Nouakchott, Mauritania

04 March 2016

Secretary-General's statement at event on "Peace and Security in the Sahel: Tackling the Root Causes of Instability" [as prepared for delivery]

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Je tiens à remercier le Gouvernement et le peuple mauritaniens pour leur chaleureux accueil.
J’ai eu des échanges fructueux avec le Président Abdel Aziz, le Premier Ministre Hademine et d’autres hauts responsables de l’État au sujet du renforcement de notre précieux partenariat.
J’ai vu cette collaboration à l’œuvre lorsque je me suis rendu dans un hôpital aujourd’hui.
Je me suis aussi entretenu avec des membres clefs de la société civile.
Nous devons beaucoup à de nombreux Mauritaniens talentueux, qui ont œuvré au service de l’Organisation avec distinction. Deux d’entre eux sont parmi nous aujourd’hui.
M. Ahmedou Ould Abdallah a été au service de trois Secrétaires généraux. En tant que Représentant spécial au Burundi, il a aidé à faire en sorte que le génocide rwandais de 1994 ne s’étende pas. Il a également été le Représentant spécial pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest, ainsi que mon Représentant spécial pour la Somalie.
Je tiens à saluer un autre grand homme mauritanien en la personne de M. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, mon Envoyé spécial, qui essaie de mettre fin au conflit brutal qui fait rage au Yémen.
J’ai eu le plaisir récemment de nommer Sous-Secrétaire général aux opérations de maintien de la paix M. El Ghassim Wane, qui a déjà commencé à s’imposer.
Je tiens à saluer également ce que fait le contingent mauritanien au service de la MINUSCA, notre mission en République centrafricaine.
Mesdames et Messieurs,
Vous connaissez mon engagement pour le Sahel.
Quand je suis venu dans la région à la fin de 2013, nous avons mobilisé la communauté internationale afin de trouver des solutions durables aux difficultés interdépendantes du Sahel.
Je suis de retour parce que la région est une priorité absolue pour l’ONU. Nous sommes résolus à nous attaquer aux causes profondes des défis : le sous-développement, les inégalités, la mauvaise gouvernance et l’impunité des violations des droits de l’homme.
Les pays de la région peuvent surmonter ces difficultés en travaillant ensemble, avec l’aide de la communauté internationale.
Dans le cadre de la Stratégie intégrée des Nations Unies pour le Sahel, le Représentant spécial pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et le Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, guide avec efficacité l’action de l’ensemble du système des Nations Unies dans la région.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Sahel faces the ‘triple peril’ of environmental degradation, poverty and insecurity.

One in 7 Sahelians lack enough food. One in five children die before their fifth birthday. Four and a half million people have been forced to flee their homes. I am deeply concerned about their plight.

Communities here struggle against harsh environmental conditions and worsening climatic shocks. They are at the mercy of weak harvests. They lack enough water, electricity and social services.

The international response has a new boost thanks to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

We have another opportunity to strengthen global solidarity at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May. I count on Sahelian leaders to attend.

I am calling for shift from delivering aid to ending need. Nowhere is this more urgent than in the Sahel.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The security situation across the region remains volatile.

I am especially concerned about the interlinked activities of criminal groups and terrorist organizations. Local people pay the highest price. 

Insecurity in Northern Mali has driven thousands of people from their homes, including some 48,000 refugees living in the Mbera camp in Mauritania.

The United Nations is ready to assist in countering terrorism and other asymmetric threats.

In this, we insist on full respect for human rights and international humanitarian law – as a matter of moral responsibility and strategic effectiveness.

I welcome the African Union Nouakchott Process – and its sustained focus on security and terrorism.

Mauritania’s engagement is invaluable. I salute President Abdel Aziz’s regional leadership and his role in establishing the G5 Sahel.

We need to carry out these new initiatives. And we need enhanced regional support to the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA.

I especially applaud the G5’s decision to establish a regional cell in Nouakchott for the prevention of radicalization. This can complement my global Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

Mauritania’s national efforts in this area are already showing results.

I also applaud regional cooperation against drug and arms trafficking.

This will foster the stability that all people deserve.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Youth across this region need better access to education and decent jobs. They can be a powerful force for progress against violent extremism.

The historic Security Council resolution 2250 recognizes that young people can actively shape peace, contribute to justice and heal societies.

Leaders everywhere must listen to young people, fund their peace initiatives, and back them with political will.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises to leave no one behind. I urge the Government of Mauritania to take strong ownership of the Sustainable Development Goals. I expect the Parliament to give its full support if necessary through laws to help implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Inclusive development reduces inequalities.

It is essential to empower women, including by ending female genital mutilation.

I praise Mauritania’s national policy against FGM - and similar efforts across the region.

I welcome Mauritania’s laws to penalize slavery and address torture. Such abominable practices have no place in the modern world.

Mauritania is also taking important steps to improve governance.

I call on all Sahelian countries to more effectively address corruption and other practices that erode legitimacy and public trust.

We must give full space for civil society organizations and human rights defenders.

I met this afternoon with dozen of civil society leaders. The United Nations stands with them. When they operate freely, societies can advance. It’s important that governments provide enough political space for them so they can act freely.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Mauritania has deep ties to Western Sahara.

Tomorrow, I will meet with Sahrawi refugees suffering terribly under harsh conditions. The world cannot forget their plight. The Sahrawi people must enjoy their human rights – especially the right to self-determination within the framework of a mutually acceptable political solution.

My aim is to contribute to such a solution and facilitate genuine negotiations so that Sahrawi refugees can return home to Western Sahara.

I am also deeply concerned about the situation in Libya. There are alarming reports of widespread human rights violations, including serious abuses that may amount to war crimes.

All those with influence must use it to calm the situation and stop the fighting. It is utterly irresponsible for any outside player to stoke the fires.

My Special Representative, Mr. Martin Kobler, is facilitating talks on a national unity Government. Delays will only worsen the dire humanitarian needs.

Libya’s future is at stake. The reverberations echo far. Right now, we face the terrifying scourge of Daesh expanding in Libya and beyond its borders.

Success in stabilizing Libya will benefit the Sahel – and our world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am inspired by Mauritania’s rich history.

The ancient city of Chinguetti was especially known for its dynamism.

The residents were scholars and traders. They were thirsty for progress – and they were extremely generous and welcoming. This characteristic warmth and hospitality has stayed through the centuries.

In our globalized world, we need such an open-hearted spirit to break down walls and forge trust.

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Je compte sur les Mauritaniens pour faire fond sur cet héritage de solidarité, de respect et d’engagement. Il s’agit là des valeurs de notre Organisation, et nous nous enorgueillissons d’être votre partenaire pour bâtir un avenir meilleur.
Je vous remercie de votre attention.