10 December 2012
Security Council
SC/10849

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6882nd Meeting (AM)


Security Council, in Statement, Calls for Comprehensive Strategy for Beleaguered


Sahel Region; Secretary-General Sees ‘Sustained, Systemic Crisis’

 


Special Envoy for Sahel, High Commissioner for Refugees,

Minister for Economic Community of West African States Also Speak


In a high-level meeting on the Sahel this morning, the Security Council called for the finalization of an integrated strategy for the North-African region encompassing security, governance, human rights, humanitarian needs and development, while it strongly condemned terrorism, human rights abuses and the destruction of historic sites in Mali.


Through a statement read out by the Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani of Morocco, President of the Security Council for December, the 15-member body expressed serious concern at the multiple humanitarian crises in the region, complicated by the influx of weapons, separatist movements and terrorist groups, which included Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.


Recognizing the importance of immediate humanitarian aid and long-term institution-building and development, the statement welcomed the holding of a Rome meeting on 7 December to coordinate concrete action towards those goals, as well measures taken by States of the region in coordination with regional and international organizations.  It reaffirmed the need for enhanced and inclusive synergy between all stakeholders.


“We cannot lose sight of the context in which Mali is but a part:  a sustained, systemic crisis across the entire Sahel region,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the start of the meeting, noting the armed insurgency in that country and pointing to a “toxic brew of vulnerability” there, including mass food insecurity, large-scale criminal activity, extreme climatic conditions and fragile economies. 


The need for an integrated regional strategy to deal with those problems, he said, had already been noted through Council resolution 2056 (2012), and a framework had been presented during a high-level meeting in September, with Romano Prodi appointed as his Special Envoy for the Sahel.  He urged the international community to support efforts to develop the integrated strategy.  “We simply must not relent until peace and stability have been restored to the region,” he said.


Mr. Prodi, also addressing the Council, said that although the priority was restoring the unity of Mali and uniting against terrorism, he was focussed as well on humanitarian aid and long-term development, within an integrated strategy that would bring urgent relief to those in need and attract tight cooperation of the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union and all the main actors of world politics. 


Substantial resources were also needed, he said, and for that reason, he was getting on board the widest number of countries, international institutions and private donors, with the first focus on people in dire need.  A donor meeting would be organized very soon; a multi-donor trust fund was an urgent necessity. 


In Mali itself, he said, it was vital, despite the difficulties, to identify and support one and only one “decision centre” inside the country, as strong leadership was needed to negotiate with acceptable interlocutors in the north, with whom political dialogue must be opened.  The international community must act as facilitators, leaving the Malians full responsibility. 


At the same time, military action must be prepared with the necessary instruments, lest “we are not credible even in our effort for peace”.  However, every effort must be made to use peaceful means to make progress.  As the tensions between north and south were decades old, a platform of decentralization was needed that preserved the unity of Mali, negotiated with international facilitation. 


Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the harsh conditions facing refugees and internally displaced persons due to the fighting in Mali illustrated the urgency of the Sahel issue.  Nearly 350,000 people had been forced from their homes since the beginning of 2012, many fleeing to neighbouring countries in a region rife with drought and food insecurity.  Many were vulnerable to sexual violence and child recruitment. 


Mr. Guterres agreed that building resilience in the region as a whole was critical.  In Mali, which he deemed to be among the most explosive corners of the world, it was up to the Council to consider the appropriate international response, but he cautioned that any military intervention, even when successful, would result in the displacement of tens of thousands more people.


Also calling for an integrated strategy for the region, on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire sounded an alarm on the regional threat posed by terrorists in Mali, calling for the immediate authorization of an African-led military force to restore the country’s territorial integrity.  “We must act urgently and now,” he said, warning that delays would strengthen the terrorists.  “And the bill to pay to remove them will be even higher for all of us.” 


Following those briefings, representatives of Council members — some at the ministerial level — and other concerned countries and organizations agreed with the need for an integrated approach to the crises in the Sahel, with most concurring with the urgency of the threat posed by terrorists in Mali.  While some urged quick authorization of an African-led support mission, the representative of the Russian Federation cautioned that military force should be used only as a last resort, pointing to the negative effects, particularly proliferation of weapons, which followed fighting in Libya.


Represented at the Ministerial or Cabinet level at this morning’s meeting were Morocco, Colombia, Togo, United States, United Kingdom and Azerbaijan.


Also speaking were the representatives of France, China, Portugal, Pakistan, South Africa, Guatemala, India, Germany and Chad (on behalf of the Community of Sahelian and Maghreb States — CEN-SAD).


The Permanent Observers of the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as representatives of the European Union, Arab Maghreb Union, World Bank and the African Development Bank, also made statements.


The meeting began at 9:37 a.m. and ended at 1:18 p.m.


Presidential Statement


The full text of the statement contained in document S/PRST/2012/26 reads as follows:


“The Security Council reiterates its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the Charter of the United Nations and recalls that cooperation with regional and subregional organizations, consistent with Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations is an important pillar of collective security.


“The Security Council reaffirms its strong commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of countries in the Sahel region.


“The Security Council expresses its concern about the underlying problems in the Sahel region and remains engaged in addressing the complex security and political challenges in this region that are inter-related with humanitarian and developmental issues as well as adverse effects of climate and ecological changes.


“The Security Council remains seriously concerned over the insecurity and the significant ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Sahel region, which is further complicated by the presence of armed groups, including separatist movements, terrorist and criminal networks, and their increased activities, as well as the continued proliferation of weapons from within and outside the region that threaten peace, security, and stability of States in this region and in this regard stresses the importance of the implementation of all relevant Security Council Resolutions including those with regards to arms embargoes.


“The Security Council also reiterates its grave concern about the consequences of instability in the north of Mali on the Sahel region and beyond, and stresses the need to respond swiftly to this crisis through a comprehensive and strategic approach in order to ensure the territorial integrity of Mali and restore its stability and prevent further destabilization of States of the Sahel.


“The Security Council expresses its grave concern about the increasing entrenchment in the Sahel of terrorist elements, including Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), affiliated groups and other extremist groups, and its consequences for the countries of the region and beyond.


“The Security Council continues to be concerned about the serious threats posed by transnational organized crime in the Sahel region, and its increasing links, in some cases, with terrorism.


“The Security Council strongly condemns the abuses of human rights committed in the region by terrorist and other extremist groups, including violence against civilians, notably women and children, extrajudicial and arbitrary executions, hostage-taking, trafficking in persons, and recruitment of child soldiers.


“The Security Council reiterates its strongest condemnation of the desecration, damage and destruction of sites of holy, historic and cultural significance, especially but not exclusively those designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including in the city of Timbuktu.


“The Security Council welcomes the initiatives and measures taken by the States of the Sahel, West Africa and the Maghreb, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Arab Maghreb Union, the Community of Sahelo-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), international partners such as the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the United Nations to tackle the complex multidimensional challenges facing the Sahel region but stresses the importance of strengthening trans-regional, interregional and international cooperation on the basis of a common and shared responsibility.


“The Security Council reaffirms, in this regard, the urgent need for enhanced and inclusive cooperation and coordination between States of the Sahel and the Maghreb, and among each other, in collaboration with relevant United Nations entities, regional and international partners, in order to combat AQIM activities and to prevent further progress of AQIM elements and affiliated groups in the Sahel and Maghreb regions and beyond, as well as to tackle the proliferation of all arms and transnational organized crime, including illicit activities such as drug trafficking.


“The Security Council recognizes the work done and efforts made by the relevant United Nations bodies, entities, relevant subsidiary bodies, and other international, regional, and subregional organizations aimed at enhancing capacity-building of States of the Sahel, and urges them to step up their efforts to provide, upon request, assistance for these countries in order to contribute to security and arms control and tackle transnational organized criminal activities and terrorism.


“The Security Council reiterates the need for an enhanced, comprehensive, and more regional approach to the provision of humanitarian assistance to the food insecure, conflict-affected, and displaced populations in accordance with applicable international law and the guiding principles of humanitarian assistance, and emphasizes the necessity to turn attention to the chronic structural nature of food insecurity and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region, address the underlying causes of chronic repetitive humanitarian emergencies as well as strengthen regional mechanisms for early warning and disaster risk reduction . 


“The Security Council commends efforts made by the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other agencies to provide assistance and draw attention to the scale of the problems in the Sahel as well as the support provided by countries in the region and beyond.


“The Security Council recognizes that the strengthening of State institutions, economic and social development, respect for human rights and the rule of law are necessary to ensure long-term security, development and stability in the Sahel region.


“The Security Council also recognizes the importance of a comprehensive approach encompassing security, development and humanitarian issues to address the immediate and long term needs of the Sahel region.


“The Security Council welcomes the initiative of the Secretary-General to hold a high-level meeting on the Sahel, on 26 September 2012, in the margin of the sixty-seventh General Assembly of the United Nations.


“The Security Council also welcomes the holding of the Rome meeting of 7 December 2012 by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, which identified concrete and coordinated actions to advance the resolution of the multiple crises in the Sahel region. 


“The Council encourages the Special Envoy to pursue his efforts in order to coordinate bilateral, interregional and international response and support for the Sahel region and to engage constructively with other representatives from regional, subregional organizations, bilateral partners and countries of the region and in this regard stresses the importance of a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approach by all United Nations entities involved in the Sahel region and their cooperation with one another with a view of maximizing synergies.


“The Security Council reiterates, in this regard, its call to the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to finalize as soon as possible the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel region encompassing governance, security, humanitarian, human rights and developmental issues as requested by Security Council Resolution 2056 (2012).”


Background


The Security Council met this morning under the agenda “Peace and Security in Africa:  The Sahel — Towards a more comprehensive and coordinated approach”.


Briefings


BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stressed that even though the Council was dealing with acute problems in the Sahel, “as acute as the problems are, we cannot lose sight of the context in which Mali is but a part:  a sustained, systemic crisis across the entire Sahel region.  What happens in Mali can affect the entire region.”  He added that the problems in Mali could not be effectively addressed without confronting the challenges in the broader region. 


“The warning lights for the Sahel region continue to flash,” he warned.  “Political turmoil, terrorist activity, drug trafficking and arms smuggling are spilling over borders and threatening peace and security,” he added, noting that extreme climatic conditions and fragile economies added to the “toxic brew of vulnerability”, with millions affected by food security and children at risk of acute malnutrition. 


“The Governments and people of the Sahel need our full support,” he said, noting that the United Nations had mobilized over $1 billion to respond to immediate needs.  Increased rainfall promised a better harvest season, but more needed to be done, including building resilient societies and institutions through coordinated, system-wide approaches. 


The need for an integrated strategy, he said, had already been noted in Council resolution 2056 (2012), and a framework had been presented during a high-level meeting in September, with Romano Prodi appointed as Special Envoy for the Sahel.  Now, the region was the subject of energy initiatives and was ideally situated to be a global showcase for solar energy. 


He called on the international community to continue to support efforts to develop the integrated strategy.  “We simply must not relent until peace and stability have been restored to the region,” he said.


ROMANO PRODI, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, said his goal was organizing “a worldwide platform aimed at putting in action an efficient network of humanitarian aid and a common strategy for the development of the Sahel”.  Nothing could be done, however, without restoring a united of Mali.


A priority was common action against any form of terrorism and illegal behaviour, with the strong cooperation of the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union and all the main actors of world politics. 


He said his mandate was focused on peace and security, political stability, humanitarian aid and long-term development, within the integrated strategy that would bring urgent relief to those in need, generate trust and attract international attention.  The key was “tight cooperation among all those who are facing the Sahel challenge, wherever they come from”.  For that reason, he started with extensive meetings with all stakeholders, building up to a December meeting in Rome, which had created a “large, strong international cooperative team”. 


Immediate challenges included environmental degradation, youth unemployment, water management, weak institutions, human trafficking, organized crime and terrorism, he said.  Substantial resources were needed; for that reason, he was getting on board the widest number of countries, international institutions and private donors, with the first focus on people in dire need.  A donor meeting would be organized very soon; a multi-donor trust fund was an urgent necessity. 


For long-term development, he had received offers from some of the best specialists in the world, but the involvement of Governments, civil society, regional partners, non-governmental organizations and financial institutions was necessary.  He envisaged resource mobilization in two phases, for both immediate and long-term needs, looking for support from the full range of international community members


Mobilized funds, however, would never substitute for good governance, he said.  The onus must be placed on the shoulders of the Governments of the region for that purpose, and he planned to hold a meeting in the near future for Sahelian countries to forge a common strategy. 


In Mali itself, he said, it was vital — though difficult — to identify and support one and only one “decision centre” inside the country, as strong leadership was needed to negotiate with acceptable interlocutors in the north, with whom political dialogue must be opened.  The international community must act as facilitator, leaving to the Malians full responsibility for the process.  It was the duty of all to work to end the violence.  Political union and democratic evolution must be achieved.


At the same time, military action must be prepared with the necessary instruments, lest “we are not credible even in our effort for peace”.  Yet, every effort must be made to use peaceful means towards achieving the goals.  Everyone knew an extended military action always had consequences, not only in terms of humanitarian tragedy, but also financial costs and an extended period of economic crisis.  Many months were needed to gather the strength requested for a credible full-range campaign.


On elections, he urged that they take place as soon as possible, and that technical preparations begin immediately.  As the tensions between North and South were decades old, a platform of decentralization was needed that preserved the unity of Mali, negotiated with international facilitation. 


International efforts must ensure that the crisis in Mali did not spread to the whole Sahel, he commented, passing on the Secretary-General’s view that any military effort in the country must be undertaken after careful analysis and preparation and should be part of an agreed political process that tackled the roots of the conflict. 


“People of the Sahel carry many hopes and aspirations.  I firmly believe that we must help them to accomplish these,” he concluded.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said just four days ago steps had been taken to protect the rights of internally displaced persons.  That meant tangible progress on the legal level for millions of uprooted people across Africa.  The situation in Mali and the harsh conditions facing internally displaced persons illustrated the urgency of the situation.  Nearly 350,000 people had been forced from their homes since the beginning of the year, with many fleeing to neighbouring countries in a region where drought and food insecurity had already caused humanitarian crises.  Protection concerns were growing, with violations including sexual violence and child recruitment.


However, he said, Mali’s challenges could not be examined in isolation; all aspects of the Sahel region should be considered, including the devastating effects of climate change.  Resilience was a key, not only to better prevent and mitigate the impact of natural disasters, but also to adapt to the slow onset of desertification and other forms of destruction to ensure an environment that was able to sustain human life.


Algeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger and Togo should be commended for their generosity, keeping their borders open through the crisis, he said.  Host Governments and communities had provided food and assistance to newly arrived refugees, but they needed and deserved much stronger international solidarity to help them manage the additional strain of the refugee influx.  At the same time, aid delivery was hampered by problems of access, as well as by insecurity and kidnapping.


Mali’s fragile situation was compounded by a number of complex interlinked factors, making it potentially one of the most explosive corners of the world today.  An area bigger than the entire Iberian peninsula was without the presence of any State authority and controlled by armed extremist groups, engaging in highly lucrative organized crime, including drugs and arms trafficking, people smuggling and terrorist-linked activities.  That created security risks at the national and subregional levels and beyond, potentially impacting West Africa and Europe.


A future political framework must include agreements with elements of the insurgency, and create conditions for all communities to fully participate in a reformed Mali, he said.  A lasting political solution could only be reached with the full engagement of all countries in the region.  Yet, he cautioned, it would be a disastrous mistake to see the crisis in isolation, rather than an explosive mix rooted in decades of communal discontent, fuelled by an inflow of arms and foreign combatants after the war in Libya and exploited by radical groups. 


If no comprehensive political solution was found, something much broader might be triggered, namely, “a series of interlinked crises from Libya to Nigeria and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Aden, threatening the security and the stability of several countries.  The humanitarian consequences of such a scenario would be devastating.  I trust the Security Council to fully assume its responsibilities in order to prevent this from happening.”


The world was at a critical juncture for the stability of the Sahel region, he said.  Member States must give full consideration to the dimension of the crisis as they considered the appropriate international response.  It was important to remember that any military intervention, even if successful, would result in the displacement of tens of thousands more people.


Urging actors in the conflict, including a potential international force, to protect humanitarian space and ensure agencies unhindered access to affected populations, he said a clear separation of civilian and military spheres was of fundamental importance.  Planning for a political transition and post-conflict recovery must carefully consider those who had been forced to flee, he said, noting that future recovery and resilience strategies would be incomplete without including the dynamics of displacement, including safe returns.


CHARLES KOFFI DIBY, Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of C ôte d’Ivoire, also speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Council of ECOWAS, stressed the urgent need to support a United Nations integrated regional strategy for the Sahel region covering governance, security, humanitarian, human rights and sustainable development issues.  International intervention in Mali was also urgently needed.  The strategy for the Sahel region must particularly focus on trans-regional, interregional and international cooperation to address such threats as the proliferation of small arms and light weapons; trafficking in arms, drugs and persons; recruitment of child soldiers; forced displacement; impoverishment due to extreme weather conditions; human rights violations and desecration of sacred sites; and dangerous terrorist groups possessing large quantities of sophisticated weapons from the former Libyan regime. 


He urged swift development of such a strategy, unanimously endorsed and implemented for the well-being of the Sahel countries and the rest of Africa.  He lauded the appointment of Mr. Prodi, and appreciated the 7 December meeting in Rome to identify concrete, coordinated steps to resolve the crisis.  It was urgent that the Security Council authorize deployment of the African-led mission in support of Mali and its requisite logistical and financial support.  Northern Mali was gradually transforming into a sanctuary for terrorist groups carrying out massive human rights violations with impunity.  The terrorist presence was a threat to all of West Africa and the Sahel region, as well as to the Maghreb and beyond. 


A real danger to peace and global security, the situation needed a comprehensive, determined response from the international community, he said.  Deployment of the African-led mission was vital to help restore Mali’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to eliminate the terrorist presence there.  The Council must adopt such a resolution in the next few days.  “We must act urgently and now,” he said, warning that more delays would strengthen the terrorists.  “And the bill to pay to remove them will be even higher for all of us.”


Statements


SAAD-EDDINE EL OTHMANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said the Sahel region had been negatively affected by several factors, including famine and desertification, and it had become a haven for terrorists.  Clear and specific indications of challenges had emerged a few years ago, yet the international community did not act.  It was quite normal that Morocco would put the issue at the heart of its concerns during its Council presidency.


Recently, he said, acts of violence by terrorists across two thirds of Mali were setting a dangerous precedent on the continent.  The Council should act swiftly, or the terrorists’ stranglehold on Mali would grow.  It was vital to give priority to support Mali on different levels, including political and humanitarian.  Commending ECOWAS efforts to resolve the crisis, he said he hoped the Council would be able to positively reply to the request to assist Mali.


That assistance, he continued, should cover border management and security.  The time had come to institute interregional coordination for the stability of that strategic African area.  The organizations brought here today seemed to be an appropriate platform, as it was necessary to focus on the regional aspects.  Commending the work of Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Red Cross, he hoped they would achieve effective results based on sustainable development, which required international cooperation.


Multidimensional crises necessitated a holistic approach, which addressed the political, social and economic challenges, he said.  Morocco was prepared to support all efforts to stabilize the Sahel.  He hoped the presidential statement just adopted would help to do so.


MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN CUÉLLAR, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said the approach to the Sahel crisis must duly consider each affected State’s specific conditions and advance the region as a whole.  The focus should be on national ownership and coordination among regional and subregional organizations.  National authorities must define clear strategies that responded to peoples’ needs and aspirations and provided long-term structural solutions.  Regional and subregional organizations were “decisive interlocutors” in achieving the objectives.  Such immediate concerns as food insecurity, the large number of internally displaced persons and refugees, and poor health and sanitation must be addressed.  Coordinated action on security was vital, particularly as transnational criminal groups and terrorist organizations took advantage of weak border controls.  Regional mechanisms should be established to exchange information and create common legal frameworks for border control.  United Nations efforts should aim to build and strengthen national capacities and institutions over the long-term. 


She said that ECOWAS and the African Union had taken a series of consensus-building steps to assist Mali’s transitional authorities.  In resolutions 2056 (2012) and 2071 (2012), the Council had expressed its willingness to support regional efforts, but more efforts were needed.  Colombia supported ECOWAS’ two-way plan, which was also backed by the African Union, for a negotiated political solution, as well as for one that addressed the threat posed by armed groups in the country’s north.  She lauded the progress by ECOWAS Mediator Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso, and by the countries of the central groups, in establishing a platform for dialogue with the Tuareg Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) and the Ansar Dine.  Armed groups still resisting dialogue must respect the country’s unity and territorial integrity, sever ties with terrorism and organized crime, comply with global humanitarian and human rights law, and protect the country’s cultural heritage.  Such issues should not be subjected to negotiation; compliance should be a prerequisite for advancing political dialogue. 


Concerning the situation in Bamako, she urged national authorities to overcome their differences and focus on an inclusive political dialogue that facilitated a complete return to constitutional legitimacy and established consensus on a road map for the transition process, as well as strong support to address the problems in the north.  The recurring call by Malian authorities, ECOWAS and the African Union for mission deployment must be considered in a timely way.  Questions about the mission’s operations and humanitarian and human rights consequences should be answered.  She called on the Council to act urgently and support regional efforts for a coherent and timely strategy.


ELLIOT OHIN, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, said a decade ago, the countries and peoples of the Sahel were perceived as being committed to stability and development.  However, challenges and crises had arisen, and the region had become a breeding ground for many ills, jeopardizing the progress that had been made in several areas.  Now drug and weapons trafficking, religious extremism and drought were among urgent challenges.


He urged the international community to come together given the Sahel’s important geographical location.  A strategic plan was needed to optimize action to resolve the many complex factors challenging the region.  Such a blueprint should be adopted swiftly and take into account trans-regional dimensions, he said, noting the European Union strategy’s inclusion of elements that addressed poverty reduction.  Repercussions on other countries of the region must also be taken into account when designing projects for the Sahel, he said. 


What was going on in Mali, with thousands of refugees in neighbouring countries, was dire, he said.  He called on the international community to contemplate assistance.  In north Mali, vulnerable populations, including women and children, were at the mercy of terrorists, who were refusing humanitarian access.  That situation must be addressed.  The path of armed groups in the north made light of human dignity, and as such, he hoped the Council would give hope back to Malians and those living in the north by supporting the request for help.  Togo was ready to contribute as a neighbouring State, for instance, by providing grains through the World Food Programme (WFP).  As the problems of the Sahel required particular attention, he welcomed the appointment of a Special Envoy. 


SUSAN RICE ( United States) said that today the international community and the people of the Sahel continued to face complex threats that affected the region and beyond.  Violent extremism and weapons trafficking were flourishing, alongside a growing humanitarian crisis.  Those interlinked problems must be resolved.  The United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel sought to achieve the common goal of a more stable and developing region.


She said that while the acute crisis in Mali represented problems faced by other States in the region, that country’s challenges had been exacerbated by adverse ecological changes and, among others, organized criminal networks.  Given that delicate situation, addressing the crisis must not lead to further destabilization of the region.  The rise of violent extremism and organized crime in the region was also aggravating the situation in Mali, with terrorists and criminals extending their reach.


“We can only tackle these threats effectively if we work together,” she said, noting ongoing efforts, including the Global Counterterrorism Forum and other initiatives that aimed to shut down terrorist organizations and their financing sources.  For its part, the United States had contributed $445 million to drought-affected communities in the Sahel.  Stemming terrorism, fighting organized crime and promoting reconciliation were among the efforts needed to lay the foundation for stability for all the people of the Sahel, she said. 


STEPHEN O’BRIEN, Special Envoy of the United Kingdom for the Sahel, said his country was committed to tackling the challenges.  Instability threatened not only Mali, but beyond its borders.  The challenges included the current fragility of States, with long borders, vast distances and few resources, poverty, food insecurity and instability imported from outside the Sahel.  The criminality accompanying violent extremists also emanated from outside the region, he said.


Rising to those challenges required political dialogue and a new engagement with all interlocutors, including to combat terrorism and crime.  Working together, the world must share the benefits of making the region strong and stable.  Extremists, terrorists and other “destroyers” must be defeated.


Focusing on the urgent needs of Mali should not, however, detract from similar situations in other countries that could affect the region, he said.  Poverty, fragility and insecurity must be addressed together.  Since February, the United Kingdom had contributed $90 million in assistance.  But that could only provide short-term relief.  Action was needed; not just words.  He looked for a comprehensive approach to achieve the common goals.  “We are now already united,” he said.  Now the world must deliver its vision.


YASHAR ALIYEV, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said that the global community’s strong commitment to the countries in the Sahel was an important prerequisite for resolving the situation there.  The crisis in Mali was of grave concern.  He concurred with the Secretary-General that Mali’s complex emergency required a multifaceted and integrated response.  He supported ongoing national, regional and subregional efforts to promote national reconciliation and fully restore constitutional order.  The situation in northern Mali called for urgent action to restore territorial integrity, sovereignty and unity and to dismantle the terrorist and criminal networks there.  Swift, comprehensive and consistent international action was needed to tackle massive displacement, health, food insecurity and malnutrition in order to prevent a large-scale crisis in the region.  It was crucial to effectively link humanitarian and development initiatives to ensure sustainable solutions.  He called for support to national Governments’ sustainable development efforts.


He said Azerbaijan had participated in the joint high-level partnership mission to the Sahel of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in mid-October, to assess the impact of the humanitarian crisis and seek collaborative responses.  Azerbaijan would continue to contribute to national, global and regional humanitarian efforts and development assistance programmes in the Sahel.  An integrated, radical response and consistent engagement from global and regional actors were critical, and he called for the speedy finalization of the integrated strategy for the Sahel region in order to tackle security, governance, humanitarian, human rights and development issues.  The Special Envoy’s efforts were indispensable in carrying out the scheme.  Also welcome was the adoption of the presidential statement, which showed the Security Council’s strong determination to advance peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Sahel region.   


GÉRARD ARAUD (France), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the fact that the international community had finally begun to take stock of the regional nature of the crisis in Mali and the challenges of the other countries in the region, as witnessed by the high-level representation today.  Describing challenges from growing inequality to terrorism and drug trafficking, he said that solutions in Mali and elsewhere could not be imposed from the outside.  Various countries had already been taking preventative measures against food insecurity.  France had been supporting the most affected populations and was part of a global alliance to develop resilience to humanitarian crises in the Sahel. 


Only integrated action that addressed development and security, however, would be able to help the States confront security challenges, he said, describing institution-building initiatives undertaken by France.  The Maghreb countries must also play their part.  Welcoming Mr. Prodi’s appointment, he stressed the important United Nations role, based on a finalized integrated plan which he noted had been called for by the Council a year ago.  Roles must be well-defined in that plan, and all actors must be well-coordinated through close collaboration between Mr. Prodi and his African Union equivalent.  Welcoming the Rome meeting in that regard, he pledged France’s continued support for Mr. Prodi’s mandate.


LI BAODONG ( China) stressed the importance of the Sahel region for the long-term peace and stability of the African continent and noted the exacerbation of the problems there by the fighting in Libya and Mali.  He concurred with the need for an integrated strategy, created with the countries concerned and including clearly defined, practical measures.  Fundamental problems must be addressed, including poverty.  For that purpose, resources must be mobilized for both humanitarian assistance and long-term development, while ownership of regional countries and organizations of all efforts must be respected, along with the sovereignty of countries in the region. 


The Council’s primary role should be focused on peace and security, with other United Nations entities playing their roles according to their mandates under the coordination of Mr. Prodi, he said.  His country had been supporting stability and development of regional countries in various ways, including through emergency food and counter-terrorism measures.  It would continue to provide such support, he pledged.


VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) expressed grave concern over the crisis in Mali and the rest of the region, noting that terrorism had become a significant factor.  Political solutions were needed, with military action a last resort.  The Sahel continued to feel the effects of the Libyan crisis, including the leakage of vast quantities of weapons.  That urgent problem must be a focus of attention by the Council, which must ensure strict compliance with the arms embargo on Libya.  The primary role in dealing with the regional crises must be played by the countries of the region themselves, with substantial support by the international community.  As the leading support role should be played by the United Nations in that effort, he welcomed the appointment of Mr. Prodi.  He pledged continued multifaceted assistance by his country to its partners in the region.


JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said recent events in Mali had underlined the need for the international community to deal with long-standing fragility in the region.  He hoped the Council would soon pass a resolution reflecting the current regional request for assistance in Mali.  Security issues were not just restricted to the Sahel, as the situations in coastal countries, including criminal activities and terrorism, also contributed to regional insecurities.  The challenges faced by the region’s countries were transnational in nature, but action plans should be put into practice by regional organizations.  Support from outside the region, including the European Union, was also helpful.


A coherent strategy should frame all those efforts, he said, hoping that the Special Envoy would implement a broader blueprint.  Some of the problems facing Sahel countries required urgent action, while others required long-term schemes.  The United Nations strategy should identify short- and long-term needs in order to evolve the best combination of assistance leading to sustainable results.  A harmonized approach would prevent duplication.  For its part, Portugal would continue to contribute to find solutions.


MOHAMMAD MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan) said the serious security, humanitarian and socio-economic challenges in the Sahel, if left unaddressed, could reverse gains and negatively impact long-term stability.  The conflict in Libya had added to the region’s difficulties, the consequences of which were still unfolding, with Mali its first victim.  Pakistan had previously expressed grave concern at the rise of organized crime in West Africa and the Sahel, and tackling such threats demanded greater regional cooperation in the border management, justice and law enforcement sectors.  In the short run, international assistance was needed and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) should play a role in that regard.


He expressed hope that the United Nations integrated strategy would soon be finalized with support from the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy.  That strategy should be based on the principle of national ownership and drafted in close consultation with the concerned countries.  Its objectives should be realistic and prioritized.  A focus on coordination among the various United Nations presences in the region was crucial for its success.  Pakistan supported efforts to restore Mali’s territorial integrity, address the terrorist threat and respond to the humanitarian situation through a comprehensive approach that focused on the political and security aspects of the crisis.  The African Union Joint Strategic Concept of Operations provided a useful basis in that regard.


BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said that over the last months, the region had endured enormous and complex challenges, including instability in some countries, increased terrorist activities, transnational crime, a worsening humanitarian situation and a persistent food crisis.  He was concerned by the growing threat posed by terrorist groups and aggravated by the Libyan crisis, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation.  An estimated $800 million was needed to address urgent food needs alone, he said, noting that his country had delivered more than 100 tons of maize power boosts for children in September and October.


He said that the challenges in the region required a holistic and comprehensive approach from all, and it was imperative the international community, with regional organizations, worked together to address the root causes.  While the region demanded an urgent response, it also required long-term sustainable intervention, and commitment must be unwavering, he said, calling on the Special Envoy to urgently finalize the strategy for the Sahel.  The challenges facing Mali were related to the region’s overall situation, and required an urgent response.  This Council must be seen as united in supporting Malian forces to recapture the north.  “If the situation is left unattended,” he said, “it would lead to further deterioration of the humanitarian situation and further human rights violations.  If left unchecked, the situation in the Sahel threatens to spread and affect other countries in the region and beyond.”


GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said the problems of drought, famine and extreme poverty in the Sahel were compounded by others associated with organized crime and safe havens for terrorists.  In Mali, long-standing demands for more autonomy from Tuareg ethnic groups in the north had grown and were testing the country’s territorial integrity.  Extremist armed groups had made impressive gains and sanctuaries for terrorists and criminal cartels had appeared.  He supported a robust reaction from the Council.  Partnerships between the United Nations and regional and subregional institutions offered important benefits, but they also gave rise to potential difficulties around how the chain of command functioned in complex peacekeeping operations and who “picks up the bill”.


He welcomed partnership in Mali, but one which did not compromise the Council’s functions.  Al-Qaida, the Movement of the Unity of Jihad in West Africa, Ansar Dine and Boko Haram must be prevented from establishing sanctuaries, and the Malian Government must re-establish control of all its territory.  Humanitarian assistance was another priority for the Sahel, and he commended the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in that regard.  Combating organized crime in the region — including the trafficking of illicit drugs, arms, persons and contraband — required international cooperation.  The situation in Mali required an integrated and coordinated approach by the United Nations, and Guatemala awaited the presentation of the integrated strategy requested last July.  In sum, he called on all international stakeholders to redouble their efforts to provide support to all countries in the Sahel.


HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said the presence of high-level briefers today underlined the urgency of the issues at hand.  The region faced challenges on many fronts, and over the past year, the crisis in Mali had seen weapons proliferation and the growth of organized crime and drug trafficking.  The humanitarian situation had also worsened.  Extremist and terrorist groups had taken advantage of the situation and were consolidating their positions in northern Mali, and Al-Qaida activities in the Maghreb had turned the area into a regional terrorist hub.  Clearly, the time had come for the international community to assist the region’s countries with a holistic approach with United Nations help.


An integrated strategy should be developed with countries and regional organizations, with the primary goal of stabilization.  He urged political dialogue and implementation of national reconciliation programmes and humanitarian assistance.  He hoped the Council would approve the proposed strategy, and he urged the international community to provide resources to address the food crisis in the region.  In addition, more effective border control and other measures should be taken to improve security, and all efforts should respect each country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.  The renewed attention of the international community on the Sahel was welcome, and he hoped that that would translate into action and a United Nations-led integrated strategy for the Sahel.


PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said the situation in the Sahel was only brought to the Council’s attention last year.  The current crisis in Mali highlighted the challenges facing the region, including transnational organized crime, terrorism and food insecurity.  Climate change had also caused dire problems.  Immediate attention was required to fight terrorism and the arms spread.  For its part, Germany was engaged in arms control, including stockpile management and security.  The humanitarian crisis needed urgent attention, including more assistance, he said, noting that his country had contributed $80 million in 2012.


Tackling the challenges required cooperation with neighbours through subregional and regional organizations, he said.  Improving national, international and multi-national coordination was also needed, and he encouraged close collaboration between the United Nations and the European Union on the Sahel strategy.  A comprehensive overarching approach was needed, which he hoped to see articulated in the proposed strategy. 


TÉTE ANTÓNIO, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said the Sahel region faced multiple challenges aggravated by the Libyan crisis and the ensuing spread of weapons.  In that context, the African Union condemned attacks in mid-January by armed rebels.  It was now necessary to take a global approach to address all the issues at play, including terrorism, armed opposition, transnational organized crime and small arms and light weapons proliferation.


He said that after examining the situation in the region, the African Union’s Commission had decided to open new offices to establish a presence in affected countries, strengthen existing offices and develop an approach to, among others, ensure coherence of the activities of different organizations.  It was important to remember the sustained efforts being made in the past few years by countries in the region to address their challenges, and he commended the work of ECOWAS and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States.  He underlined the importance of addressing ransoms collected for hostages, which funded terrorism.


For its part, the African Union was sparing no effort to help resolve the Malian crisis based on pertinent decisions of the Peace and Security Council, which aimed at stabilization and development in the Sahel region.


DAVID O’SULLIVAN, Chief Operating Officer of the European External Action Service of the European Union, expressed the Union’s extreme concern over the situation in the Sahel and Mali in particular, which, he said, required urgent, integrated, coordinated and determined action by all in the region, with the support of a united international community.  He stressed in particular the threat of terrorist and criminal groups in northern Mali, which were already perpetrating serious human rights violations, for which they must be held accountable.  He urged the finalization of an integrated United Nations strategy under Mr. Prodi.


Since 2010, he said, in close coordination with the Governments of Mali, Niger and Mauritania, the Union had been developing and implementing a Sahel-wide development and security strategy, with the objective to promote simultaneously good governance and development.  Under current conditions, the Union was committed to make special efforts on the security front, including training and coordination, and to address a request by the Government of Mali to help modernize the country’s defence forces, as part of global support for the restoration of State authority, political transition, reunification and stability in the country.


He added that an African-led International Support Mission in Mali had a significant role to play, within and subject to a comprehensive political framework and a coordinated approach by neighbouring countries.  The Union would assess what it could provide to such a mission after the Council reached its conclusions on the matter.


AHMAD ALLAM-MI (Chad), on behalf of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), said that traffickers of all kinds plagued the region, given its porous borders and weak security sectors.  The Libyan crisis and its outflow of weapons and fighters exacerbated the phenomenon, turning it into a vast sanctuary for illicit groups.  His country had tried to protect itself by arresting criminals and securing its borders.  The fight must be coordinated and supported, however, and a wide-ranging programme of development was critical.  Desertification continued apace, and poverty was growing.  Development assistance must build a broad range of infrastructure to stabilize the situation and improve living conditions. 


CEN-SAD, he said, had been created to support such efforts, but faced great challenges and had to undergo restructuring.  The situation in Mali, meanwhile, became more threatening while the international community failed to act.  On a military intervention, he said his country would adopt a final position when the Council spoke with one voice with ECOWAS and the African Union.  But a situation that threatened international peace and security so critically must be dealt with.  Finally, he wondered whether it was appropriate to conceptualize a situation in Mali that pit the north against the south, given that the country until recently had been an example of multicultural coexistence.


SAIDA MENDILI, Director of Political Affairs in the Arab Maghreb Union, said the developments in the Sahel and Sahara areas affected the whole African region.  The strategic location of the State in terms of geography and culture raised the world’s awareness of the dangerous repercussions stemming from the instability there.  Armed units would indeed strike when crises were plentiful, which posed a common threat to the area.  Additionally, Al-Qaida recruited youths, making it a collective international responsibility to educate young people to prevent their recruitment.  Drugs, arms and human smuggling also exacerbated insecurity.


She said that supporting security and development was key, and she commended efforts to do so in Mali through a political approach.  However, large-scale disarmament efforts were needed to ensure positive results.  Threats to stability should be addressed through an integrated and coordinated strategy.  Turning to Al-Qaida, she said there was no choice but to bolster cooperation among States, which required global assistance for joint operations and border management.  Drying up terrorism sources required enhancing development programmes, which could help to confront the root causes of the challenges facing the region today.


RITVA S. REINIKKA, Director, Human Development, Africa, World Bank, reiterated the Bank’s commitment to working collaboratively to address needs in the Sahel, where 19 million people had been affected by reduced access to food following the 2011 drought.  Some 3.2 million people in West Africa overall had been affected by flooding and 1.7 million had been displaced, mostly in Nigeria.  Such challenges added to desert locusts, rapid population growth and child malnutrition.  In Mali, even in years with record agricultural production, many people were vulnerable to chronic food insecurity, high malnutrition and loss of livelihood, shocks that had tragic long-term impacts.


She said that the institutional and security crisis in Mali stemming from the coup had compounded an already difficult situation.  To help vulnerable groups, the Bank had resumed operations in July in the social and agricultural sectors, and now was preparing new basic education and safety net programmes, working jointly with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WFP.  Its three-phased response — an approach used in the Horn of Africa — ranged from providing immediate relief to planning and investing in long-term resilience.  In recent months, it had made accelerated disbursements totalling $64 million from existing Bank operations, supporting households through cash-for-work and other programmes.


Further, the Bank had helped to replace lost assets and recover livelihoods, she said.  Investments in transformative multi-use water infrastructure — such as the Kandadji programme in Niger — would help sustain agricultural production.  Such efforts must be accompanied by climate-smart agricultural practices.  Food security in the Sahel also could be significantly improved by measures to free up food trade, including by improving the efficiency of border crossings.  Strengthening regional bodies, such as the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, would be a key element of preparedness going forward.  That would further develop early warning systems, including through use of simple technologies such as mobile phones.


YOUSSOUF OUEDRAOGO, Special Adviser to the President of the African Development Bank, said his institution supported development in the Sahel region, which, for too long, had been beset by conflict, religious fundamentalism and trafficking.  The destabilization of States and displacement of populations demanded that the world acted together to prevent the situation from worsening and dangerously affecting the region.  The Bank felt that a strategy for the Sahel must be an integrated one that addressed a range of issues. 


He noted that the Bank had been involved in farming projects in the region, which he hoped would become an area for development.  The Bank had also addressed drought-related challenges, with a view to boost economic resilience, he said, highlighting a $500 million project aimed at promoting infrastructure to build capacity and improve productivity.  The 10-year plan would start in 2014.  He noted a greater flow among regional and national markets, but said that was not enough, especially since it was less expensive, for instance, for Senegal to import onions from the Netherlands than from Niger.  With that in mind, the Bank would help to develop road infrastructure.


Turning to Mali, he said that country had been exemplary not long ago but had now rapidly deteriorated.  The Bank stood ready to help, he said, suggesting budgetary support by the International Monetary Fund.  The Bank would back certain efforts, including the provision of drinking water in Bamako and other measures that would help to strengthen the country in general.


UFUK GOKCEN, Permanent Observer of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the organization had issued calls to different parties involved from the beginning of the Malian crisis to shun the path of violence and settle through dialogue and negotiations.  Supporting the initiatives of ECOWAS, the African Union and other organizations aimed at finding a peaceful solution for the region, he said recent meetings had reiterated his organization’s support to that end and expressed deep concern over the humanitarian crisis, which mandated the Secretary-General to take the necessary measures to mobilize the needed resources.


He said that terrorism and organized crime should be rejected strongly, particularly when attempts were made to link those activities with Islam.  A partnership with local and international Governments, institutions and civil society would provide an all-inclusive setting for peaceful dialogue and negotiation.  His organization’s humanitarian department had recently undertaken missions to Syria and Mali.  In many cases, humanitarian efforts could no longer stand alone if progress was not sustained by stable development within the region.  There was a need in the Sahel for a comprehensive and integrated approach to address security, governance, development and humanitarian needs. 


“We all share the responsibility of acting collectively in order to help the populations of Mali and the Sahel region,” he said, calling on the international community to work more actively and in coordination towards putting pressure on all parties to end the crisis immediately and restore peace and stability in Mali and the region.


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