Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the high-level meeting on Mali and the Sahel, in New York today:
Before I begin, please join me in a moment of silence for all those who sacrificed their lives for peace in Mali and the Sahel. Thank you.
In May, I had the honour of visiting Mali. I was there to express my solidarity with the Malian people during Ramadan — and our MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali] forces on Peacekeepers Day.
Since my visit, elections took place. President [Ibrahim Boubacar] Keita, congratulations on your re-election.
During my visit, I saw many challenges. But, I also saw potential. That spirit of hope and possibility brings us here today.
The first responsibility is to make significant progress on the Pact for Peace. Any delay would only compound the security challenges and threaten the path to stability. It is time for all parties to honour their obligations, including by accelerating the implementation of the 22 March road map. The people of Mali must see the tangible dividends of peace. For that to happen, national ownership of this process is critical — one that brings in the voices of a broad spectrum of Malian society, including, above all, women.
As we look to the wider Sahel region, we see a toxic combination of challenges. Poverty. Climate change. Unemployment. Demographic change. Deficits in governance. And of course, terrorism, violent extremism and chronic insecurity. My long-standing position is that the [Group of Five for the Sahel] Joint Force is an important demonstration of regional ownership. It needs a strong mandate and sustained and predictable funding.
In a broader sense, peace and sustainable development depend on us all working together, guided by a shared vision and common goals. After more than a year of work, we succeeded in putting in place the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, when before we had 18 programmes. This framework is aimed at strengthening governance, enhancing security and helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, in close cooperation with all Governments of the region and all our partners.
I commend the Sahel States and the African Union Commission for their cooperation. We are also working with the European Union and others as they advance their Alliance for the Sahel initiative. I appeal to all international partners, including the international financial institutions and the business community, to step up. Now is the time for collective action. By doing so, we can help build the sustainable, inclusive, secure future that the people of Mali and the Sahel deserve.