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Calming the ever-volatile security situation in Mali hinged on a long-term plan matched with predictable funding that would consolidate fragile gains and allow international forces to tackle the spread of terrorism and transnational organized crime which was spreading across borders in the region, the United Nations peacekeeping chief told the Security Council today.
Briefing the 15-member organ, Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations said that adding to the urgency for sustained support, an already dire security situation in the Sahel was worsening, with terrorist attacks against the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and international forces. As well, reports of human rights violations by armed forces were surfacing.
Providing updates on the joint force of the Group of Five Sahel States (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), also known as the Sahel G-5, she said that the Group had conducted operations in the central sector and had taken steps to establish a human rights compliance framework at a time when Burkina Faso and Niger were deploying battalions on their respective borders with Mali. Nonetheless, much work remained to be done. Delays had prevented the joint force from attaining full operation capability and the international community’s support was needed to overcome capability gaps.
Maman Sambo Sidikou, Permanent Secretary of the Sahel G-5 countries, pointed out that challenges included overcoming a lack of equipment and logistics planning against highly volatile and hostile conditions on the ground. Noting that, within a few months of the Sahel G-5 countries establishing the joint force, it now was manned with 5,000 soldiers, he said its operationalization was currently under way with international support.
However, he observed that, although the joint force had incorporated the human rights compliance framework recommended by the United Nations from its inception, it nevertheless remained far from reaching a “smooth cruising speed” in responding to the region’s many crises. More predictable, sustainable financing and a deeper engagement with the Council was needed. Failure on the part of the joint force could threaten the security of the entire region while risking the spread of mass terrorism in neighbouring Europe and across the globe. The Sahel G-5 countries were aware that they were on the front lines of an international struggle, he said.
“What is happening in Africa reminds us of the fact that terrorists know no borders,” said Fatima Kyari Mohammed, Permanent Observer of the African Union, calling for a coherent, comprehensive and integrated approach, as well as robust international engagement, to address that global threat. Outlining the African Union’s support to the Sahel G-5 and the Nouakchott process, she said those initiatives deserved international support commensurate with the threat being faced in the region.
She also drew attention to several particular security challenges on the ground, including in towns and villages where international actors were themselves becoming targets, and she requested the Council’s additional support. The African Union would continue to work towards strengthening the region’s ownership while executing its own African Peace and Security Architecture in the Sahel region, which included such critical elements as border security and information sharing.
João Vale de Almeida, Head of Delegation of the European Union also briefed the Council, noting that a pledging conference had generated €400 million towards the joint force. However, no lasting progress could be achieved without political progress. To address that concern, he called on States to use all available leverage to encourage the Malian parties to implement their commitments under Mali’s Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.
As many Council members called for bolstered engagement by all stakeholders in Mali, the representative of Bolivia emphasized that consolidating the political process in Mali would help to stabilize the entire region. However, analysing and identifying the causes of conflict were essential, he said, pointing out that the actions that had been taken against Libya had unleashed a crisis that had spread across the Sahel, exacerbated by climate change consequences and flourishing violence that had led to a massive displacement of people and food insecurity.
Agreeing, Equatorial Guinea’s representative underlined a need to further analyse the factors that gave rise to Islamist extremism in the region. “We must foster resilient societies” capable to starving the regeneration of extremist groups, he stressed, noting that social and development policies would be needed to address their deepest roots and prevent them from rearing their heads again.
Delegates also broadly commended ongoing efforts and voiced support for the full operationalization of the joint force, with many describing their countries’ efforts and contributions.
Echoing a common view, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire said the support of MINUSMA to the joint force constituted a good model of cooperation between the United Nations and African efforts, while expressing hope that financing pledges would materialize soon to ensure its full operationalization.
Indeed, the representative of France said that the joint force was a showcase for the potential of African intervention initiatives. Recognizing that efforts hinged on predictable funding, he urged that pledges be disbursed, and he called on donors to make the necessary contributions.
Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, United States, Kuwait, Ethiopia, United Kingdom, Peru, Russian Federation, China and Poland.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 5:22 p.m.