8402nd Security Council Meeting: Peace and Security in Africa

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15-Nov-2018 02:09:35
Amid continual instability in Sahel region, senior officials tell Security Council increased funding needed for joint force to combat threats at 8402nd meeting.

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Against a complex backdrop of expanding terrorist threats and mounting hopelessness in Africa’s Sahel region, several senior officials today urged the United Nations and other partners to boost their support to the regional force established to combat those threats, as they briefed the Security Council on recent developments.

Officials from the Group of Five for the Sahel, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations Secretariat stood united in commending the G-5 Sahel joint force — established 18 months ago and now moving into its operationalization phase — while hailing its troops’ courageous work in some of the world’s most difficult military conditions. Voicing concern about a deadly terror attack in June on the force’s headquarters, they also sounded alarms over unmet donor pledges that have left the force with a critical resource shortfall. In that regard, they echoed prior calls by the Secretary-General to place the force under the umbrella of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, thereby providing more sustainable resources and strengthening the Council’s involvement in its work.

“In the absence of funding, there is not much the Mission can do,” said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, referring to the challenges faced by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in supporting the G-5 Sahel joint force. Warning that civilians across the region are losing hope — and that such hostile conditions could provide fertile ground for a wider spread of extremism — he said despite the June attack against its headquarters the joint force must push forward with its operations. “This will send a strong message to terrorist groups seeking to destabilize the region” as well as inspire confidence among the force’s donors, he said, adding that the force’s accomplishments over the last year have been “no small feat”.

Maman Sidiko, Permanent Secretary of the G-5 Sahel, described the June terror attack against the joint force headquarters in Sevare, Mali as a major setback. Also pointing to funding shortfalls and serious capacity gaps, he drew attention to the Council’s recent debate on strengthening multilateralism and emphasized that the situation in the Sahel is an example of an opportunity for crucial multilateral engagement. Echoing concerns that the region’s young people feel increasingly hopeless, he said many face the choice between fleeing the region — with all the deadly risks that implies — or joining up with armed terrorist groups. Calling for prompt action to address those challenges, he warned Council members that if they fail to tackle such issues now, they will soon find themselves meeting to discuss their impacts.

Pierre Buyoya, the African Union’s High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, paid tribute to the countries of the G-5 Sahel for establishing and deploying the force and standing united in the face of the region’s multiple crises. Thanking partners for their support, he nevertheless warned that security in the Sahel continues to unravel. It is therefore imperative that the force be rendered fully operational as soon as possible as part of a holistic approach that also includes development, governance and human rights improvements. Reiterating the Union’s strong commitment to the force, he welcomed efforts to create a dedicated United Nations office under Chapter VII of the Charter, thereby providing a package of support to the force and its operations on the ground.

Pedro Serrano, Deputy Secretary-General for Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis response at the European External Action Service, also payed tribute to the G-5 Sahel joint force as an important example of regional cooperation. Drawing attention to the European Union’s strong support of various political progress throughout the Sahel, he pointed out that it maintains nearly daily contacts with actors on the ground and holds periodic summits with them. Furthermore, it provides support to the ongoing peace process in Mali and has contributed some €8 billion for development in the region, in addition to humanitarian aid and the delivery of critical equipment and services.

France’s representative, sounding alarm over the expanding terrorist threat in the Sahel, described the G-5 Sahel countries’ establishment of a joint regional force as a “landmark” event and hailed its significant progress in just over a year’s time. For their parts, he said, the Council must provide effective support and donors must fulfil all pledges made. “This is absolutely critical,” he stressed, also voicing support for a more robust MINUSMA mandate and urging the Sahel’s development partners to continue supporting projects needed to prevent a further plunge into instability.

Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate, echoing the importance of strong support from the Council, welcomed the Mission’s support for the G-5 Sahel joint force as well as the signing of agreements with the European Union and other partners. Calling on donors to fulfil their commitments, he said that — considering the magnitude of the force’s needs and the scope of current threats — more predictable and secure funding is urgently needed.

Bolivia’s representative was among those speakers explicitly calling for the Council to place the G-5 Sahel joint force under a Chapter VII mandate. Warning that delays in funding it have hindered its expansion of crucial projects, she also spotlighted some of the root causes of the regional conflict, including the “harsh consequences of intervention” and regime change policies in Libya that destabilized the region. Applauding the political determination of G-5 Sahel countries against that backdrop, she said the force is an exemplary example of cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations and voiced concern that the refusal of some Council members to provide the force with a Chapter VII mandate has hamstrung its progress.

On that point, the United States representative reiterated his delegation’s view that the Mission’s technical agreement with the force is the full extent of the role the United Nations should play. “Security responses alone will not resolve every problem,” he said, noting that bilateral agreements are the best way to provide the force with assistance. Over the last year, the United States has nearly doubled its support from $60 million to $111 million, representing just a small part of its more than $1 billion overall funding to the Sahel region. In addition, he said, Council members should stand ready to use all their tools against spoilers who threaten the peace and stability in the Sahel.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Sweden, Peru, Netherlands, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Poland and China.

The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 12:09 p.m.

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