On behalf of the Secretary-General, I would like to thank the Counter-Terrorism Committee for organizing this special meeting to review activities to strengthen the counter-terrorism capacities of States in the critically important Sahel region.
The participation of Member States, international, regional and sub-regional organizations is proof of our shared responsibility and joint commitment to counter- terrorism efforts in the region.
The countries of the Sahel have become increasingly vulnerable to a toxic mix of armed conflict, terrorist activities, trafficking of arms and drugs and organized crime.
A number of terrorist organizations and extremist groups continue to cause grave problems for the Governments and people of the region, let us remember: their activities have global implications.
These groups have eroded State authority among the most vulnerable sectors of society. Their activities have seriously affected the security situation and undermined social and economic development.
Both the Security Council and the General Assembly have called for comprehensive approaches for States to adopt integrated counter-terrorism strategies, addressing the factors conducive to terrorism.
Such strategies should encourage the participation of all sectors of society and promote effective law enforcement and border control, which comply with international human rights law, refugee law and humanitarian law.
The Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate, together with international and regional organizations represented here today, have been at the forefront of initiatives to implement these strategies.
These efforts have included technical assistance in border-control cooperation, counter-financing of terrorism, and the strengthening of judicial capacities.
Member States of the region have also demonstrated growing resolve to overcome the terrorist threat through their own efforts as well as by working more closely with other countries.
In this respect I welcome the Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Implementation Plan adopted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
We are here today to send a strong signal to the States of the Sahel: You are not alone.
The United Nations, the Secretary-General’s special envoy to the region, Romano Prodi, Member States and many international and regional organizations and fora, including the Global Counterterrorism Forum, will continue to stand at the side of the people of the Sahel.
The United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel will reinforce our efforts to build capacity in the Sahel region in a collective, coordinated and coherent manner.
The integrated strategy highlights the close interrelationship between security and development. It recognizes that poverty, unemployment, inequalities, and social and economic marginalization provide the environment for the spread of terrorism. At the same time, however, these underlying challenges must never serve as justification for unacceptable violent acts.
But deterrence must be coupled with development assistance to combat poverty -- and with dialogue to promote tolerance and foster inclusion.
I congratulate Ambassador Loulichki and the members of the Counter-Terrorism Committee for their initiative in organizing this important meeting.
I wish you every success in your deliberations.