Despite Headwinds, Years of Bleak Images in Sahel, Secretary-General Tells Ministerial Gathering ‘Together We Can Change This Picture’

5 November 2013

Despite Headwinds, Years of Bleak Images in Sahel, Secretary-General Tells Ministerial Gathering ‘Together We Can Change This Picture’

5 November 2013
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Despite Headwinds, Years of Bleak Images in Sahel, Secretary-General

Tells Ministerial Gathering ‘Together We Can Change This Picture’


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the ministerial meeting on the Sahel, in Bamako, on 5 November:

I thank the Government of Mali for hosting this gathering.  I commend President [Boubacar] Keïta for his strong leadership.  I applaud the countries of the region for coming together in this way.  And I salute the people of the Sahel.  You have shown great resilience in the face of great hardship.

I come here carrying one message above all:  We are here for you.  The international community stands with the people of the Sahel.  That solidarity is demonstrated by the impressive delegation that joins me today.

The African Union, the World Bank, the United Nations — along with the African Development Bank and the European Union and the OIC [Organization of Islamic Conference] are here at the highest levels to listen and let your priorities guide our work.

President [Jim Yong] Kim of the World Bank and I are on our second trip to Africa — the first such visit ever by the Heads of the UN and the World Bank.  I thank him for his crucial role and his leadership.  We have partnered together in this extraordinary way because we recognize that the Sahel region needs an extraordinary effort.  We need an approach that breaks down institutional barriers and joins up political, security, development and humanitarian efforts throughout the region.

Now is the time for action.  Governments across the region face enormously complex governance, economic, social development and security challenges.

Yet, despite the headwinds, there is much to build upon.  At this time last year, Mali was in the midst of a deep political and security crisis.  Since then, our collective efforts have helped not only improve the situation in this country but also address some of the broader challenges in the Sahel.

We are supporting Governments on emergency response and longer-term development planning to address the underlying issues of poverty and hunger.  Communities and households are becoming more resilient.  But the Sahel still faces many challenges.  We have been working together and making progress in each of your countries.  But the challenges of the region respect no borders and neither should our solutions.  That is why we have launched a strategy to connect our efforts across issues and the region as a whole.

The United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel — endorsed by the Security Council — stresses the need to strengthen mechanisms for economic governance; to put in place early warning systems to address security threats; and to build capacity to address cross-border dangers, including terrorism.  It puts a priority on governance, security and resilience.  It stresses the importance of human rights, ensuring the full participation of women and expanding opportunities for young people.

We must also place special emphasis on enhancing coordination and mobilizing resources for regional infrastructure projects that can support inclusive economic growth.  I thank my Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, for his work.  I also thank Mr. [Gerard] Koenders, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, for his leadership in keeping MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali] up to the expectations of the international community.

The countries of the region have spoken loud and clear — ambitious plans on paper must translate into real action by strong political commitment of the leaders present here this morning.  The joint visit of our five institutions is a symbol of our commitment.  We are here to express our solidarity through words and to show it through action.  I am pleased that our visit has already mobilized more than $8 billion in new investments in development.  I salute the World Bank and the European Union for the combined commitments announced yesterday.  This is exactly what we want and we are ready to work with all of you in the region.

We are committed to working closely with national Governments and regional and subregional organizations to make it happen.  We will follow the leadership of the Governments of the Sahel in solving the Sahel’s problems.

For years, bleak images from the Sahel have penetrated the public consciousness:  drought-stricken land; families struggling to eke [out] a living; communities reeling from horrendous violations of human rights.

Together we can change this picture.  We can help accelerate your progress, break the cycles of crises and move the region towards peace, security and development.  The Sahel region can and will go forward — but it can only do so together.  Let us pledge to further strengthen our partnership to help the people of the Sahel move from fragility to the sustainability they need and deserve.  Thank you for your leadership.

* *** *

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