posted on Thu 20 Dec 2018 1:07 PM
Briefing on the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel

This afternoon (20 December), the Security Council will hold a briefing on the “UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS), an integrated response to peacebuilding and sustaining peace in the Sahel”. It will hear briefings from the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Sahel, Ibrahim Thiaw, as well as Ambassador Ion Jinga (Romania), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC); Hafez Ghanem, Vice President of the World Bank for Africa, and Remy Rioux (via VTC), Chief Executive Officer of the French Development Agency. The briefing will be the Council’s first dedicated meeting on the UN Sahel Strategy since November 2015. A concept note circulated by Côte d’Ivoire says that the aim of the meeting is to buttress collective engagement across the Sahel, in line with existing frameworks.

Thiaw was appointed Special Adviser for the Sahel this past March to support Special Representative Mohammad Ibn Chambas of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) in implementing the UNISS. At the request of the Council, the UNISS was developed in 2012 and 2013 in response to the Mali crisis, to address structural problems in the Sahel that make the region vulnerable to conflict, such as poverty, underdevelopment and weak governance. It seeks to promote an integrated and regional approach of UN system activities to tackle these issues, and greater coherence of wider international interventions in the Sahel. In this regard, the UNISS represented a pre-cursor to a “sustaining peace” approach.

Beginning in 2017, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammad led the UN system’s efforts to “recalibrate” the UNISS after an independent evaluation commissioned by the Department of Political Affairs had been very critical of the UNISS’ implementation. Challenges have included getting the UN agencies to work together and coordinating the many Sahel strategies developed by governments and intergovernmental organisations. Earlier this year, on the margins of the thirty-first ordinary summit of the African Union on 1 – 2 July in Nouakchott, the UN presented a recalibrated strategy, described in the UN Support Plan for the Sahel. During his briefing, Thiaw is expected to focus on the Support Plan, which refocuses the priorities of the strategy that targets 10 countries in the region. These priorities are:

  1. promoting cross-border and regional cooperation for stability and development;
  2. preventing and resolving conflicts and building peace; preventing violent extremism and crime; and promoting access to justice and human rights;
  3. promoting inclusive and equitable growth and increasing quality access to basic services;
  4. building resilience to climate change, improving management of natural resources, and decreasing malnutrition and food insecurity;
  5. promoting access to renewable energy; and
  6. empowering women and youth for peace and development

The UN Support Plan was presented at a meeting of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) on 16 July with Special Representative Chambas ahead of his semi-annual briefing to the Council. In a 10 August presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel, the Council welcomed collective efforts to recalibrate the UNISS to expedite its impact, and encouraged greater coherence of the UN system and partners through implementation of the UN Support Plan. The PBC’s involvement with the UNISS dates from a Council presidential statement in January 2017, which asked the PBC to support UNOWAS’s in its implementation, recognising the PBC’s important convening role – a function that allows the PBC to bring together relevant member states, UN country teams, regional and sub-regional organisations, international financial institutions and civil society. Ambassador Jinga is expected to brief on the PBC’s support to the UNISS and the Sahel region, which he has visited twice during 2018. The PBC annual session, on 12 November, focused on the Sahel. The following day, the PBC held a joint meeting with the Economic and Social Council on the link between climate change and the challenges of peacebuilding and sustaining peace in the Sahel.

In addition to speaking about the Support Plan, Thiaw is likely to stress during his briefing the need to change the narrative on the Sahel that usually focuses on its challenges. This is a point made in the Support Plan, which highlights the region’s opportunities in energy, natural resources and potential market opportunities. On the issue of coordination, Thiaw may emphasise the importance of engaging with the Sahelian countries and regional organisations. He could refer to the donor conference on 6 December in Nouakchott for the Priority Investment Programme for 2019-2021 of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) that raised 2.4 billion euros for around 40 development programmes. Earlier this week (17 December), Thiaw briefed the AU Peace and Security Council.

Ghanem of the World Bank and Remy of the French Development Agency may both refer to the Alliance for the Sahel that was founded in July 2017 by France, Germany, the EU, the World Bank and the African Development Bank to expedite the impact of development projects in the region. At the International High-Level Conference on the Sahel in February in Brussels, where donors pledged funding for the G5 Sahel Joint Force, the Sahel Alliance announced the planned implementation of over 500 projects between 2018 and 2022.

At today’s session, briefers and Council members are likely to speak about the nexus between security and development, a point stressed in Côte d’Ivoire’s concept note and embodied, it suggests, by the UNISS. Members may stress the need for a balanced approach to tackling security challenges that mobilises around the region’s development needs and political responses, in addition to security initiatives. Council members’ 15 November press statement (SC/13584), issued following its last briefing on the G5 Sahel joint force (S/pV.8402), highlighted the development programmes of the G5 Sahel.

Members may emphasise the importance of implementing the commitments and strategies that exist, making available the required funding and resources and supporting the Permanent Secretariat of the G5 Sahel, and for the UN “to deliver as one”. Some members are likely to speak about the PBC’s engagement.

Following its endorsement of the UNISS in July 2013, the Council received briefings every six months from the Special Envoy for the Sahel. These briefings, held a month before the semi-annual briefings on the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), were found to be redundant with information discussed at the meetings on UNOWA. The Council reduced this reporting cycle to every 12 months in an August 2014 presidential statement (S/PRST/2014/17). In January 2016, the Council decided to merge UNOWA and the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel, creating UNOWAS (S/2016/89). Since then updates on the UNISS have been provided during the semi-annual reports and briefings on West Africa and the Sahel.