Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council meeting on security challenges in the Mediterranean region, in New York today:
I thank Italy for convening this meeting. The word “Mediterranean” literally means “in the middle of the earth”. Figuratively, too, the Mediterranean has found itself since time immemorial at the confluence of civilizations, cultures, religions, trade and migration.
Developments in the region continue to shape the history and politics of the world. The Mediterranean Sea provides immense economic resources — such as hydrocarbons and fish stocks — and invaluable trade routes. However, its benefits depend on stability and cooperation. Indeed, the situation in the Mediterranean illustrates that peace and security are inseparable from democratic, economic and social progress, and from the advancement of gender, youth, minority and human rights.
Events over the past few years in the region have forcefully — and painfully — made this clear. Today, the Mediterranean [region] faces serious challenges on multiple fronts. Illicit trade in narcotics, weapons and petroleum products. Large movements of refugees and migrants, who are preyed upon by human smugglers and traffickers. Maritime piracy. The narcotics trade is also generating deadly spillover effects such as increased drug use and health crises.
In parts of the region, fragility is being exacerbated by systematic violations of human rights and violence against women and girls. The Mediterranean is also suffering from severe environmental degradation and natural‑resource constraints. In recent years, food scarcity and sharp rises in prices have led to social and political unrest. Long‑festering regional wounds and sectarian divides have been made worse by atrocity crimes, terrorism, attempts to annihilate minorities, the plundering of cultural heritage, forced displacement and the use of chemical weapons.
Libya’s stability is vital for the region. Yet after years of prolonged transition, the country’s institutions remain deeply divided. The United Nations is committed to helping the Libyan people reach an inclusive political settlement. Instability in the Sahel region has contributed to an increase in irregular migration towards Europe. The United Nations will continue to support the G5 countries and the G5 Sahel Joint Force, including through the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel. Achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians is also critical. The United Nations remains committed to providing all possible support towards a just, comprehensive and lasting resolution of the conflict through the two‑State solution. A comprehensive political settlement in Cyprus would also mitigate political tensions in the region.
Da’esh will continue to thrive unless the deep political roots of the Syrian conflict are resolved through a credible and comprehensive political process as foreseen under Security Council resolution 2254 (2015). And the security gains against terrorist groups in Libya, Iraq and elsewhere may prove reversible if we do not accelerate reconstruction and economic recovery.
I commend host countries of refugees for their generosity. There is a clear need to address the drivers of displacement. We must also address the worrisome increase in xenophobia and discrimination against refugees, migrants and minorities. This is a shared, global responsibility. It is essential to re‑establish the integrity of the refugee‑protection regime on both sides of the Mediterranean and increase resettlement and relocation programmes. The traffic in human beings cannot be isolated from the traffic in cultural property, drugs, weapons and oil that benefits militia, terrorists and armed groups.
The Libya sanctions regime restricts the movement of arms and related material into and out of Libya. The Panels of Experts on Libya and Sudan have been investigating the financing of armed groups. Along with the newly established Mali sanctions regime, I hope these tools will be useful in supporting Governments and regions working towards peaceful transitions.
All too often, responses to security challenges in the Mediterranean are undertaken largely or solely through traditional security arrangements or ad hoc solutions. Such approaches carry the risk of prolonging unacceptable status quos or worsening situations if not backed by efforts to address the underlying root causes.
Our efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development have an important role to play there. The Mediterranean is a global junction of mutually enriching cultures, societies and economies. Yet violence and hatred are threatening that dynamism, to the detriment of the entire world.
We should do our utmost to resolve the worst of the region so that it can continue to contribute its best. I count on countries in the Mediterranean and beyond to reaffirm their proud tradition of openness and solidarity. Thank you.