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Libyan Newswire

Tackling &#39triple peril&#39 facing the Sahel region is top priority for UN, Ban says in Mauritania

4 March 2016 – With a &#8220triple peril&#8221 of environmental degradation, poverty and insecurity facing the Sahel, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today during a visit to Mauritania that improving the situation in the region is a top priority for the United Nations.

&#8220You know my dedication to the Sahel,&#8221 Mr. Ban told those participating in an event on peace and security, which discussed the root causes of instability in the region.

&#8220When I visited at the end of 2013, we mobilized the international community to find durable solutions,&#8221 he recalled. &#8220The countries of the region can defeat these difficulties by working together, with the support of the international community,&#8221 he added.

The UN estimates that one in seven Sahelians lack food, one in five children will die before their fifth birthday, and four and a half million people have been forced to flee their homes. Communities have also been struggling against harsh environmental conditions and worsening climatic shocks.

&#8220The international response has a new boost thanks to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change,&#8221 the UN chief declared. &#8220We have another opportunity to strengthen global solidarity at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May. I count on Sahelian leaders to attend.&#8221

The Sahel is a region spanning across eight African countries &#8211 Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad &#8211 many of which are dealing with a volatile security situation.

&#8220I am especially concerned about the interlinked activities of criminal groups and terrorist organizations. Local people pay the highest price,&#8221 warned the Secretary-General, noting that insecurity in Northern Mali has driven thousands of people from their homes, including some 48,000 refugees living in the Mbera camp in Mauritania.

&#8220The United Nations is ready to assist in countering terrorism and other asymmetric threats,&#8221 he continued. &#8220In this, we insist on full respect for human rights and international humanitarian law &#8211 as a matter of moral responsibility and strategic effectiveness,&#8221 he stressed.

Welcoming the African Union Nouakchott Process and its sustained focus on security and terrorism, Mr. Ban said Mauritania’s engagement is &#8220invaluable.&#8221 In his remarks, he saluted President Abdel Aziz’s regional leadership and his role in establishing the ‘G5 Sahel.’

&#8220We need to carry out these new initiatives. And we need enhanced regional support to the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA,&#8221 he said. &#8220I especially applaud the G5’s decision to establish a regional cell in Nouakchott for the prevention of radicalization. This can complement my global Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.&#8221

Meanwhile, he stressed that youth across this region need better access to education and decent jobs. &#8220They can be a powerful force for progress against violent extremism. The historic Security Council resolution 2250 recognizes that young people can actively shape peace, contribute to justice and heal societies.&#8221

He added that it is equally essential to empower women, including by ending female genital mutilation (FGM), and praised Mauritania’s national policy against FGM &#8211 and similar efforts across the region. Furthermore, he welcomed the country’s laws to penalize slavery and address torture. &#8220Such abominable practices have no place in the modern world,&#8221 he stressed.

Tomorrow, Mr. Ban will meet with Sahrawi refugees suffering terribly under harsh conditions in Algeria. &#8220The world cannot forget their plight. The Sahrawi people must enjoy their human rights &#8211 especially the right to self-determination within the framework of a mutually acceptable political solution,&#8221 emphasized the UN chief.

He underlined that his aim is to contribute to this solution and facilitate &#8220genuine&#8221 negotiations so that Sahrawi refugees can return home to Western Sahara.

&#8220I am also deeply concerned about the situation in Libya,&#8221 he added. &#8220There are alarming reports of widespread human rights violations, including serious abuses that may amount to war crimes. All those with influence must use it to calm the situation and stop the fighting. It is utterly irresponsible for any outside player to stoke the fires.&#8221

Ending his remarks, the UN chief said he is inspired by Mauritania’s rich history, and that the world needs &#8220such an open-hearted spirit to break down walls and forge trust.&#8221

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