|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by United Nations Secretary-General and World Bank President
Underscoring the need for collective international action to build peace, stability and development in the crisis-torn Sahel region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced at a Headquarters press conference today that he would undertake a joint visit there next week with Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, and senior officials from the European Union and African Union.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Ban said the visit would aim to show the international community’s strong support and shared commitment to the people of the Sahel region who had been suffering “far too long and far too much” in a cycle of crises. He said he was encouraged by a similar joint visit with Mr. Kim to the Great Lakes Region earlier this year – the first such undertaking by the leaders of the two international organizations.
Mr. Ban said the upcoming visit, like the earlier one, rested on three core principles concerning the response to any crisis: it should focus beyond fighting the fire; it should contain a regional approach; and the international community should come together in a constructive way. Peace was not sustainable without development and vice versa.
The joint visit would start from Mali and continue to Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. Joining Mr. Ban and Mr. Kim would be Romani Prodi, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the region, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union commission, Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank and Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development of the European Union.
Speaking via video link from Washington, D.C., Mr. Kim thanked the Secretary-General for his leadership in embarking on a new approach to peace and development. Describing the Sahel as highly vulnerable to a “fragility trap”, he said the international community must act immediately to provide a brighter future for the people there. The United Nations-World Bank model embodied the original vision of the multilateral system: the accomplishment together of what could not be accomplished alone.
Asked whether there was a financial target or specific time frame to carry out the plan, Mr. Ban said the effort aimed to mobilize the international community to build upon the gains achieved in Mali and to promote peace and stability throughout the region. The international community must reaffirm strong political and financial support for the comprehensive and multifaceted approach in the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.
Mr. Kim praised the Secretary-General’s “bold” leadership and said that since their visit earlier this year to the Great Lakes region, the World Bank Group had mobilized $1 billion in additional resources; more than half that amount had already been channelled into projects. He expressed commitment to undertake a similar approach in the Sahel.
To a question on recent published reports concerning the prevalence of money-laundering in charitable organizations and what that meant for the Sahel initiative, Mr. Ban said the United Nations strategy throughout the world emphasized the centrality of good governance, transparency and accountability. It was important to ensure that money was invested in line with the strategy’s purposes and principles, and through clear oversight. Equating corruption with theft from the poor, Mr. Kim said the World Bank Group had multiple and multi-tiered mechanisms to ensure that money was not diverted.
Asked what specific projects would be taken to help the people in the Sahel and to create jobs, Mr. Ban said the United Nations Integrated Strategy covered all aspects of the challenges. He was encouraged that the Malian Government had convened a ministerial meeting next week, scheduled to draw the participation of more than 30 countries. This ministerial group would meet every six months under a rotating chairmanship to work out a structured way of supporting the people.
Before that, however, the security situation needed to be stabilized. Only half of the 12,000 personnel mandated under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) had been deployed, he pointed out, underlining the imperative of greater international support. He commended the Government of the Netherlands for its recent decision to provide 360 soldiers and four helicopters to MINUSMA.
Responding to a question on the economic crisis faced by Lebanon, Mr. Kim said that, since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Lebanon had suffered an economic hit of $7 billion because of its generous acceptance of Syrian refugees. The unemployment rate was expected to double to 22 per cent. Although Lebanon had reached its borrowing limit with the World Bank, he was exercising “every bit of flexibility” to move additional resources quickly and looked forward to working with other partners to expand the assistance programme.
Mr. Ban said the International Support Group for Lebanon was one of the most important and successful events held on the sidelines of this year’s General Assembly. The rising number of refugees — expected to reach 1 million by year’s end — was not sustainable for Lebanon economically, socially or politically. The new Government should be formed as soon as possible and the international community must step up its role in resolving the conflict through dialogue.
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