Security Crisis in Sahel Poses Global Threat, Secretary-General Warns High-Level Meeting, Stressing ‘We Must Rethink Our Collective Efforts’, Create Breakthrough

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ speech for the high-level meeting on the Sahel, in New York today:

Thank you for your presence at this important meeting.  The situation is urgent.  Insecurity and political instability in the Sahel continue to make an already catastrophic humanitarian situation even worse.

In some regions, States have totally lost access to their populations.  Non-State armed groups are tightening their deadly grip over the region and are even seeking to extend their presence into the countries of the Gulf of Guinea.

Indiscriminate violence continues to kill and injure thousands of innocent civilians, while forcing millions of others to flee their homes.  Women and children in particular are bearing the brunt of insecurity, violence and growing inequality.  Reports of serious human rights violations committed by non-State armed groups — and also sometimes by security — are of great concern.

Climate disruption continues to cause soil erosion and the drying-up of water sources, thereby contributing to acute food insecurity and exacerbating tensions between farmers and herders.

Against a global backdrop of turmoil on energy, food and financial markets, the region is threatened by a systemic debt crisis that is likely to have repercussions throughout the continent.

With debt-to-GDP [gross domestic product] ratios of above 75 per cent in some cases, more and more countries in the region are being forced to channel their funds into debt payments, at the expense of essential services for their populations.  Furthermore, given their limited fiscal space, Governments in the Sahel are unable to pursue inclusive recovery or invest in resilience to external shocks.

It is absolutely necessary to change the rules of the game of the financial reports of the world.  These rules of the game are today completely against the interests of developing countries, and in particular the interests of African countries, with debt problems, with liquidity problems, with inflation problems, with instability, necessarily posed by this profound injustice in international financial and economic relations.

At the same time, the process of democratic consolidation is still far from complete.  Regional cooperation instruments are also being undermined.  Today, I am calling for a renewal of our collective efforts to promote democratic governance and restore constitutional order throughout the region.  The rule of law and full respect for human rights are indispensable for ensuring security and sustainable development.

Let us be clear: the security crisis in the Sahel poses a global threat.  If nothing is done, the effects of terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime will be felt far beyond the region and the African continent.  A coordinated international breakthrough is urgently needed.  We must rethink our collective approach and show creativity, going beyond existing efforts.

In December 2021, the African Union and the United Nations undertook to work together, in tandem with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), to improve global action on security, governance and development across the Sahel.

As part of this effort, we invited former President of the Republic of the Niger, His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou, to chair the High-Level Panel on Security and Development in the Sahel.  The Panel will carry out an independent assessment and make specific recommendations to address the multifaceted crisis and mobilize the resources needed for a sustainable response to it.  I encourage each of you to work closely with the Independent High-Level Panel to allow the emergence of bold solutions, even if that means stepping off the well-trodden path.

Lastly, with regard to Mali, a comprehensive review of the role of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is under way, at the request of the Security Council.  In the light of changes in the country and the challenges that persist despite collective efforts, new solutions must be found. I will be making proposals in that regard over coming months.

The United Nations stands ready to work alongside you, with urgency and solidarity, for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Sahel.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.