The French delegation aligns itself with the statement that will be delivered by the observer of the European Union. I would like to thank all today’s speakers for their statements. I thank Morocco for its initiative in convening today’s meeting about a region that has had the attention of the Security Council for almost a year. What is happening in the Sahel represents a challenge to international peace and security. The international community has finally begun to take stock of the challenge, as was ref lected by the presence of many Heads of State and Government at the highlevel meeting on the Sahel convened by the Secretary- General on 26 September in New York.
Now that the Security Council is seeking solutions to the crisis in Mali and ways to support African regional organizations, we must not lose sight of the rest of the region, where there are ongoing problems of humanitarian, security, development and human rights scope that call for lasting solutions and increased coordinated responses. I would like to make three points.
The first is a simple statement. The situation in the Sahel is one of stark contrasts. While it seemed that in 2012 the humanitarian situation improved, despite the new problem of 400,000 refugees displaced by the Malian crisis, the outlook is more worrying on the security front as well as in development and wealth distribution, which is more or less uneven country by country. The region is also plagued by the well-known common scourges of food crises, underdevelopment, illiteracy, a lack of security, illicit trafficking and political instability. Every year 250,000 children die from malnutrition, but the Sahel has also become a haven for international terrorists, as well an active area for extremist movements that seek to impose their laws on societies from the north of Nigeria to the outskirts of Dakar.
The crisis in Libya made for large movements of populations, returns to countries of origin, and a wide dispersal of weapons that have benefited armed and terrorist groups. Still, those armed groups, funded by illicit trade or hostage-taking, were f lourishing well before the Libyan crisis, f louting Governments of the Sahel too depleted to combat threats beyond their immediate borders. Let us not forget that in West Africa the cocaine trade for the European market has quadrupled in recent years, generating $300 million annually and reaching a new height of 2.5 million African users.
My second observation is that solutions to the challenges faced by the Sahel cannot be imposed from outside. They must derive from local and regional sources. It is their responsibility, and their initiatives are already bearing fruit. In the humanitarian realm many countries of the Sahel were able to respond promptly to the food and nutrition crisis at the end of 2011, by taking preventive measures that averted catastrophe. Projected harvests for next year are encouraging.
Our role, through the United Nations and bilaterally, is to continue to support such efforts and to help those States to break the wretched and ever shorter cycles of food crises and to finally succeed in bringing down malnutrition statistics, which are unacceptably high. In 2012, France donated €30 million for relief of the most affected populations in the Sahel. We also support the Alliance Globale pour l’Initiative Résilience au Sahel et en Afrique de l’ouest, which was developed by the European Commission, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the countries of the Sahel to respond to humanitarian crises in the Sahel, with the goal of putting together an ongoing response mechanism for that recurring crisis.
Only integrated action that also addresses the security of the Sahel countries will create an environment conducive to sustainable economic growth that will benefit the entire population. Therefore, the proposed military operation to liberate northern Mali must include medium- and long-term measures aimed at helping those States secure their borders and combat transnational organized crime.
In that context, on 12 July the European Union launched the EUCAP Sahel mission, aimed at strengthening the national security forces of the Niger, as well as regional cooperation. That is why France has contributed more than €10 million a year to programmes for justice and governance cooperation with Sahel countries through our bilateral file on special priority funds. Ultimately, as the Sahel occupies a transition area between West Africa and North Africa, no initiative in the region makes any sense unless the Maghreb countries are involved as full participants. Thirdly, in that context France welcomes the appointment of Mr. Romano Prodi as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel. Given its universal nature, the United Nations is the sole entity able to bring all the States of the region together without exception, and through them the many regional structures. We believe that Mr. Prodi’s first priority should be to finalize and implement the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel region that the Council has been awaiting for more than a year.
While that work is complex, the strategy has been too long in the drafting. It is now time for action. We believe that the Special Envoy’s mission represents a unique opportunity to pursue internal efforts to organize the work of the agencies, funds and programmes with presences in the Sahel region so that they can all finally work to a common end. The United Nations strategy must seek to achieve the same regional objectives, while taking into account the specificities and approaches adopted by each country in the context of the strategy for the Sahel that was adopted by the European Union. A further significant undertaking of the Special Envoy is to ensure regular coordination between the United Nations system and the other protagonists involved in the Sahel region, starting with the African Union, the core countries, the Maghreb countries, the Economic Community of West African States, the European Union and the major bilateral donors. In particular, we call for the closest cooperation between the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and the African Union High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, President Buyoya, whose appointment bears testimony to the efforts of the African Union to bring its full weight to bear in seeking a solution to the crisis in the region. We welcome those efforts.
We thank Mr. Prodi for his initiative to convene the meeting of 7 December in Rome, which will make it possible to develop a clearer and more efficient division of labour among the various international stakeholders that are involved in the Sahel region. Mr. Prodi can count on France’s support in fulfilling his mission.