18 December 2014

Challenges in Sahelo-Sahara Region ‘Respect No Borders, and Neither Should Our Solutions’, Secretary-General Tells Leaders at Nouakchott Process Meeting

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the first summit of Heads of State and Government participating in the “Nouakchott Process”, delivered by Mohamed ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, in Nouakchott today:

I congratulate the African Union on this initiative to address security issues in the Sahelo-Saharan region by building trust and strengthening cooperation, in the framework of the African Peace and Security Architecture.  Security in this region remains precarious, with uncontrolled arms trafficking and persistent terrorist attacks.

The escalation of hostilities in Libya poses a serious challenge to regional security, threatens to deepen the legislative and executive crisis and provides fertile ground for extremism and terrorism.  My Special Representative, Mr. [Bernardino] Léon, is holding talks with a view to reconvening a political dialogue that would pave the way for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of armed groups from towns and cities.

The United Nations is working with the African troop-contributing countries in Mali to improve their capacity to implement MINUSMA’s [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali] mandate.  Progress in the inter-Malian dialogue, which is expected to resume in Algiers in January, will be vital.

The emergency in north-eastern Nigeria is escalating into a full-fledged regional crisis, with disastrous consequences for the civilian population.  I welcome the initiative by Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria to establish a joint task force and a joint intelligence unit to address their cross-border threats through the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

The challenges in this region respect no borders, and neither should our solutions.  That is the thinking behind the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, which aims to connect our efforts across issues and the region as a whole.  The strategy has economic, security and anti-terrorism components, and puts a priority on governance, security and resilience, while stressing the importance of human rights, the full participation of women and expanding opportunities for young people.  It fully supports increased cooperation between the countries participating in the Nouakchott Process.

The United Nations and the African Union will continue to coordinate efforts to address national and transnational criminal activities and terrorist threats in the Sahelo-Saharan region.  This is the only way in which we will meet our joint responsibility to resolve the very serious challenges faced by the people and communities of the Sahel and beyond.

For information media. Not an official record.