posted on Wed 18 Jun 2014 4:22 PM
Sahel Briefing by New Special Envoy

Tomorrow morning (19 June), the Security Council will be briefed by the new UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, on the 6 June Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the UN integrated strategy for the Sahel (S/2014/397). This will be Sellassie’s first presentation to the Council since being appointed on 1 May.

The Secretary-General’s report provides an update on developments in the Sahel region since 1 July 2013 and on implementation of the UN Sahel strategy around its three pillars: governance, security and resilience. It also summarises regional initiatives and UN activities aimed at enhancing coordination among the various actors with the UN Sahel strategy. While this was the first Secretary-General’s report on the Sahel since 14 June 2013 (S/2013/354), several developments outlined in it were described at a 12 December briefing on the Sahel by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Romano Prodi, the former Special Envoy (S/PV.7081). For tomorrow’s meeting members are therefore likely to be particularly interested in developments since January 2014.

Some members may want to know more about the flexible geographic definition mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report. The report indicated that for the purposes of implementing the Sahel strategy, the UN was applying a flexible approach to the geographic definition of the region in order to encompass countries in the broader Sahelo-Saharan region. Members may be interested in whether this represents a shift away from the strategy’s prior focus on the five “core” Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

The report also summarily highlighted the worsening security situation in recent months in Libya, Mali, and Nigeria, stating that “the crises in Libya, Mali and Nigeria are destabilising the broader Sahel region.” On Boko Haram, the report, states that its activity inside Nigeria and beyond is a “particularly worrying development”. Additionally, the report noted that terrorist attacks in the Sahel and Maghreb increased 60% in 2013 compared to 2012 and that extremist and jihadist ideologies “continue to spread” in the Sahel region. As the security situation has notably worsened since the launch of the UN integrated strategy, with the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad launching a 16 May offensive in Mali, General Khalifa Haftar attempting to storm government and parliament buildings in Libya on 14 February and 18 May and launching rogue military operations targeting Islamist militias, and a series of mass killings and kidnapping by Boko Haram in Nigeria, Council members are likely to ask questions about the impact the UN integrated Sahel strategy is having.

Meanwhile, additional regional initiatives have emerged – the AU established the AU Mission for Mali and the Sahel in November 2013, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States adopted a draft framework for development and security in the Sahel in March 2014, and the Economic Community of West African States finalised its own Sahel strategy in May 2014. In addition, a new regional organisation, the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) was established on 16 February 2014 in Nouakchott, Mauritania by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Niger to enhance cooperation on development and security in the Sahel region and to coordinate infrastructure development efforts. The current Secretary-General’s report notes that while these developments are welcomed, it increases the “need for enhanced coordination.” At tomorrow’s meeting, some Council members are likely to call for enhanced coordination among the various initiatives and may express concern about a lack of cooperation, in particular from the G5 Sahel countries, with the UN Sahel strategy.

While Sellassie may emphasise the importance of the UN Sahel strategy in coordinating international initiatives in the region, some Council members may stress the need for more progress in the implementation of concrete programmes and projects on the ground.

The latest report describes a range of UN country team projects that are underway across the region. Members may be interested in more information on the finalisation of the UN’s 2014-2016 implementation plan for the Sahel, which outlines programmes and projects that UN Country Teams will carry out. Council members could also be interested in more details on the 16 May roadmap approved by the Coordination Platform, one of the main mechanisms of the UN Sahel strategy, for the two-year presidency of Mali of the Coordination Platform

No outcome is expected tomorrow although initially several members were interested in adopting a presidential statement to welcome the efforts of the new Special Envoy and re-emphasise the need for improved coordination. Previous Council meetings on the Sahel strategy on 16 July and 12 December 2013 saw the Council adopting presidential statements drafted by Morocco (S/PRST/2013/10 and S/PRST/2013/22) For this briefing, the Secretariat apparently proposed that African Council members take the lead on a statement and while the possibility of Chad or Nigeria circulating a draft presidential statement was discussed, at press time there was no indication of a draft. However, it seems that depending on what Sellassie says, it is possible that some Council members may be interested in working on an appropriate outcome following the briefing.