With the rising cost of inaction in the Sahel, the international community must keep its eyes on the prospect of peace, the Peacebuilding Commission heard today as it opened its fifth annual session.
The Sahel will be a “litmus test” for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed in her opening remarks. “If we fail for the most vulnerable, we fail a generation of young people and the future of peace in the subregion.”
Centred on the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, the Organization has a robust framework mandated by the Security Council, which has been recalibrated to better adapt to the priorities of the subregion. To prevent countries in the Sahel from becoming tomorrow’s failed States, the international community must address multidimensional challenges that transcend borders, including climate change, she said.
Recalling her visits to these areas, she said it is clear women need to be meaningfully included in all initiatives and policies. Their voices will be essential in peace negotiations and decision‑making processes and their leadership will be vital to building a new Sahel. Without women’s participation and mediation, peace is less likely to last, she stressed.
Also highlighting the nexus between peace and development, Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that peacebuilding and sustainable development go hand in hand. Citing a study showing that 82 per cent of conflict‑affected countries are off‑track in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, she said the Sahel is particularly vulnerable to climate change, which constitutes a “threat multiplier”.
Speaking on behalf of the President of the General Assembly, Eric Tiare (Burkina Faso) said peace and security in the Sahel are increasingly important, as is a strategic and coherent approach to the issue. Emphasizing the importance of solid and lasting partnerships, he called for a coordinated effort to enhance peace and security, humanitarian assistance and economic development. Nonetheless, the challenges in the Sahel are complex, he said, noting that 5.8 million people suffer from food insecurity and 24 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Indeed, the multidimensional challenges faced in the Sahel region require a multidimensional approach, said Security Council President Ma Zhaoxu (China). The security situation continues to deteriorate amid transnational threats posed by terrorism and organized crime, he said, noting the efforts of the Sahel countries in strengthening border security. Underscoring the security contributions of the Group of Five Sahel States (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), known as the G‑5 Sahel, he encouraged them to take appropriate measures for the framework to reach its full operational capacity as soon as possible.
Launching an urgent appeal to help the G‑5 Sahel reach that goal, Issa Konfourou (Mali), speaking on behalf of the Chair of the Group, called for a Chapter VII mandate from the Security Council and predictable and regular funding through the United Nations. Warning of continuing threats in the Sahel - coupled with recent events in Burkina Faso and Chad – he said there is danger that the entire region could become engulfed.
Along with security, the G‑5 Sahel is also tackling development challenges, he continued. Pointing to the region’s land, natural resources and capable people, he said the Sahel must not be seen as an area with insurmountable challenges, but one with huge opportunities. “But, we must act quickly and we must act together,” he urged.
In closing remarks, Ion Jinga (Romania), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said now is the time to shift the narrative around the Sahel and turn its challenges into opportunities. Supporting transformative policies is not just a matter of solidarity but global security, he said, urging Member States to keep the Sahel high on the priorities of the United Nations until it becomes a success story.
At the outset of the meeting, he recalled that the Peacebuilding Commission’s engagement in the Sahel began with the Security Council presidential statement (document S/PRST/2017/2) issued on 20 January 2017. Since then, it has convened a series of meetings, with the participation of the countries in the region, the G‑5 Sahel, African Union, European Union and stakeholders in the United Nations system.
During the daylong meeting, the Commission also held two interactive sessions: “Partnership with key stakeholders at strategic and operational levels for coherent international support to the Sahel region” and “Empowering youth and women as agents of peacebuilding and sustaining peace in the Sahel region.”