posted on Wed 25 Nov 2015 9:26 AM
Briefing and Presidential Statement on the Sahel

Today (25 November), the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of the UN’s Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (S/2015/866). Council members had hoped to adopt a presidential statement on the Sahel at today’s briefing, but at press time, they had yet to reach consensus and would need to continue to working on it.

The Secretary-General’s latest report highlighted the different security threats and socio-economic challenges facing the Sahel region, including the impact of the conflicts in Libya, Mali and with Boko Haram. Much of the report provides details regarding the various programmes being implemented by the UN system and other actors in the region to address these issues. Despite the international community’s increased attention towards the region, Sellassie may point out trends such as the expansion of terrorist attacks into central and southern Mali, or the increase in displaced persons across the region from 1.6 million in January 2014 to 4.4 million at present, much of which has been driven by the Boko Haram conflict. Last week’s attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, killing at least 18 people, and three suicide bombings in northern Nigeria that killed 50 people on 17 and 18 November clearly highlighted the threats facing the region.

During her briefing, Sellassie may seek to further emphasise the partnership of the Office of the Special Envoy (OSES) with the G5 for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), which was established in 2014 by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. These five countries were identified in the UN’s Sahel Strategy as the Sahel’s core states. According to the report, the Special Envoy has focused on supporting the new organisation, and it seems that cooperation between the Special Envoy and the G5 Sahel has notably improved over the past year. Another issue that the Special Envoy may highlight is the need for sustained attention in addressing youth radicalisation. This is a problem, according to the report, that has been exacerbated by high youth unemployment and young people’s sense of neglect from central governments, especially in peripheral communities.

In their interventions, members are likely to express concern over threats to the region posed by terrorism and illicit trafficking, including of drugs and migrants. They may highlight initiatives to directly address these threats such as France’s Operation Barkhane, Lake Chad Basin Commission countries’ formation of the Multinational Joint Task, and increased regional cooperation to improve border control. Members may also emphasise the need to address the Sahel region’s common socio-economic problems, which are underlying causes of instability. In this regard, they may welcome the Special Envoy’s efforts to promote a coordinated and holistic response by stakeholders and the international community, as well as the ownership demonstrated by the region to address its challenges, most notably with the formation of the G5 Sahel.

Members have been negotiating a presidential statement whose draft was first circulated by Chad on 12 November. It covers the broad array of challenges facing the region, including terrorism and underlying socio-economic problems and highlights the different regional and international security and development initiatives for the Sahel.

Negotiations over the draft text have been difficult. The draft has been put under silence procedure several times since Monday (23 November) with silence being broken by a number of members over different issues. Members have been unable to agree on a number of areas including establishing a new reporting cycle for the Special Envoy, language on the possible relocation of the OSES from Dakar to one of the G5 countries, and a trust fund for the Sahel. Members are expected to continue negotiating in the next few days.