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Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the joint Economic and Social Council-Peacebuilding Commission meeting on the situation in the Sahel, in New York today:
I would like to thank Ambassadors [Frederick Musiiwa Makamure] Shava and Cho [Tae-yul] for organizing this joint Economic and Social Council-Peacebuilding Commission meeting on the situation in the Sahel.
Our focus here today I hope will be to reinvigorate and strengthen strategic and operational coherence among Member States and within the United Nations system, to accelerate the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.
The continuing deterioration of security in the Sahel is the result of several unresolved underlying causes of instability, including a lack of sustainable development, of good governance and respect for human rights, in a region that has always suffered from harsh climatic conditions, exacerbated by climate change, but also other complex issues.
Transnational organized crime, violent extremism and terrorism are growing threats to stability, while young people and women lack opportunities for education, training and employment giving decent work.
Mali is the epicentre of Islamist violence in the Sahel, but other countries have experienced terrorist attacks from across the Malian border, as well as home‑grown networks. Niger faces a triple threat from Boko Haram in the south-east, Al-Qaida and ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant]-affiliated groups in the south-west and the spillover from the ongoing Libyan conflict in the north. If the situation in Libya is not brought under control, it risks causing further destabilization throughout the Sahel.
On the ground, criminal and terrorist networks are competing to buy ungoverned spaces that are growing in size as Governments retreat. Vigilante justice has replaced State authority. As always, the most vulnerable are paying the price.
More than 30 million people struggle daily with food insecurity; 1 in 5 children under the age of five suffers from acute malnutrition; and close to 5 million people are displaced and require humanitarian assistance and protection.
These extremely challenging living conditions have spurred a steady flow of migrants on dangerous and sometimes deadly journeys, through the desert towards the Mediterranean and beyond.
Ending this dangerous spiral of failure and turning it around to support growth, resilience and sustainable development requires urgent steps to improve regional and international cooperation at all levels and across all issues. It requires renewed efforts to close the gap between humanitarian needs and development imperatives through an integrated approach to development, governance, security and human rights.
National Governments, bilateral partners, regional and multilateral stakeholders must tackle the complex challenges by linking short-term objectives to the pursuit of a longer-term vision. Specifically, efforts to address these roots causes of threats to peace and security should be closely coordinated with the work of the United Nations Development Group and the Resident Coordinators of Sahel countries, who face the challenges on a daily basis.
I urge all to support consistent efforts to reassert State authority and avoid a disproportionate emphasis on security. Given the trans-border and multidimensional nature of instability in the Sahel region, there can be no purely military solution. Recognizing this and acting on it is the only way to end the marginalization of the poor, rural societies frustrated by a lack of access to basic social services including water, electricity, health care and education.
The key to addressing the root causes of instability and fragility lies in sustainable development and good governance, as well as resolving local conflicts driven by competition for resources. These sustained security and development efforts must be based on increased financing by national Governments and regional and international partners.
The United Nations remains deeply committed to supporting Sahel Governments in navigating this balance, through the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New Way of Working between humanitarian and development actors, and other relevant mechanisms.
The Ministerial Coordination Platform for the Sahel strategies and the United Nations-G5 [Group of 5] Sahel Road Map for Cooperation provide frameworks for enhanced coherence and collaboration between national, bilateral and multilateral stakeholders. We must make full use of them.
Today, violent extremism and terrorism are global phenomena that do not recognize borders. We must demonstrate solidarity, coordination and partnership in trying to deal with them. The Security Council’s resolution earlier this month welcoming the deployment of the G5 Sahel joint force is an important step.
The force will consist of up to 5,000 military and police, who will be deployed throughout its contributing countries. The resolution calls for cooperation and collaboration with other military forces in the region, including the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and includes language related to humanitarian liaison, protection of civilians and gender.
I hope the broad recognition and support of the international community expressed in this Security Council resolution will be translated into the provision of logistical, operational and financial assistance to the G5 Sahel joint force in a timely manner.
The major global agreements of the past two years — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Agenda for Humanity and the resolutions on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture — are all aimed at improving coordination on the ground and delivering better for the people that we serve.
The Secretary-General, his senior management and I, myself, are committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the United Nations response to crises around the world. We have set in motion reforms to the entire United Nations system that are aimed at enabling faster, more effective and responsive, inclusive and sustainable action.
Improving the partnership between the Economic and Social Council and the Peacebuilding Commission is an important part of the global and system-wide efforts. Pursuing an integrated approach to implementing our commitments will help the Sahel region achieve sustainable development and sustained peace.
I thank the Economic and Social Council and the Peacebuilding Commission for their work, I thank you all for the solidarity and commitment to support the United Nations system, and I wish you fruitful discussions.