Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Sahel Alliance side event “Working Hand in Hand with the United Nations to Invest for the Future of Sahel”, in New York today:
As Deputy Secretary-General, and as someone with very close ties to the Sahel, I very much welcome the initiative of the European Union and the Group of Five for the Sahel countries to bring us together today.
The Sahel is a top priority for the United Nations. People in the region continue to suffer severely from the consequences of violence and conflict, violations of human rights, underdevelopment, climate change and other ills.
The report recently launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) sounded a further alarm. Nearly 7 million people are at risk of food insecurity. In 2018 alone, 1.6 million children have been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. And 2.5 million pastoralists and agropastoralists require urgent livelihoods.
These figures underscore the importance of addressing the root causes of the crisis. Yet, most international assistance today is spent on crisis management rather than on prevention and development. Official development assistance (ODA) is just a fraction of military and security spending.
We can and must do better. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) study “Journey to extremism in Africa” shows how investments in development can help to address the structural drivers of radicalization, and support communities in implementing initiatives to build societies based on the full respect of human rights and with economic opportunities for all.
All of us here today recognize that sustaining peace cannot be achieved without sustainable development.
One main challenge in the Sahel is the multiplicity of initiatives. Now, more than ever, we need better coordinated collective action under the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel as our overarching framework to tackle poverty, food insecurity, violent extremism, illegal trafficking, climate insecurity and national structural challenges.
The response must be owned and led by national Governments, with support from the international community.
It is critical to provide donors with platforms and entry points that bring together regional and national priorities to address the root causes of conflict. In consultation with the Sahel countries and our partners, including the African Union, as well as the European Union and the World Bank through the Sahel Alliance, we have developed a support plan to trigger investment and mobilize further resources for the region in key areas such as economic growth, governance and rule of law, youth, women and girls, and climate change.
It is time to turn challenges into opportunities and change the narrative in the Sahel. The United Nations and I personally look forward to strengthening our cooperation with the Sahel Alliance, aligning our priorities to direct investments to where they are needed most, and achieving transformative change that will shape a better future for all the people of the Sahel.