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19 June 2014 - Security Council - Peace and security in Africa/Sahel - Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(UN translation)

I thank the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel for her statement and wish to express to her, on behalf of France, our full support in carrying out her new mandate.

The crisis in Mali, which has marshalled a large part of our energy for more than a year, symbolizes to the extreme the fragility of the Sahel. What is the added value of the United Nations to help the Sahel countries to face those challenges? The United Nations strategy should respond by striving to attain three objectives.

First, the strategy must define a common transnational approach to all agencies. The approach should be transnational because the United Nations response to the problems of the Sahel with regard to humanitarian, security and development issues has long been segmented according to States. That does not make sense to respond to problems that are transnational in nature, be they issues of security or climate or related to the situation of nomadic peoples of the Sahel. Next, a common approach by all United Nations agencies is also essential in all areas. Terrorism feeds on governance and development problems. Conversely, security issues have a negative impact on economic growth of the States of the Sahel. Without security there is no development and without development there is also no security.

I commend the United Nations on those two aspects for the work it has accomplished in the last two years under the coordination of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa. His work has provided a good foundation for a regional and integrated approach by the United Nations.

Secondly, the United Nations should help all stakeholders to coordinate their efforts for the Sahel. A good example in that regard is the Malian crisis. The coordination among all international actors is not obvious. Yet it is essential if the parameters of a lasting peace in Mali are to be defined. The United Nations and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have a key role to play in that process, as the Security Council has pointed out.

Across the Sahel, many initiatives and forums bring together the countries of the region in different configurations — the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, “countries of the field” and the Group of Five for the Sahel, among others. In addition, international partners have developed their own approach to the Sahel; for example, the European Union has its own strategy for the Sahel, as do the African Union, ECOWAS, and the World Bank, with its Sahel initiative. We must ensure that those multiple initiatives are coordinated in an efficient manner. In that context, the United Nations and the Special Envoy can play a role of good offices to bring together the regional and international efforts in the Sahel. In that context, the coordination platform for the integrated strategy in the Sahel, implemented on the occasion of the visit of the Secretary-General to the Sahel in November 2013, is a unique framework. It is being chaired by Mali for two years, and the United Nations and the African Union provide the secretariat. The platform is the only forum that brings together all the countries of West Africa and the Maghreb, as well as the international and regional organizations concerned.

Thirdly and most important, the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel must lead to concrete projects in all areas. In the area of governance, the next year will be marked by a large number of elections in the Sahel and West Africa, which are all tests for the robustness of these States. The task of the United Nations is to assist States wanting such assistance in organizing the deadlines in a transparent and credible manner.

In the area of security, the Secretary-General recalls that the terrorist attacks in the Maghreb and Sahel grew by 60 per cent in 2013 compared to 2012, which includes 230 incidents throughout the region. As members of the Council know, France is very involved in helping the countries of the region. We intervened directly at the request of the Malian authorities and in support of our African partners. The Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa in December 2013 provided an opportunity for African countries to intensify their cooperation in order to strengthen their security capabilities and their ability to respond to crises. For its part, the United Nations can contribute to that effort.

In the humanitarian and development areas, extreme poverty is a root cause of problems in the Sahel. That is compounded by a fast-growing population, which weighs on the development of those countries. In 2014, the number of people suffering from food insecurity in the region is estimated to be over 20 million. Five million children are threatened by a risk of serious malnutrition. The development of desert areas should be a major focus of our efforts, in support of pastoralism and the development of infrastructure to open up those spaces. We welcome the commitment of international partners in that area.

The decision of Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in February in Rome to launch a consolidated appeal for the Sahel for $2 billion over three years is innovative. It is the first time that a multiannual approach has been adopted. It adds to the major commitments of the World Bank and the European Union. France, the largest bilateral donor in the region, has also decided to increase its commitment to €900 million for the period 2014 to 2015.

In conclusion, I would like to call for the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel not to be just another theoretical document, disconnected from reality. The problems plaguing the Sahel are too serious for us to let that happen. The United Nations strategy must be genuinely at the service of the States and peoples of the Sahel and should lead to practical solutions.

Learn more on Transnational threats to international peace and security.



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