Security Council, 8903rd meeting.
Amid a persistently unstable security situation punctuated by alarming terrorist attacks, troops deployed to combat violent extremism in the Sahel region need more predictable funding and broader international support, the United Nations senior peace operations official told the Security Council today. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, presented the Secretary‑General’s latest report on the activities of the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) and United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), noting that the region remains severely unstable, with civilians paying the highest price. Many lives are lost daily due to terrorist attacks, millions of people are displaced, and primary health care remains inaccessible, even as the pandemic continues to rage. Against such a challenging backdrop, the work of the G5 Sahel Joint Force remains crucial, he said, pointing out that it has stepped up its operational pace since its inception in 2017, and has even recently demonstrated its ability to nimbly mount an ad hoc operation in response to an imminent attack on civilians in Burkina Faso. The Secretary‑General’s report, as well as his letter setting out an assessment of operations by the Secretariat, affirm that the Joint Force is a key part of a collective security response to the multiple challenges facing the region, including terrorism, weak border security, trafficking in persons, illicit goods, weapons and drugs. However, he cautioned, there is a risk that the Joint Force will lose the gains that have been made. Highlighting progress in protecting civilians and preventing and mitigating human rights violations by armed and security forces while carrying out counter terrorism operations, he underscored the need for a dedicated support office funded through assessed contributions — rather than the current model which relies on unpredictable donor financing — to reinforce such work and ensure greater coherence between military and political and development efforts. Also briefing the Council was Fatimata Ouilma Sinare, of the Burkina Faso chapter of the Network on Peace and Security for Women in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Space, who described how the ongoing crisis has disproportionately affected women. In Niger, 76  per cent of girls are married before the age of 18 while in Mali, the rate of female genital mutilation is 82 per cent among females aged 15 to 49. There are rampant reports of sexual abuse and rape in the Lake Chad Basin region. Moreover, women continue to be woefully underrepresented in decision-making positions. While women’s civil society organizations are trying to address such concerns on the community level, they require technical and financial support, she said. Ammo Aziza Baroud, from Chad, speaking on behalf of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, described the persistent security challenges in the region, noting an increase in terrorism and intercommunal conflicts. She expressed regret that the international community has failed to honour its promises to support the region in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has led to disillusionment and resignation among the populace. In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed concern about the alarming security and humanitarian situation and commended the work of the Joint Force in protecting civilians and curbing extremist activities. Several members echoed the Under-Secretary-General’s call for more consistent, predictable funding to help meet the demands of the worsening situation on the ground, while others raised concerns over allegations of human rights violations during counter-terrorism operations and questioned the appropriateness of the United Nations as a support mechanism for the Joint Force. The representative of France called for resolute action by the international community, given the heavy burden civilians continue to pay despite the Joint Force’s recent achievements in bolstering regional counter-terrorism efforts. He called on Council members to lend their support to the Secretary‑General’s appeal to operationalize a support office, pointing out that members with reservations about the proposal have yet to offer credible alternatives. In a similar vein, Niger’s delegate, also speaking on behalf of Kenya, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said that a United Nations support office remains the most appropriate option to ensure the G5 Sahel Joint Force predictable funding and strengthen its operational planning capacity. He pointed out that the potential flow of combatants as well as arms after the withdrawal of foreign combatants from the Libyan theatre underline the need for the G5 Sahel Joint Force, MINUSMA, and allied international forces to close the security gap in the region. The representative of Estonia, meanwhile, expressed concern over reports of human rights violations allegedly committed by security forces during counter-terrorist activities, and emphasized the need for such activities to be undertaken in strict compliance with international humanitarian law. All human rights violations must be investigated and perpetrators held fully accountable, regardless of their status, he said. The United Kingdom’s delegate also emphasized the need to enhance human rights protections and compliance with international humanitarian law, without which there can be no sustainable peace and security in the Sahel. He welcomed the Malian authorities’ decision to bring three cases before the Military Tribunal in Bamako this month, calling it “an important step forward in the fight against impunity”. While the Joint Force is a crucial solution to the region’s challenges, he nonetheless stressed that the United Nations is not the right vehicle to provide it durable support, and that bilateral and multilateral support mechanisms that do not involve the Organization should be explored. Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation expressed concern about the worsening humanitarian situation in the Sahel, leading to an increase in the number of internally displaced persons and refugees. If steps are not taken to improve the situation, the conditions for radicalization will amplify, she warned. For its part, the Russian Federation has provided military and technical assistance, including training of military and police personnel, to several countries, and intends to continue to undertake such work. Also speaking today were representatives of India, Norway, Ireland, China, Viet Nam, the United States and Mexico. The meeting began at 10:25 a.m. and ended at 11:55 a.m.