethiopia) said commitments made under the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel should be fulfilled, with a sustained flow of resources. With peace and security problems expanding to the Lake Chad Basin, he noted the need to build synergies at the national, regional and international levels, including by implementing the Support Plan and the Priority Investment Programme for the G5 Sahel. It is vital to restore and expand State authority in northern Mali and the G5 Sahel countries, as well as address recent attacks against security forces and other State personnel. Noting the rise of terrorism and violent extremism, including on the Libya-Chad border, he stressed there will be little progress in defeating them without bolstering support for the G5 Sahel Joint Task Force and regional State security forces. Coordination among United Nations agencies, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union is crucial to improving the region’s humanitarian situation and long-term development.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom), welcoming progress in implementing the Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, stressed the importance of tapping the region’s potential. For that reason, he welcomed the growing focus on education, jobs and family planning that can help young leaders address challenges including climate change. He was pleased to see, in that context, increased partnerships with the countries and people of the region, particularly young people and women. More must be done to ensure that initiatives are fully funded and engage the best expertise. It is also critical that the development sector work integrally with other sectors. For that purpose, more frequent and honest conversations are needed. Organizational mandates must be clear and lines of communication among organizations must be open. The United Kingdom’s assistance approach joins the areas of emergency relief, long-term development and security, including logistical support for the G5 Joint Force.
VERÓNICA CORDOVA SORIA (Bolivia) stressed that interventionism and regime change have unleashed instability that has led to the complex challenges now faced by the Sahel, notably large-scale humanitarian crises that have been exacerbated by climate change. She commended regional and subregional efforts to cooperate in security matters, including the G5 Sahel Force. It is pivotal that the Force, within its concept of operations, receive technical cooperation and predictable, sustainable financing. She noted with concern that pledges have not been fully disbursed, stressing that all must fully shoulder their responsibilities. In addition, capacity must be bolstered in a range of areas, while national ownership is ensured. Coordination among the United Nations, ECOWAS and regional organizations is essential, she said, appealing for support to initiatives that meet the region’s urgent needs.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity, said the Sahel provides a snapshot of the numerous challenges facing the broader region. Indeed, security shocks, climate change, structural vulnerabilities and the poor provision of services hamper progress, while the proliferation of terrorists and armed groups continues. Peace and security are linked to economic and social development, and thus, lasting solutions must be sought to address instability. He expressed support for the United Nations Plan for the Sahel, which seeks to step up efforts in the region in priority areas, and in particular, its promotion of coherence and coordination within the context of the Integrated Strategy for the Sahel. In that regard, he called for strengthened cooperation with partners in the region as a precondition for implementing Council resolutions on the Sahel. Security initiatives taken by G5 Sahel are alone not sufficient; they must be accompanied by the Support Plan. Underscoring the crucial role of the World Bank in financing projects, he called for a long-term vision that takes into account people’s aspirations. He welcomed the global attention focused on the issue and encouraged countries in the region to take national ownership. The Support Plan warrants serious attention from the Council and all its development partners, he concluded.