Aswan, Egypt

11 December 2019

Deputy-Secretary-General's remarks at the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development interactive session on: “Twenty-One Strategies Later: Why is Sustainable Peace and Development in the Sahel Still Elusive?”

Ladies and gentlemen,

Grateful for the Arab Republic of Egypt for its hosting of Aswan and for continuous commitment to draw the attention of the international community on the Sahel, especially through the Peacebuilding Commission.

Despite the enormous potential of the Sahel and the commitment of the international community, we are yet to deliver on our collective promise to support the countries of the Sahel.

The spread of violent extremist networks is threatening intercommunal relations, including between farmers and herders.

We see rising temperatures, soil erosion, deforestation, erratic rainfall, prolonged droughts, ground water salinity, as well as limited adaptability of human activity to climate change. 

What has gone wrong in the international approach? I would point to three issues: 1) ownership; 2) incoherent and overlapping strategies – including within the UN; and 3) insufficient investments in youth, gender equality and towards expanding islands of stability in the region — all of which, if resourced, would strengthen the social fabric and pull people out of conflict.

What to do moving forward? An integrated approach focused on four fronts:

First, situating the response in the regional context and prioritizing attention to cross-border actions and solutions. In the Sahel, cross-border areas show the largest concentration of violence.

Second, we must continue expanding and deepening partnerships, local and external. The response must be owned by the Sahelian States, with support of their bilateral, regional and international partners.

Third, implementation of the 2030 and 2063 Agendas. Sustainable development is the foundation of peace, security, and prosperity. The Agenda give sus the ambition and sense of urgency to change the game. And entry points for integrated action.

Fourth, urgent investments are needed in priority areas to help stabilize foundations for peace.

This is why, recognizing the shared priority of the leaders of the Sahelian countries and the African Union, the UN system has recalibrated the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and developed the UN Support Plan to put the 2030 Agenda and the Agenda 2063 at the core of our efforts

As we move into the Decade of Action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, we will strive to make the Sahel one of our key entry points for UN progress towards achieving the SDGs.

In all we do, we need to get ever closer to people -- hear their anxieties and their hopes – and find durable solutions. 

Thank you.