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  • Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, briefs the Security Council.
Council considers situation in Sahel. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Sahel, Special Envoy Hiroute Guebre Sellassie

Monsieur le Président,
Chers membres du Conseil de sécurité,
Je suis heureuse de vous informer de nouveau sur les derniers développements dans le Sahel. L’attention particulière et soutenue que le Conseil de sécurité porte au Sahel en tant que région avec ses particularités, permet une approche qui intègre les dimensions régionales des défis, sans laquelle les conflits et les crises seraient résolus dans un pays juste pour réapparaitre dans un autre.
Dans le domaine de la gouvernance, la région du Sahel continue de souffrir d’un manqué de services essentiels, de l’exclusion sociale, et d’obstacles au commerce et à l’investissement. La récente apparition de l’épidémie Ebola au Mali risque d’être le choc de trop pour la région. Ce nouveau défi mérite toute notre attention, et il est important que les pays du Sahel acquièrent les capacités nécessaires pour prévenir la propagation de l’épidémie.
Mr. Chair, Members of the Council,
The crisis in Burkina Faso and the persistent conflict in Mali attest to the fact that our efforts in the Sahel will not be productive unless the countries of the region commit to some standards of governance.
The security situation in the Sahel continues to be impacted by the crises in Libya, northern Nigeria, northern Mali and the Central African Republic.
The persistent allegations that the Islamic State has set up training camps in Libya are particularly worrisome. If the situation in Libya is not quickly brought under control, many states in the region could be destabilised in the near future.
In Mali, despite progress achieved in the inter-Malian talks in Algiers, the security situation in the north has deteriorated, with the intensification of deadly attacks targeting peacekeepers and communities along the border with Niger. It is encouraging that the recent meeting of MINUSMA African Troop-Contributing Countries, hosted by Niger, concluded that there was a need to strengthen regional security cooperation mechanisms. I am also pleased that this Council has held a brainstorming session to consider options to address these challenges, including through the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.
The unspeakable Boko Haram atrocities in northern Nigeria have become a major threat to some Sahel communities and countries. An estimated 100,000 have fled to the Diffa region of Niger and some 10,000 are in Chad and Cameroun. Perhaps more alarming are the recent allegations that Boko Haram is recruiting rebels amongst the refugee populations.
The interconnections between terrorist and criminal networks in Libya, Mali and northern Nigeria are becoming clearer. These networks provide the markets for the exchange of weapons, fighters and other forms of illicit trade, including drug trafficking. It is estimated that close to 20,000 firearms from Libya have crossed into the Sahel, and the greater part of the 18 tonnes of cocaine, worth 1.25 billion U.S. Dollars, dumped in West Africa transit through the Sahel region. It is worth noting that the profits from this illicit trafficking by far exceed the security budgets of most countries in the region. In view of the complexity and regionalization of threats, my Office intends to work more closely with MINUSMA, UNSMIL and other relevant UN entities in order to enhance regional analysis and programming.
Furthermore, particular attention needs to be paid to the thousands of migrants who cross the Sahel and the Sahara en route towards Europe and the Middle East. Unfortunately, this practice of migration will only increase under the prevailing security and humanitarian conditions and can only lead to increased loss of lives and recruitment of desperate migrants into armed groups. More disturbing is the fact that 60 percent of the human trafficking victims detected in the region are children.
Humanitarian indicators across the Sahel remained disquieting. Five million more people have become food insecure since the last reporting period. The number of children affected by acute malnutrition in the Sahel also increased from 5 million in January to 6.4 million today. Of these, 1.6 million require treatment for severe malnutrition. In addition, spiralling insecurity and conflicts have displaced 3.3 million people, a two-fold increase from 1.6 million in January.
With just over 1.1 billion U.S. Dollars provided by donors to date, against a 1.9 billion U.S. Dollars appeal, humanitarian interventions in the Sahel remain underfunded.
Mr. Chair, Members of the Council,
Since assuming office in May, I have focussed on engaging with key stakeholders with a view to gaining an understanding of their perspectives, taking stock of the progress made and identifying existing challenges. I have urged leaders and Heads of State in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger to address challenges affecting the Sahel through a regional approach and pledged the support of the United Nations to implement initiatives in the Sahel.
I have been engaging with major partners working on the Sahel to emphasize the importance of coordination and coherence. Building on these consultations, and following up on the visit of the Secretary-General to the Sahel last year, I convened a meeting of major partners in November which resulted in the establishment of an International Contact Group on the Sahel.
In order to enhance regional ownership of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, I have been engaging with governments in the Sahel and regional organisations to seek convergence with their priorities.
Mr. Chair, Members of the Council,
Since my last briefing, progress has been achieved in terms of mainstreaming the priorities of the strategy into existing programmatic frameworks. Allow me to highlight a few examples:
Under the Resilience pillar, the EU-led AGIR partnership with a pledged contribution of 1.5 billion Euros from the EU for 2014-2020 continued to provide a critical framework for regional cooperation on resilience. The Country Resilience Priority (PRP) plans for Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad will be reviewed in mid-December. Meanwhile, a World Bank-UNFPA programme of 207 million U.S. Dollars to manage population dynamics in the Sahel is being considered for approval.
Under the Governance pillar, UNDP has been supporting Mali to mainstream social cohesion in the delivery of social services, and has trained 300 ‘community mediators. . It has been supporting Niger to promote durable development and inclusive growth. UNDP has been building the capacity of Government institutions in Mauritania and Niger on conflict prevention, protection of human rights and transparent electoral process. At the regional level, UNDP and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) have jointly embarked on a study to assess the perceptions of communities living in border areas on the drivers of radicalization, insecurity and violent extremism in eight (8) Sahel countries.
Under the Security pillar, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been supporting the development of accessible, efficient and accountable criminal justice systems in the Sahel to combat illicit trafficking, organised crime, terrorism and corruption in the region. The UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) also supported the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in the development of a regional counter-terrorism strategy.
Mr. Chair, Members of the Council,
I am also glad to report that several non-UN partners continue to implement initiatives in the Sahel, which complement the broad objectives of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.
In January, the World Bank launched a new multi-donor Sahel Adaptive Social Protection Trust Fund. With initial grant funding of 75 million U.S. Dollars, the programme will assist more than 1.5 million people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
In October, the Board of the African Development Bank approved a 240 million US Dollars programme to enhance the productivity of agro-silvo-pastoral and fishery sectors, including through investments in rural infrastructure, in Burkina Faso, Chad, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal.
I am pleased to report that a regional approach to addressing security threats in the Sahel is also being promoted by the African Union through the Nouakchott Process for the operationalization of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) in the Sahel.
Mr. Chair, Members of the Council,
Given the deterioration of the political and security situation in the region and the adverse impact on humanitarian and development gains, the need for sustaining Security Council attention on the Sahel is greater than ever. Since my appointment, my Office has made great strides in terms of helping put together the necessary structures and coordination mechanisms to ensure a more coherent approach of the United Nations system and the international community at large in the Sahel region.
Despite these important and necessary steps, the Sahel region continues to face multifaceted challenges to peace and development. The situation calls for stronger commitment by governments of the region to improve governance, including the promotion and protection of human rights, and undertake changes that are required for the achievement of the objectives of the strategy, including by working towards greater regional cooperation and economic integration.
Monsieur le Président, chers membres du Conseil de sécurité,
De ce qui précède, mes priorités pour les mois à venir consisteront à, premièrement, soutenir la mise en œuvre accélérée des projets tant nationaux que régionaux, en étroite collaboration avec les partenaires régionaux ; deuxièmement, contribuer au renforcement de la coordination des interventions de la communauté internationale au Sahel, y compris par le biais du Groupe international de contact sur le Sahel ; finalement, promouvoir l’appropriation régionale en renforçant la coopération avec la Communauté économique des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO), la Communauté économique des Etats de l’Afrique centrale (CEEAC), ainsi que la Plateforme ministérielle de coordination et le G5 Sahel.
Je voudrais conclure en vous remerciant de votre soutien.