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A coordinated breakthrough in our response to violent extremism in the Sahel is urgently needed, Assistant Secretary-General Pobee tells Security Council





 New York, 16 November 2022


M. le Président, Distingués membres du Conseil,

  1. Je remercie le Conseil de sécurité de l’occasion qui m’est donnée de présenter le rapport du Secrétaire général sur la force conjointe du G5 Sahel.
  1. Depuis la dernière réunion du Conseil de sécurité sur le Sahel, la situation sécuritaire dans la région continue de se détériorer. L'utilisation aveugle de la violence par des groupes terroristes signifie que des milliers de civils innocents souffrent, tandis que des millions d'autres sont forcés de quitter leurs foyers. L'insécurité exacerbe une situation humanitaire déjà catastrophique. Les femmes et les enfants souffrent particulièrement du manque d’accès aux services de base et sont les premières victimes de la violence et des inégalités croissantes.

Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Security Council,

  1. Against this backdrop, the G5 Sahel Joint Force remains an important regionally-led component of the response to insecurity in the Sahel. The initiative complements the multifaceted engagement by the United Nations and other regional and international partners. It is, therefore, regrettable that in addition to its financial difficulties, the G5 Sahel Joint Force has been weakened by the withdrawal of Mali in May.  The second coup d’état in Burkina Faso, in September, also negatively impacted the Force’s operational capacity and further undermined regional cohesion.
  1. Despite these challenges, the Joint Force continued to conduct military operations across the three Joint Force Sectors, namely the Central Sector in the tri-border area, the Western Sector at the border between Mali and Mauritania, and the Eastern Sector at the border between Chad and Niger.  In total, seven major military operations have been conducted since May.  Looking forward, the elaboration of a new concept of operations for the Joint Force is being considered.  This new concept of operations would address the challenges resulting from the evolving security and humanitarian situation and the withdrawal of Mali, whilst acknowledging bilateral operations undertaken by neighboring countries.
  1. Meanwhile, the Executive Secretariat and other components of the G5 Sahel continued their activities, including the operationalization of its gender policy and training for women leaders on dialogue, in conjunction with the African Union and the West African Network for Peacebuilding.  Other activities were organized, jointly by G5 Sahel entities and donors, to strengthen the prevention of violent extremism and to empower local authorities in security governance.  Several UN agencies, funds and programmes have continued to implement their programmes in support of the G5 Sahel, including those involving regional capacity building in the areas of criminal justice, border security management and prevention of radicalization and violent extremism. 

Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Security Council,

  1. In line with its Security Council mandate and as provided for by the technical agreement between the United Nations, the European Union and the G5 Sahel, MINUSMA continues to provide support to the Joint Force. The Mission works with contractors to deliver life support consumables to the four contingents of the Force outside of Mali.  Technical and operational challenges remain a matter of concern, while insecurity and lack of infrastructure along supply routes continue to pose multiple challenges.  As detailed in the Secretary-General’s report, divergences between the G5 Sahel Member States, which culminated in the withdrawal of Mali from the organization, further complicated the implementation of MINUSMA’s support to the Joint Force.
  1. Through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations also supports the Joint Force in operationalizing its international human rights and humanitarian law compliance framework.  Defeating terrorism and violent extremism requires a comprehensive response and will not be attained through military gains only.  It is important that the Joint Force integrates Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law into the core of its operations, or risk fostering further breeding ground for violent extremist groups, causing ever increasing suffering for the populations.  Likewise, at national level, G5 Sahel countries should ensure that their military strategies to counter terrorism and violent extremism are fully anchored in human rights and put the protection of all populations at their core, including when they partner with non-state actors to operate alongside national armies.

Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Security Council,

  1. A coordinated breakthrough in our response to violent extremism is urgently needed.  If we fail in this effort, the effects of terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime will be felt far beyond the Sahel region and, indeed, the African continent. We need to rethink our collective approach and be creative, going beyond existing efforts.
  1. In the coming months, it will be crucial for stakeholders in the region to maintain political dialogue to pursue their common security objectives.  We remain deeply committed to supporting them in this endeavour, working closely with ECOWAS and the African Union as they lead in resolving the current tensions in the region.  Meanwhile, progress can be made at bilateral level.  For instance, we have recently seen national authorities in Burkina Faso and Mali seeking to strengthen their bilateral cooperation in the field of security and defence.
  1. As the security situation worsens in the Sahel, armed groups are tightening their destructive grip on the broader region.  The northern regions of the coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea are increasingly exposed to the spill-over of violence and insecurity.  In this regard, international partners have indicated their willingness to actively consider extending their support to neighbouring countries in the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa, based on their demands.  This is a positive development that would bolster relevant regional organizations in their counter-terrorism efforts; support initiatives like the Accra Initiative; and strengthen national strategies to improve living conditions, security and resilience in the most vulnerable regions.  It will necessitate continuous dialogue between the concerned governments and international partners to ensure that support is aligned with national and regional priorities.

Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Security Council,

  1. The Secretariat remains committed to supporting the region as well as the G5 Sahel. We are convinced that it is only by working together, in a coordinated and complementary manner, that we can effectively address the multiple challenges before us.  It is in this spirit that the United Nations and the African Union, along with ECOWAS and the G5 Sahel, are supporting the work of the Independent High-Level Panel on Security and Development in the Sahel led by former President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger.  At the behest of the Secretary-General and the AU Chairperson, this exercise aims to marshal greater attention and resources on the national, sub-regional, regional, and international level and propose innovative ways to address the security, governance and development challenges in the region.  The initiative will also reach out to national stakeholders and the region’s bilateral and multilateral partners to address this shared responsibility.
  1. As we await the recommendations of this independent assessment, we look forward to the continued support of the Security Council towards a stable, secure, peaceful and prosperous Sahel.   Faced with the growing threats to the region and beyond, we urge the international community to remain engaged in the spirit of shared responsibility and solidarity with the populations of the region.

Je vous remercie de votre attention.