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ASG Pobee: "Notwithstanding the support extended to the G5 Sahel, stabilizing the region hinges on aligning our policies and approaches, and on putting the Sahelian people at the forefront of our efforts."




New York, 16 May 2023



Madam President, distinguished Members of the Security Council,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the Council.

Since I last briefed the Security Council on the Group of Five for the Sahel, the security situation in the region has remained very worrying. Non-state armed groups continue to carry out large-scale attacks against civilian and military targets, and to engage in confrontations over access to resources, territorial control, and influence. Terrorism and violent extremist groups frequently target border areas, in particular the tri-border area of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – the Liptako-Gourma. In this regard, earlier this year, we also observed an upsurge in clashes between the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Jamāʿat Nuṣrat al-Islām wal-Muslimīn (JNIM).

The security crisis is exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. In Burkina Faso, there are increasing humanitarian challenges as a result of the violence, with roughly 4.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance this year and more than 2 million people displaced internally. This compared to 3.5 million people who needed humanitarian assistance in 2022. In Mali, a staggering 8.8 million people will need humanitarian assistance this year, compared to 7.5 million people who required such assistance in 2022. Women and children still bear the brunt of violence and food insecurity.

Madam President, distinguished members of the Security Council,

The G5 Sahel Joint Force has made steady progress in its operationalization. Joint Force units have gained practical experience and developed enhanced efficiency in their operations, particularly in coordination and responsiveness. Against the background of the strategic and operational shifts in the Sahel, including the reconfiguration of European and French Forces, and in the context of Mali’s withdrawal from the G5 Sahel and the intensification of threats in the border area, the Joint Force is restructuring to reflect these new realities. Although the reconfiguration of the Joint Force has resulted in the cessation of major military operations since January, G5 Sahel member States seem determined to strengthen intra-regional cooperation, including by establishing bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms with the Malian Armed Forces in the fight against terrorism, as demonstrated by the recent strengthening of bilateral military cooperation between Mali and Burkina Faso, and Mali and Niger. However, despite these efforts, insecurity in the tri-border area continues to grow.

The Tripartite Agreement between the European Union, the G5 Sahel and the United Nations is expected to end in June. I wish to warmly thank the European Union for its invaluable support, under the Agreement, which provided funding for MINUSMA to deliver life support consumables to the Joint Force. With the expiration of the Tripartite Agreement, MINUSMA’s logistical and operational support to the Joint Force, as part of its mandate, would cease to be in effect.

MINUSMA has spared no effort in providing operational and logistic support to the Joint Force whenever it was requested, in accordance with its mandate to support the Joint Force. This included fuel, rations, medical evacuation and engineering support such as building camps. In total, MINUSMA has provided over 275,000 individual ration packs, over 83,000 litres of lubricants and 6 million litres of fuel. This support contributed to filling critical gaps that hindered the mobility and operational tempo of the Joint Force. Unfortunately, the international community’s efforts have fallen short of what is required to render the Joint Force fully operational and autonomous with the capacity to help stabilize the Sahel region. Lack of consensus among partners and donors on the most effective support mechanism for the Joint Force has proven to be a significant obstacle to its operationalization. Support provided by MINUSMA to the Joint Force, albeit limited, did not fundamentally change this situation. Be that as it may, the end of the tripartite agreement between the European Union, the G5 Sahel and the United Nations presents an opportunity to reflect on how the international community should renew its approaches to support for the regional security mechanisms. The upcoming Security Council deliberations on the report of the Secretary-General on the “Implementation of Security Council resolutions 2320 (2016) and 2378 (2017) and considerations related to the financing of African Union peace support operations mandated by the Security Council” later this month will no doubt offer a timely chance for the Council to consider the issue. 

Madam President, distinguished Members of the Security Council,

Through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations pursued its support to the Joint Force in operationalizing its international human rights and humanitarian law compliance framework. Important institutional, legal and behavioral progress and changes have been registered. Notably, the Joint Force now has an internal mechanism which allows it to attribute responsibility for incidents, analyze patterns, take necessary remedial action and adapt its operational conduct. Looking ahead, continued human rights work with regional and national security actors in the Sahel will remain critical in the context of the deteriorating security situation. Indeed, G5 Sahel countries must ensure that their military strategies to counter terrorism and violent extremism are fully anchored on human rights and place the protection of all the populations at their core. This is necessary to achieve the desired results.

Madam President, distinguished Members of the Security Council,

In this context, the political and operational support of partners remains essential for the stabilization of Mali and the Sahel. It is urgent to address the challenges faced by the Sahel in a sustainable and effective manner and to support national actors in their efforts to implement the initiatives that they have devised themselves. Multifaceted support will prevent the crisis in the Sahel from upsetting the fragile political balances in the region. Such support will also help prevent a further spillover of insecurity into the coastal countries. For its part, the United Nations stands ready to further support the efforts of the G5 Sahel, including through capacity-building support in areas such as prevention of violent extremism and radicalization, rule of law and border security management.

Notwithstanding the support extended to the G5 Sahel, stabilizing the region hinges on aligning our policies and approaches, and on putting the Sahelian people at the forefront of our efforts. The United Nations is committed to working with all partners to ensure that governance structures are more democratic and open, and that the people of the Sahel have more confidence in their institutions. To achieve durable peace, we must address the underlying governance, development, human rights and humanitarian challenges. It is in this spirit that the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the G5 Sahel and the United Nations established the Independent High-Level Panel on Security and Development in the Sahel. Under the leadership of the former President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, the Panel is actively working to help us reshape our approaches in the region and maximize our collective impact through innovative, coherent and coordinated action.

Resolute advances in the fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime in the Sahel desperately need to be made. Without significant gains, it will become increasingly difficult to reverse the security trajectory in the Sahel, and the further expansion of insecurity towards coastal West African countries. Recent instability east of the Sahel, in the Sudan, is yet one additional cause for concern. The devastating effects of the continuing destabilization of the Sahel would be felt far beyond the region and the African continent.

I thank you for your attention.