posted on Tue 19 Mar 2019 5:30 PM
Informal Interactive Dialogue with the Peacebuilding Commission on the Sahel

Tomorrow afternoon (20 March), the Security Council is holding an informal interactive dialogue with the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) on the Sahel. Germany, as the informal coordinator between the Council and the PBC, is organising the meeting in preparation for the Council’s upcoming visiting mission to Mali and Burkina Faso. The Chair of the PBC, Ambassador Guillermo Fernández de Soto (Colombia), and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Oscar Fernandez-Taranco are expected to brief.

A concept note says that the meeting is an opportunity to receive an update on the PBC’s engagement in the Sahel in line with its advisory role to the Council. It calls the session an opportunity to exchange views on regional peacebuilding challenges, learn about specific peacebuilding needs, and receive information on the efforts made by the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and financed through the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). To facilitate an interactive exchange, briefers have been encouraged to provide short inputs, while Council members are encouraged to focus on questions rather than long statements. The concept note includes a set of guiding questions for participants:

  • What recommendations can be derived from the engagement of the PBC in the Sahel?
  • Which specific peacebuilding efforts are needed to prevent a further deterioration of the security situation?
  • What can be done in order to improve coordination between international, regional and local stakeholders?

Ambassador Fernández de Soto is expected to provide an update on the PBC’s engagement and discussions on the Sahel. The PBC has been involved with the Sahel since 2017, when the Council asked that it support the UN Office of West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) in implementing the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS), launched in 2013 in response to the Mali crisis to address the Sahel region’s structural instability. Fernández de Soto may reflect on the PBC’s meetings with the governments of Sahelian countries, regional and subregional organisations, donors, civil society and the UN system, as well as on the visits of previous PBC chairs to the region. Fernández de Soto may note that, like his predecessors, he plans to participate in the upcoming Ministerial Coordination Platform for the Sahel to be held in April in N’Djamena.

The PBC Chair is likely to highlight the region’s multidimensional challenges, such as poverty, underdevelopment, weak governance and climate change, that make it vulnerable to conflict. He may emphasise that addressing these issues effectively requires coherent efforts by the international community and a holistic approach to root causes, in addition to security responses, a point that the Council has frequently emphasised.

Fernandez-Taranco will provide an overview of PBF support to the Sahel with a focus on Burkina Faso and Mali. PBF investments in Mali have totaled at least $32 million since 2014 in the areas of dialogue and reconciliation; support to the justice and security sectors; restoring state authority; and reintegration of refugees and displaced people. For Burkina Faso, the PBF is supporting 6 projects totaling $12.5 million, including $8 million in new pledged funding for 2019-2020. He will also provide information on current challenges and possible UN contributions. Mali has faced a stalled political process amidst continued violence both in the north and central regions. Burkina Faso is experiencing an expanding terrorism threat and marked deterioration in security, as attacks by armed groups have continued to intensify throughout much of the country. Some Council members may raise the risk that the increasing security threats are diverting resources to security responses, instead of to addressing the underlying problems that have helped give rise to extremist groups in the Sahel.

In July 2018, Special Representative Mohammed Ibn Chambas of UNOWAS presented the UN Support Plan for the Sahel at a PBC meeting, refocusing the priorities of the UN’s Sahel strategy. Fernandez-Taranco may note that the PBF allocated $65 million last year covering nine of the 10 countries targeted in the plan. The support plan’s refocused 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.

Since 2012, the Security Council and the PBC have held an annual informal interactive dialogue organised around the PBC’s presentation of its annual report, usually in June. The Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin were the topics of this informal interactive dialogue in 2017. The organisation of tomorrow’s session may indicate further use of this meeting format in Council-PBC interaction.