Political, security and humanitarian situation
Despite national, regional and international efforts to tackle the complex and inter-connected challenges facing the Sahel, the region continues to be threatened by cyclical instability, state fragility and recurring humanitarian crises.
Authorities’ limited ability to effectively deliver basic services and foster dialogue and citizen participation contributes to grievances, leaving a vacuum exploited by terrorist and criminal groups. Efforts to stabilize Mali and prevent further destabilization in the Sahel are threatened by the continuing activity of terrorist and criminal groups linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), as well as the spread of violent ideology across the Sahel region.
The Sahel also continues to face a food crisis, with 11.4 million people at risk. Close to half a million people have been affected by floods, with Niger hosting the highest number of affected population. These countries also face higher risks of cholera and other waterborne diseases.
UN Response through the Integrated Strategy for the Sahel
The UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel [S/2013/354], endorsed by the Security Council in June 2013, is a promising new instrument for conflict prevention. The strategy prioritizes life-saving activities that meet immediate needs while building resilience as part of a long-term development agenda.
The strategy emphasizes the need for continued UN good offices to mobilize political will and resources to address the challenges in the region. It includes a range of innovative actions in the areas of Governance, Security and Development.
Given the vastness of the region and the length and porosity of many of the borders, the strategy entails capacity building measures and the promotion of collaborative efforts among States. Collaborative management of borders is not only about constraining the activities of criminals and terrorists, but also about giving opportunity to legitimate economic activity.
To reach a broad consensus, the Secretary-General convened a high-level meeting on the Sahel on the margins of the 68th General Assembly. At the meeting, all countries of the region, as well as donor countries and institutions, expressed their support for the strategy and emphasized the importance of regional and national ownership. In addition, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Chairperson of the African Union, the President of the World Bank, the President of the African Development Bank and the European Development Commissioner jointly visited the region in early November. They highlighted the challenges and opportunities for the implementation of the strategy and mobilized resources and political support. Likewise, during a ministerial-level meeting on the Sahel, organized by the Government of Mali during the visit, the region welcomed the Integrated Strategy and agreed on a broad set of common priorities. They decided to continue meeting every six months, on a rotating Chairmanship basis.
The implementation of the strategy will depend on strong UN engagement in the region, under the overall leadership of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit. He has already begun to develop a coordination mechanism for UN system-wide action, in close collaboration with the relevant UN presences in the region, while the Special Envoy for the Sahel is collaborating closely with the African Development Bank (ADB) for the establishment of an Action Fund for regional infrastructure projects. The action fund will be led by a steering group including representatives of Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad.