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

26 January 2012
SC/10533

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

26 January 2012
Security Council
SC/10533
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6709th Meeting (PM)

Spiking Arms Proliferation, Organized Crime, Terrorism Part of Fallout

 

from Libyan Crisis Afflicting Sahel, Security Council Told

 

Under-Secretary-General Briefs Members on Findings

Of United Nations Inter-agency Assessment Mission to Sub-Saharan Region

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background

Meeting to consider peace and security in Africa, the Security Council had before it a letter dated 17 January 2012 from the Secretary-General to the President of the Council (document S/2012/42) transmitting the report of the United Nations inter-agency assessment mission on the impact of the Libyan crisis on the Sahel region, undertaken between 7 and 23 December 2011.

The report says that due to the Libyan upheaval, and in the context of an already challenging humanitarian, development and security situation, Governments in the region are faced with the return of millions of economic migrants, the smuggling of weapons from Libyan stockpiles, terrorist activities, youth unemployment, trafficking in drugs and human beings, and a surge in criminality.  Added to this backdrop is an impending food and nutrition crisis, the report says, noting the determination of those Governments to address the challenges.

A particular focus of national efforts, the report continues, is the transnational threat posed by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as the menace of Boko Haram and other groups, and the proliferation of weapons.  However, it is clear that there are only limited national and regional capacities to confront those threats, which cannot be addressed in isolation.  Despite the establishment of regional mechanisms, they lack adequate means to implement their tasks.  Leaders in all the countries visited stressed the need for home-grown solutions, supported by the international community.

According to the report, leaders in the region expressed great appreciation for the sustained multilateral assistance provided by the United Nations country teams, and for initiatives by the African Union, European Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other bilateral and multilateral stakeholders.  They called strongly upon the United Nations to support those initiatives and help ensure greater coherence and coordination at all levels.

The report notes the mission’s conclusion that any immediate or long-term strategy to mitigate the impact of the Libyan crisis should take the root causes of regional problems into account.  The strengthening of existing regional mechanisms, through capacity-building and enhanced coordination arrangements, is also important, it says, stressing that issues like border control, information-sharing on cross-border activities — such as the smuggling of weapons, substances and people — should be pursued as a matter of priority.  Globally, the United Nations should spearhead the mobilization of greater international support to address human insecurity and underdevelopment in the Sahel, the report says.

It goes on to recommend a comprehensive programme to establish quick-impact projects that would help to address youth unemployment, food insecurity, nutrition and other sources of vulnerability; and a framework within which all affected countries can discuss solutions together.  Nigeria and Niger belong to ECOWAS while Mauritania does not, and Chad is a member of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), while Algeria is in the Arab-Maghreb zone, the report points out.  Moreover, none of the existing United Nations presences in the region have an overarching mandate that covers the vast Sahel, it adds.

Briefing

B. LYNN PASCOE, Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, said that the Secretary-General had dispatched the interagency assessment mission to look into the impact of the Libyan crisis on the Sahel, and it had found “a remarkable openness to engage on the nature and enormity of the challenges” confronting the Sahel among the region’s civil and political leaders.  While most of those challenges pre-dated the crisis, a top priority for the countries visited was the question of feeding and reintegrating vulnerable returnees arriving from Libya, and helping affected communities cope with the loss of remittances.

The region also faced underlying structural problems and a looming food crisis, he said, describing strong appeals for the United Nations and the African Union, among others, to find a mutually satisfactory framework for rebuilding relationships in the region.  The mission had found that greater efforts were needed to identify the criminal and militia elements that were “reigniting embers of past rebellions”, using weapons smuggled from Muammar al-Qadhafi’s arsenal during the fighting in Libya.

He said the mission’s report made recommendations in three areas:  support and capacity-building in respect of ongoing national initiatives to address the region’s immediate humanitarian, socio-economic and security challenges, as well as enhanced efforts by United Nations country teams; support for existing regional mechanisms and enhanced coordination agreements on border control and the growing activities of terrorist organizations building networks throughout the region; and the mobilization of international support for the Sahel by the United Nations and the African Union.

For their part, Mr. Pascoe continued, regional actors had made clear the urgent need to deal with the upsurge in terrorist groups, address the socio-economic situation and exert more comprehensive efforts to address the smuggling of drugs and weapons.  Recent security developments in the region had reinforced security concerns, he said, describing the worsening security situation in Mali following heavy fighting between Government forces and Tuareg militias who were part of the self-proclaimed “Azawad National Liberation Movement”.

There was concern about similar violence in neighbouring Niger, he said, adding that the security equilibrium in both countries was especially volatile due to the enhanced presence and heightened activity of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other criminal networks.  To deal with those challenges and ensure a comprehensive, long-lasting impact, a mechanism was needed to bring together all the affected countries and major outside actors in a coordinated manner, he said.  Given the urgency of the Sahel’s deteriorating security and humanitarian situation, it was critical that the international community responded to the strong and consistent calls by the concerned countries by supporting ongoing initiatives.

Statements

RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan), expressing his “extreme concern” that the Libyan crisis was exacerbating the problems of Sahelian countries, stressed the urgent need to address the situation through an appropriate assistance package.  Immediate steps must be taken to prevent possible arms proliferation and an increase in terrorism, he said, advocating the building of those countries’ capacity in those areas.  He requested more information on existing international resources on the ground and other relevant data that could help the Council focus on aspects of the situation under its purview.  Noting that the report mentioned the concept of “hot pursuit”, he said he was not aware of an accepted notion of that kind and asked the Secretariat to remove it while stressing the importance of cooperation among all actors in the region.

GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said greater coordination was required to address the Sahel’s complex problems, which had existed before the Libyan crisis.  It was clear that the problems were transnational, and therefore relevant for the Council to deal with them in all their aspects.  The solutions must come first from the States themselves, and the international community must support their efforts, he said.  The United Nations had a vital role to play through a more integrated internal approach guiding all its agencies through a common strategy.  The European Union had contributed much assistance to the Sahel and was committed to appointing a coordinator and putting the necessary machinery in place, he noted, urging the United Nations to coordinate with those initiatives to ensure non-duplication of efforts.  France had submitted a draft press statement on the issues at hand, which would hopefully be adopted, he said.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) concurred with the previous speaker that the Sahel’s complex problems had existed well before the Libyan crisis and required a well-coordinated response, emphasizing the vital importance of the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS standing in solidarity with the region’s nations.  ECOWAS must play a major role on weapons proliferation.  On the trafficking of illicit goods, he welcomed the Sahelian countries’ development of a common judicial platform, but stressed that more capacity-building was needed.  He called on all Governments in the region to facilitate access for humanitarian actors.  He also expressed his Government’s deep concern over the Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria, and emphasized that the United Kingdom was committed to helping to ensure that country’s security.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said that military operations carried out ostensibly to protect civilians had led to adverse consequences for millions in the Sahel.  In a relatively short time, its countries had had to contend with the impact of half a million returnees and an influx of large numbers of weapons.  Noting that some 3 million people had lost their sources of livelihood, exacerbating food insecurity and the nutrition crisis in the region, he said terrorist groups were increasingly filling that vacuum.  Most of those countries had few resources to deal with such challenges, he said, adding that structural challenges had a regional dimension and must therefore be tackled through regional cooperation.

India supported a comprehensive national, regional and international strategy by which Sahelian countries should implement measures to combat terrorism and organized crime, in accordance with international instruments, he said.  The United Nations should extend technical support to those instruments, focusing on employment and developing livelihoods.  It was also necessary to support regional initiatives and expand the reach of regional organizations.  “The African Union was sidelined” in resolution 1973 (2011), he recalled, noting that Africa was suffering as a result.  The lesson to be learned was clear:  the United Nations must integrate its plans with African Union efforts and better support regional and subregional organizations.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said the report confirmed that the real scope of the Libyan crisis was just beginning to come to light.  Its negative impact spanned national and even continental borders, greatly increasing the risk of terrorism.  Meanwhile, the Libyan authorities had no way to control the situation in their country, he said, adding that they were allowing weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists and to appear on the black market.  Resolution 2017 (2011), tabled on the Russian Federation’s initiative, was designed to prevent terrorism, he said, stressing the need to use the potential of the Counter-Terrorism Committee to support Sahelian countries in countering such threats.

The Russian Federation looked forward to the timely preparation of the report by the Libya sanctions committee, which would include specific recommendations, he said.  Moreover, the inter-agency mission to the Sahel had identified the major challenge of a mass exodus of migrants from Libya, which further complicated the regional context.  There must be a greater effort to reintegrate the migrants, who were “easy prey” for terrorists, he cautioned.  Coordinated actions on the part of the United Nations system were also essential, and regional States must play a decisive role, he emphasized, adding that they must take their own decisions on a comprehensive mechanism, in line with their own national sovereignty.

NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) said the report was proof of the need for strong cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations.  There was a need for prompt action to support the initiatives of the Sahelian nations as they attempted to cope with their problems, under the principles of national ownership, effective cooperation and coordination, as well as the drafting of clear priorities.  Support for Libya’s recovery was also crucial to limiting the problems caused by the turmoil within its borders, he said, adding that while the current problems called for immediate action, a long-term approach was also needed.  Capacity must be built to enable the nations concerned to deal with the reintegration of returnees and the proliferation of weapons, which required the implementation of a wide range of arms and border-control strategies.  The security and development nexus must be recognized in all international assistance in the region, he stressed.

MIGUEL BERGER (Germany) emphasized that immediate problems must be tackled at the same time as long-term challenges, adding that efforts to help Libya recover and gain control over the weapons within its borders were highly relevant to the Council’s discussion.  Introducing the European Union strategy for providing assistance to the Sahel, he welcomed the African Union’s participation in the inter-agency assessment mission.  The United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) could increase its focus on security threats in the whole region, and the head of that Office could contribute to strengthening the coordination of the Sahel countries in the fight against terrorism and organized crime, in close cooperation with the regional organizations concerned.

LI BAODONG (China) said the large-scale return of foreign nationals from Libya was creating a heavy burden for the Sahel countries, while cross-border terrorism and organized crime increased, posing a sustained threat to peace and security in the region.  The region’s countries had made positive efforts, including encouraging their nationals to return home and strengthening border controls, among other things.  In that respect, China appreciated recent steps taken by ECOWAS and other regional groups, he said.  While Africa’s views should be duly respected, the impact of the Libyan crisis should not be borne by Africa alone, he emphasized, adding that the relevant United Nations agencies should give “full play” to their respective expertise and increase their overall support.

ROSEMARY A. DICARLO ( United States) said her delegation remained concerned about the threats posed by arms proliferation and terrorism in the Sahel, and called for a comprehensive approach to confronting the situation.  The United Nations could play a greater role in coordinating such efforts, she said, adding that her country would continue to tailor its assistance in that respect.  The United States was currently engaged in capacity-building efforts through the Trans-Saharan Counter-terrorism Initiative, among others.

Turning to terrorism, she said the Al-Qaida network remained a threat, having solidified its camps in northern Mali, while the Boko Haram group in Nigeria was another source of concern.  Although Sahelian countries were developing more effective regional responses to deal with threats, the Libyan crisis had brought a new set of challenges, including an influx of weapons.  The United States was concerned about the porous nature of international borders in the region, and worried that weapons could further destabilize the security situation, she said, noting that her country and partner countries were engaged in an initiative to survey the existence of weapons in the Sahel.

As for the socio-economic impact of the Libyan crisis, she said her country had provided more than $27 million, through the IOM, for migrants returning from Libya and continued to support reintegration efforts.  Urging Governments to help in the current time of need, she said greater steps were also needed to in both the short- and long-term to improve the Sahel’s food security situation.  Besides its annual support, she said, the United States had provided humanitarian assistance amounting to more than $23 million in 2011, another $58 million for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Chad, and other donations to humanitarian groups in Niger and Mali.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said the situation in Libya had clearly exacerbated the Sahel’s problems, and the integrated concept that had guided the assessment mission should guide all subsequent efforts to address them.  It was necessary to help the Libyan authorities deal with their problems, including border management, arms proliferation and others relevant to the Sahel.  The links between organized crime and terrorist groups in the region must be analysed and the United Nations system should take a more proactive approach to stemming terrorism, rather than a merely reactive one, he stressed.

Noting that some of the Sahel’s problems required quick responses while others called for long-term strategies, he said that follow-ups to the report should clarify that difference.  There was a need to build regional capacity and to encourage bilateral as well as multilateral relationships and ad hoc arrangements.  As in the European Union strategy, the link between security and development should be stressed, and the coordination of all actors was critical, as was a wider regional, integrated approach, he said.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said the Council should support countries affected by the Libyan crisis that were already taking steps to address the resulting security and humanitarian challenges.  On the humanitarian front, there was a need to strengthen early-warning systems, to mitigate the impact of returnees and to support efforts to ensure aid access.  Donor countries should support the aid activities carried out by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as well as other initiatives.  Existing regional security frameworks should be better supported, and stronger measures should be taken to implement the provisions of Council resolutions relating to the proliferation of arms and combating terrorism, he stressed.

AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said that the report showed the need to strengthen cooperation and develop a common approach to the problems of the Sahel.  Any immediate long-term strategy to mitigate the impact of the Libyan crisis should take the root causes of the region’s problems into account.  Commending Sahelian countries on their initiatives to face security threats, he said their efforts, and those of regional organizations, should be supported by the wider international community.  The proliferation of arms required particular consideration, in the Sahel and beyond, he said, emphasizing the need for inter-community dialogue to cement stability in the region, as well as better coordination among all actors.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said that his country, as a neighbouring State, was very concerned about developments in the Sahel, where the uptick in terrorism and rebel movements, as well as the proliferation of weapons, was troubling for the entire international community.  The region had been dealing with an unprecedented increase in trafficking, smuggling and other transnational crimes in recent years, he said.  That “dangerous slide” had resulted from the confluence of many structural and cyclical factors, and had been exacerbated by poverty in some countries.  The humanitarian and socio-economic situation had been further exacerbated by the Libyan crisis, and the initiatives taken so far had not yet addressed the situation in a comprehensive and inclusive way.

Expressing hope that the international community, headed by the United Nations, would pay more attention to the regional situation, he said that the Organization’s agencies had a key role to play in combating terrorism and organized crime.  Given the spread of arms, it was also evident that regional cooperation was necessary, he said, adding that the international community must also pay particular attention to the region’s humanitarian struggles, including the food security crisis that had been exacerbated by the return of migrants from Libya.  Morocco fully supported the idea of a regional platform for cooperation in the Sahel, he said, adding that it should be transnational in scope and nature.

KODJO MENAN ( Togo) said the mission’s inter-agency composition was proof of the importance that the international community attached to the matter at hand.  While Sahelian leaders had been taking bold action to tackle terrorism and transnational organized crime, the situation had been made worse by the Libyan crisis, which had exacerbated the drought, famine and malnutrition afflicting the region.  In addition, new challenges had been introduced, such as the return of impoverished migrants and the flow of weapons into the region.

Population growth in the concerned countries was having an impact on housing, available farmland and livelihoods, among other important areas, he continued.  That challenge exerted pressure on Governments and impacted peace and security in the Sahel.  “These challenges require an urgent response” to prevent the destabilization of the entire region, he stressed.  The international community should provide economic support, in particular by helping countries to establish reintegration programmes.  At the same time, human rights must not be placed on the “back burner”, he added.  Given the cross-border nature of the challenges facing the Sahel, regional cooperation should be another tool for confronting the situation.  “It is by working together that the international community will win out over organized crime in the Sahel,” he said.

Council President BASO SANGQU (South Africa), speaking in his national capacity, said the report confirmed his country’s view that Council resolution 1973 (2011) had been implemented in a way that would have dire consequences — such as the proliferation of arms — that could exacerbate terrorist activity.  The international community should take responsibility and not allow the countries of the Sahel to take on all such problems alone, he said, agreeing with the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the international community, coordinated by the United Nations, must support the region’s nations and organizations in the their efforts to cope.  He also reiterated that crises must be resolved through national dialogue, as represented by the approach of the African Union.  While it was true that the Sahelian countries had had problems before the Libyan crisis, the conflict and the way in which it had been dealt with had severely exacerbated them.

BOUBACAR BOUREIMA ( Niger) said a holistic approach was needed in facing the problems of the Sahel because of the link between development and security, particularly in West Africa, where not enough financial resources had been provided, despite efforts by development partners.  Togo was doing everything it could both internationally and regionally to face its problems, and was also developing regional strategies, he said, adding that both required international support.

OUMAR DAOU (Mali) said that the report repeated false statements by individuals and splinter groups who, spurning the spirit of openness and dialogue established by the highest national authorities, had chosen armed violence as the means to voice their claims.  Mali was an old nation, a country of dialogue, hospitality and tolerance that respected cultural diversity, democracy as well as individual and collective rights and freedoms.  However, it would not tolerate any actions aimed at undermining the unity and integrity of the national territory, he emphasized.

He said his country had indeed experienced serious fallout from the Libyan crisis, particularly the mass returns of migrant workers and heavily-armed ex-combatants, which had aggravated arms trafficking and threatened peace and stability in the entire region.  Mali’s response involved not merely strengthening military security, but also protecting people and their goods, improving basic infrastructure and services, and increasing development work.  The Government had been active in those areas, he said, adding that he also recognized the efforts of other countries in the region, and requesting increased international support for them.

PAPOURI TCHINGONBE PATCHANNE (Chad) said his country was one of the Sahel States whose nationals had moved to Libya in search of opportunities related to oil.  They were now leaving that country.  He expressed hope that the Council would focus all due attention on the assessment mission’s report and urge the international community to provide the region with support in an effort to counter serious development and humanitarian challenges.  The spread of weapons, which had begun before the Libyan crisis, was another complicating factor compounding the challenges facing the Sahel, he said.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.