posted on Wed 10 Dec 2014 1:23 PM
Briefing by Special Envoy for the Sahel

Tomorrow morning (11 December), the Security Council will be briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie. This briefing is in line with the 27 August 2014 presidential statement in which the Council requested that it be informed of the progress towards the implementation of the UN’s integrated Sahel strategy through an oral briefing by 15 December. (A written report is due on 30 November 2015, S/PRST/2014/17).

Sellassie’s briefing tomorrow, like her last meeting for the Council on 19 June (S/PV.7203), is expected to focus on developments in the Sahel strategy’s implementation, along with regional trends. Members are likely to be particularly interested in hearing from Sellassie about regional security developments, including Libya’s destabilising impact on the region and the worsening attacks by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria. In this regard, Sellassie may reinforce, as she did during her last briefing, the need for a flexible geographic approach in order to respond to the Sahel’s problems.

Besides the situations in Libya and northeast Nigeria, members will also likely highlight and be looking for more information on extremist groups’ activities in Mali and the peace talks underway in Algeria between the Malian government and Tuareg groups. In addition, members will likely express continued concern about terrorist and extremist groups, the proliferation of arms and transnational organised crime in the region.

On Boko Haram, some members, particularly African members, may highlight the AU Peace and Security Council communiqué from its 25 November meeting about Boko Haram which called upon the Security Council and the international community to provide support to Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria in their efforts to operationalise the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) being formed to combat the Boko Haram threat. The communiqué also suggests that the adoption of a Security Council resolution authorising these countries to deploy the MNJTF for an initial period of 12 months could encourage international support. France may refer to the deployment of Operation Barkhane that it established in July to conduct counter-terrorism operations in the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) countries which include Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Some members could also raise the potential threat that conflicts and terrorist groups in the Central African Republic and in the Horn of Africa pose to the region, a point that Sellassie made in her last briefing.

While the UN Office for West Africa has led UN efforts on Burkina Faso, Sellassie and Council members during their interventions will likely touch on the situation in this Sahel country which is expected to go through a civilian-led transition after its long-standing president Blaise Compaoré resigned at the end of October following a military takeover. . In this context, members may stress the importance of a civilian led transition and the conduct of elections by November 2015 as outlined in the Charter of the Transition that was signed on 16 November.

Additionally members may touch on the threat of Ebola, given the recent cases in Mali. According to the World Health Organization’s 10 December situation report, Mali has had 7 confirmed and 1 probable Ebola cases, including six deaths with 219 contacts linked to the more recent outbreak in Bamako being monitored. More broadly, some members could highlight the region’s continued fragile humanitarian situation. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, across the region in the nine Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia, over 24 million people face food insecurity, 6 million children are malnourished and at least 3.3 million are displaced by conflict.

The Special Envoy may highlight the outcomes of several key meetings she has participated in with various organisations and governments that are active in addressing the region’s security and development challenges. Among these meetings was the Third Ministerial Meeting of the Coordination Platform in Bamako on 18 November. (The Coordination Platform was established to coordinate the various Sahel strategies and initiatives.) The November meeting was the first time that the G5 Sahel participated as an organisation, represented by its Executive Secretary, Najim Elhadj Mohammed. Sellassie may note progress in collaboration between her office and the G5 Sahel, a positive development compared to her June briefing when she expressed concern about competing “interventions and strategies” and the need to improve cooperation among regional and international actors. Sellassie may also describe progress in establishing the technical secretariat of the coordination platform and some of its activities.

Members will likely be keen to hear more about these developments, having previously expressed concern over the sluggish implementation of the UN Sahel Strategy. They will likely stress the continued importance of enhancing cooperation among regional and international actors and the inter-connectedness of the security, governance and development challenges facing the region. Some members may highlight the importance of implementing concrete projects. They could also emphasise the need to get funding for these programmes, which is still a challenge for the UN.