28 March 2018

Amid Lagging Results, Mobilizing behind Sahel Strategy Crucial for Regional Development, Security, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Consultative Meeting

Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Strategic Consultative Meeting on the Sahel, in Nouakchott, Mauritania, today:

I am pleased to be with you today to discuss how we can, together, improve the situation in the Sahel.  This timely gathering will help ensure that the security and development efforts being driven by the countries, people and institutions of the subregion are aligned with what the African Union, United Nations and other international partners are doing.

The Sahel is a priority for the Secretary‑General and the entire United Nations system.  It is a litmus test of the ongoing United Nations reforms, which aim to better avert and address complex and multidimensional crises such as the one we are facing in the region.  The insecurity and volatility of the region stem from the increasing threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism and its spread in surrounding countries and regions.  This is compounded — or caused — by weak development progress in the 10 countries of the Sahel and the impacts of climate change on food security, migration flows and conflict over land and resources.

The complexity and multidimensional nature of these challenges attest to the necessity to respond collectively to the Sahel crisis, and in a more coherent, comprehensive and integrated manner.  If we are to put an end to violence, conflict and terrorism in the region, we must address their root causes, including the lack of access to basic rights, services and economic opportunities, socioeconomic exclusion, marginalization, discrimination and corruption.

The Security Council has affirmed the centrality of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel in responding to the Sahel crisis, and it has called on donors to mobilize their efforts and align their activities to the key priorities and objectives of the Integrated Strategy, to ensure better coordination and efficiency of the international response to the needs of the people and communities of the Sahel.

While we have had a mandate to respond to the challenges in the Sahel through United Nations Integrated Strategy, we have up to now not produced the results we desire.  Therefore, over the last year or so, we have been working to recalibrate the Integrated Strategy to ensure that it is responsive to the needs of the countries of the region, and to strengthen our partnerships with national Governments and other actors.  The recalibrated Integrated Strategy will also enable the entire United Nations to be mobilized to deliver together in support of the momentum that has been generated for the Sahel.

The recent terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou, as well as the almost daily attacks on State actors, civilians and United Nations peacekeepers in Mali, along with threats to humanitarian workers, remind us of the urgency to act.

While the situation in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali remains of key concern, the flow of instability to other countries is equally worrying and needs to be stopped without further delay.  This crisis requires an approach that creates the right conditions and an environment conducive to long‑term solutions and sustainable development.

We need to provide support to the Governments of the Sahel countries to strengthen their capacities to absorb international aid, deliver basic services to all and secure their territories and borders.  It must be an approach that promotes political and socioeconomic inclusion, especially for women and young people, strengthens community resilience and social cohesion, ensures human rights for all and takes action to address climate change and its impacts.  An approach that encompasses human rights, sustainable development, peace and security, and humanitarian assistance and enables us to deliver through a common vision for the needs of all segments of the population.

The work that is being done by all parts of the United Nations system in the Sahel, including on human rights and peacekeeping, will inform the framework that we are developing.  The recalibrated United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel will bring this vision to life.

Over the past few years, while there have been well‑intended efforts, one of the main challenges in the Sahel is the multiplicity of actors and initiatives in the region, often not pulling in the same direction.  This cannot continue.  We need to ensure that we are investing in a coordinated and complementary fashion in support of national and regional priorities.

Over the past few months, the whole United Nations system has been mobilized and has been relentlessly working towards identifying these key priorities, recalibrating the United Nations Integrated Strategy and developing a United Nations support plan that will trigger investment in the Sahel and contribute to mobilizing the necessary resources for the 10 countries of the region.  Following a mapping exercise of the different activities in the region and based on the United Nations Integrated Strategy itself, we have identified five key priorities for its implementation:

  1. Inclusive and equitable growth;
  2. Public good services, including access to basic service, governance and rule of law;
  3. Climate and energy;
  4. Gender equality and women’s empowerment; and
  5. Security, including preventing violent extremism, transnational crime and human trafficking.

Youth will be treated as an overall priority.

The recalibrated United Nations Integrated Strategy and the United Nations support plan for the Sahel are in line with the national and regional needs of the Sahel peoples and Governments, including the G5 [“Group of Five”] Priority Investment Programme, and the Secretary‑General’s vision on prevention and sustaining peace.  At their core are the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Agenda 2063, our road maps for a prosperous and peaceful Sahel.

The United Nations has also identified the need to scale up its own investments in the Sahel given the pattern of sub‑optimal investment in the region compared with other areas facing similar levels of fragility and instability.  In 2015 for example, total expenditure through United Nations channels across the Sahel — combining peace operations, development, humanitarian and other interventions — stood at $2.7 billion dollars.  Compare this with $4.5 billion in Sudan and South Sudan, and $3.4 billion in the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The new United Nations Support Plan for the Sahel will cover the period 2018 to 2022.  It aims to accelerate and increase the impact of United Nations action on the ground, as well as that of the African Union and other partners, through complementary, as well as collaborative action.  The Support Plan indicates specifically what the United Nations can provide in terms of support and expertise to the countries of the Sahel and to our partners in the region under the United Nations Integrated Strategy framework.

The United Nations action in the Sahel will be implemented through six priority, multi‑agency and cross‑country programmes, ranging from providing support for cross‑border cooperation to prevent violent extremism and human trafficking, to strengthening access to justice, addressing food security and conflict through climate‑smart agriculture, promoting entrepreneurship and empowering women and youth and supporting security sector reforms.

A key principle of the United Nations Support Plan will be to ensure that Governments of the Sahel countries are in the driving seat while implementation and impact is localized.  It is hence instrumental for the United Nations to work hand in hand with them and closely with the African Union towards that end.  The recently signed United Nations‑African Union frameworks on peace and security, and on development, provide a framework within which to pursue our common aims.

In April last year, the African Union authorized the deployment of the G5 Sahel Joint Force.  This past year has, in many ways, been a showcase for how much can be achieved when the international community comes together behind a shared goal.  I would like to commend the African Union, European Union and our bilateral partners, who are working hand in hand with us to drive forward real change in the Sahel.

The recent donor conference in Brussels was a success in terms of pledges for the operationalization of the Joint Force, which now total $414 million and cover almost the entirety of the $423 million budget the G5 Sahel presented for the Joint Force’s first year of operations, including start‑up costs.  I applaud the tremendous efforts G5 Sahel member States have undertaken to see this initiative succeed, and I also commend the commitment of the international community.

However, military- and security‑focused responses have time and again proven their limits, and we all know that sustaining peace cannot be achieved without sustainable development.  It is therefore vital that we make sure that spending on social services, such as health and education, and the promotion of good governance and inclusive development is adequately balanced.

While the security situation in the region is worrying, we cannot neglect the massive humanitarian crisis.  Growing insecurity in Mali and armed attacks in border regions in Burkina Faso and Niger have uprooted hundreds of families in recent months, adding to the continuing devastation caused by the conflict in the Lake Chad Basin.  At the same time, drought has affected much of the Sahel, with Mauritania and parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Senegal and Mali the worst affected.

The lean season has begun early and will last longer, increasing people’s vulnerability, particularly the many pastoralist communities.  Overall, this year, 24 million people will need humanitarian assistance in the Sahel.  Considering the 135.7 million people in need globally, this means that nearly 1 person out of 5 requiring humanitarian assistance resides in the Sahel.

To address the most urgent needs across the region, the United Nations and its partners are seeking $2.7 billion dollars for humanitarian response efforts in eight countries in 2018:  Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

To conclude, I would like to focus our attention on the importance of changing the narrative in the Sahel.  That means supporting national and regional efforts, increasing our own impact, and working for the coherence and efficiency of all efforts, under national leadership, for concrete and quick results.  This will enable us to generate significant interest in the region from development partners and investors, including the private sector, and mobilize greater efforts and resources, including from the Sahel countries themselves.

Our goal, through the recalibrated United Nations Integrated Strategy as the overarching framework in the Sahel, is to work with you to make a difference in the countries of the region by supporting efforts to sustain peace, build resilience of communities, achieve sustainable development, progress and prosperity and ensure the dignity and rights of all the people of the Sahel.  Together, we must ensure that no one is left behind and reach out to those furthest behind first.

For information media. Not an official record.