Thank you Mr. President and thank you Under-Secretary-General Pascoe for your briefing.
The United States would like to thank Special Representative Djinnit for his continued leadership in UNOWA and in the Sahel region. We greatly appreciate the work that went into the UN Inter-Agency Mission to the Sahel and its subsequent report.
The report provided a significant number of recommendations for our collective consideration, and while they are all worthy of deliberation, today I will focus specifically on those that relate to arms proliferation and terrorism, the humanitarian situation, and food insecurity.
While there have been measured successes, we remain concerned over the threats posed by the illicit trafficking of arms and terrorism and welcome the recommendations on these challenges put forth in the Report of the Assessment Mission. We concur that we must address the situation on a national, regional, and international level through an ‘overarching framework’ that includes all of the affected countries. The United Nations, along with the African Union and other relevant organizations, should play a greater role in coordinating these efforts.
We will continue to promote an improved regional effort to combat arms proliferation and terrorism, and we will tailor our assistance to facilitate this process. For example, we are fully committed to working actively with the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Sahel Regional Capacity Building Workshop, which we co-chair. Additionally, we are engaged in capacity-building efforts to fight terrorism through the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), which is designed to support partner efforts to contain and marginalize terrorist organizations.
Terrorist operators in the Sahel region, such as Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), continue to concern us. AQIM has demonstrated its ability to carry out criminal activities and attacks against soft targets across significant distances. AQIM has also solidified camps in isolated areas in northern Mali. We are also deeply concerned about violence attributed to Boko Haram.
Sahelian countries are making progress in their counterterrorism capabilities. Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger have increased pressure on AQIM and developed more effective regional responses to deal with the threat. Additionally, Chad has increased efforts to disrupt AQIM attempts to transit its territory.
We recognize that the Libyan crisis has brought a new set of cross-border challenges relating to security, including increased illicit weapons trafficking that pose a threat to the stability of the region and must be addressed. We are concerned about the porous nature of the border between Chad, Niger, and Libya and the risk of weapons, including MANPADS, moving across those borders. These weapons, in the hands of terrorists, could further destabilize already fragile areas of the Sahel and surrounding regions. My government, in cooperation with the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, France, Italy, and Germany, is currently expanding assistance efforts for weapons security that will help to survey and inventory all known weapons and ammunition storage sites in Libya and destroy MANPADS and other weapons and munitions, as approved by the Libyan authorities. We urge regional governments to support the Government of Libya’s efforts to identify, secure, and destroy loose MANPADS and other light weapons that are at risk of being smuggled across the Libyan border and into the Sahel region. Further, as I stated yesterday, we fully support UNSMIL’s efforts to engage on this issue, including its critical work with Libyan and other relevant officials on border security.
Mr. President, the Report of the Assessment Mission cites a growing concern regarding the humanitarian and economic impacts this crisis has had on the Sahel region. These are serious and demand the continued attention of the international community. We are interested in hearing ideas for how the United Nations and regional organizations can strengthen their efforts to alleviate these challenges and prevent further humanitarian crises from emerging.
The United States has worked to facilitate the return of African migrants from Libya. Last year, we provided more than 27 million dollars through the International Organization of Migration (IOM) for returnees from Libya. We note that the report recommends support for IOM’s continued efforts to assist governments in the region with reintegration of their citizens, [added comma] and we urge governments to help in this time of need.
Regarding food and security, we agree with the report’s recommendation that greater steps need to be taken to address the deteriorating food situation in the region in both the short and long term. UNICEF is warning that more than 1 million children across the Sahel may face severe malnutrition in 2012. We recognize that the return of individuals from Libya into the Sahel only exacerbates this issue. Families now have more mouths to feed in a situation where food security is becoming more problematic and remittances have decreased.
The United States is mobilizing resources to address the food shortfalls. Last year we provided nearly $23.5 million in humanitarian assistance to affected communities in the Sahel for agriculture and food security, economic recovery, and nutrition programs. In addition, we provide close to $77 million a year for food assistance, economic recovery, and livelihoods support in the Sahel. In early FY 2012, the United States made an additional $58 million pledge to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) in Chad and a $7.5 million contribution to WFP in Niger as well as over $2 million to Catholic Relief Services in Mali to meet the emergency food needs of more than half a million people in the region.
Mr. President, we must all keep in mind the potential humanitarian crises that could emerge should the region become destabilized and terrorists are able to operate with impunity. My government is working with the leaders of the Sahel countries to address this challenge, through a number of political, social, and economic reform efforts, including managing successful democratic transitions and countering terrorism, and we look forward to the Council’s continued vigilance on these complex issues.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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