UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the G5-Sahel Joint Force is at “a crossroads and there is a risk that it will lose the gains that have been made,” and stressed that it is the “collective responsibility of the international community to support the commendable efforts” made by the countries of the region.
Addressing the Security Council today (12 Nov), Lacroix said since the last meeting of the Council on the Sahel, “the situation in the region has remained very volatile.” He said, “Insecurity and instability severely hamper opportunities for growth and development and civilians pay the highest price. Many lives are lost every day as a result of terrorist acts. Millions of people are displaced, children can no longer go to school and primary health care remains inaccessible to many, even as the pandemic still rages on.”
The UN peacekeeping chief stressed that the fight against terrorism is “one of the greatest challenges of our time and how the the international community responds to it and tackles its root causes will be a litmus test for us.” He added, “In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, many fear being left behind as old systems and orders crumble. We are only at beginning to understand these dynamics and what might prevent the rise and the expansion of terrorist movements. In this context, the important decision of the G5-Sahel member states to take charge of their security challenges, by creating the Joint Force for Combating Terrorism in the Sahel, constitute an important accomplishment.”
Lacroix said the Secretary-General was clear in both a letter to the Council and in his recent report that the Joint Force “remains a vital part of a collective security response to the multiple challenges facing the region: terrorism, weak border security, trafficking in persons, illicit goods, weapons and drugs.” He said it is the collective responsibility of the international community to support “the commendable efforts of the G5-Sahel member states.”
The Under-Secretary-General said the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has spared no effort in supporting the Joint Force, within the framework of its mandate and has undertaken all necessary steps to ensure that contractors can deliver life support consumables to all seven battalions deployed under Joint Force command. However, He stressed that this support model is limited, namely because it relies on donor financing, which is by definition unpredictable.
Lacroix said the UN remained convinced that only a dedicated support office, funded through assessed contribution, can provide the Joint Force with the support it needs. He said the UN’s second option would be to set up an advisory office which could also assist with efforts to strengthen institutional governance within the G5.
The peacekeeping chief said important strides have been made by G5-Sahel states in the prevention and mitigation of human rights violations by elements of their armed and security forces while carrying out counter-terrorism operations, but much still needs to be done. He said the establishment of a dedicated support office would provide an opportunity to scale up not only logistical and operational support, but also efforts to protect civilians, promote human rights, and ensure greater coherence between military and political and development efforts.
He said, “Security efforts alone are not sufficient to address the crisis in the Sahel. A holistic approach is required. One that honors the primacy of politics, addresses governance deficits and the root causes of poverty and exclusion and which seeks to provide opportunities and fulfilled lives for the many young people in the region.”
Lacroix reiterated the call of the Secretary-General for the establishment of a dedicated political forum, comprising representatives of the G5 and other international and regional organizations, such as the African Union, ECOWAS, the United Nations and the European Union, as well as members of the Security Council. This forum, he said, would both promote regional ownership and foster enhanced international support while ensuring that the operations of the Force are aligned with important political processes, including the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.