8526th Security Council Meeting: Peace and Security in Africa

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16-May-2019 03:07:13
Experts urge Security Council support for efforts to make G5 Sahel Joint Force fully operational amid rising terrorist attacks, intercommunal violence at 8526th meeting.

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Amid the spate of terrorist attacks and the uptick in intercommunal violence in Africa’s Sahel region, top security and peacebuilding officials called upon the Security Council today to support efforts to make the G5 Sahel Joint Force fully operational by ensuring it receives sustainable and predicable funding and resources.

Briefing the 15-member Council were five experts, including officials of the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union, who warned about security challenges confronting the G5 member States (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger). They called for action to prevent the deteriorating situation from spreading through the continent, emphasizing the need to address the underlying causes of radicalism, such as poverty and unemployment.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations said the grave security situation in Mali and the Sahel is compounded by poor governance and a lack of resources for young people, all of which present a breeding ground for violent extremism. The G5 Sahel should accelerate full operationalization of the Joint Force, a mechanism that pools resources to fight terrorism, she said, expressing concern that geographical restrictions on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have hampered the actions of Joint Force battalions.

However, even when fully operational, the Joint Force cannot shoulder the burden of fighting terrorism and stabilizing the region on its own, she said, stressing that its operations must go hand-in-hand with other coordinated efforts alongside a broader strategy encompassing poverty reduction, good governance, development, humanitarian assistance and security interventions. Pointing out that the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel remains a valid framework for such action, she reminded the Council: “We have a shared responsibility for the Sahel.”

Burkina Faso’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the current proportion of national budgets that the G5 Sahel countries allocate to security — in the range of 18 per cent to 32 per cent — is placing a large burden on social services. Although the Joint Force is “on its feet” and carrying out operations, it lacks the heavy equipment to achieve full operational capacity, he noted, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s proposal to examine the possibility of furthering support from MINUSMA. He also urged the international community to take a stand on the situation in Libya, describing it as the main destabilizing element in the Sahel.

The African Union’s High Representative for Mali and the Sahel said recent events in Niger resulted in the deaths of more people than all those killed in all the terrorist attacks recorded in 2018. The 14 May attack in Niger, on that country’s border with Mali, killed 28 people and is a reminder that so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) remains active in the Sahel, he emphasized, warning that the threat is expanding towards Togo, Benin and even Ghana. Making the Joint Force operational has now become an absolute and urgent necessity, he stressed, adding that it is an effort that the entire international community should support.

A fourth briefer, the European Union’s Special Representative for the Sahel, said the bloc will continue to provide resources, equipment and other support to make the Joint Force operational, including its police component. Almost 800 European experts are presently deployed alongside Sahelian defence and security forces, providing training and expertise, he noted. The European Union will soon deploy a regional advisory and coordination office to better assist the G5 Sahel Permanent Secretariat in refining and revising the work of the Joint Force and to ensure that those apprehended are brought to justice.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said his agency’s programme in the Sahel is focused on enhancing the accessibility, efficiency and accountability of criminal justice systems in countering drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism. UNODC has already established investigative units across the region and the agency has held numerous training workshops for military, law-enforcement and judiciary personnel, he noted. The G5 Sahel countries, for their part, have achieved some notable results with UNODC’s support, addressing regional judicial cooperation, firearms marking, investigation of terrorism financing and illicit trafficking at airports.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members emphasized the importance of predictable and sustainable funding, with Equatorial Guinea’s representative calling for an extension of support from MINUSMA beyond Mali to all G5 Sahel countries. The Sahel situation represents a challenge to international peace and security and is deserving, therefore, of Chapter VII funding, he emphasized. If not, the crisis could extend beyond the Sahel to Togo, Benin and Ghana, and even beyond West Africa, he warned.

Another regional voice echoing that sentiment was that of Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, who stressed that only funding, in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, will ensure the success of the Joint Force despite financial and logistical contributions from partners. He called for renewing and amending the technical agreement with MINUSMA, saying that will facilitate expanding the scope of the Mission’s support.

The representative of the United States said international peacekeeping forces alone cannot solve the region’s problems, emphasizing that bilateral assistance remains the best way to support the Joint Force. Expressing disappointment with repeated calls for funding the Joint Force under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, he said regional stakeholders must make efforts to address the root causes of the situation in the Sahel, including through initiatives to fight poverty.

However, South Africa’s representative warned: “The Council should be mindful of the catastrophic ramifications of the security situation for the rest of the West African region if the situation is not adequately addressed.” Expressing support for the creation of a United Nations support office for the Joint Force, funded through assessed contributions and independent of MINUSMA, he said such a structure would facilitate predictable financing, long-term planning and a critically needed logistical and operational base for the Joint Force.

France’s representative declared: “We will only be able to succeed if we walk on the two legs of security and development.” The Joint Force is unique and demonstrates a shared will to coordinate efforts against a threat that has consequences for all, he added, stressing the international community’s responsibility to support affected States.

Also speaking today were representatives of China, Dominican Republic, Germany, Russian Federation, Peru, Poland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Kuwait and Indonesia.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:57 p.m.

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