Thank you Mr. President, thank you Secretary-General Ban, Dr. Kim, and Special Envoy Prodi, Ambassador Antonio, and Special Representative Reveyrand de Menthon for your briefings and for calling the Council’s attention to the challenges and opportunities we face in the Sahel. My government welcomes the UN and World Bank’s joint commitment to act as partners in the region, as they are also doing in the Great Lakes. We hope this partnership will succeed in mobilizing both internal and international efforts to achieve political and economic progress.
As your briefing makes clear, countries in the Sahel continue to be plagued by cross-cutting challenges that fuel cycles of violence and impede economic progress. Porous borders, ungoverned and under-governed spaces across the vast region facilitate the flow of illicit arms and narcotics while also providing terrorist groups with safe havens within which they can train and plan future attacks. Civil strife and other social disruptions contribute to widespread food insecurity; the result is chronic suffering giving way at regular intervals to large-scale humanitarian crises.
Mr. Secretary-General, your visit last month to the region – joined by African Union Chair Zuma, European Union Commissioner Piebalgs, and African Development Bank President Kaberuka – underscored the area’s importance and the need to build on prior initiatives that respond to its many overlapping problems. Accordingly, we commend the EU and World Bank pledge of $8 billion in new assistance over the next five years to advance the strategic goals laid out in the UN’s Integrated Strategy for the Sahel. We urge partners and governments to lend additional backing to this and associated measures.
I’d also like to recognize the efforts of Special Envoy Prodi to emphasize how critical it is that regional governments take the lead in identifying and designing solutions to the diverse and inter-related dilemmas that they confront. We encourage the entire UN system to embrace these efforts and to push ahead vigorously in implementing the Integrated Strategy.
To that end, the United States has been and will remain an active partner in trying to advance the three goals in that Strategy: strengthened governance, improved regional security capabilities, and long-term plans for resilience.
In many respects, better governance is the starting point for progress in every other arena, including economic development, public safety, and the peaceful resolution of debilitating conflicts. Recognizing this, the United States is currently examining ways to step up its efforts across the Sahel-Maghreb region to bolster democratic institutions. We believe that in the Sahel, as elsewhere, an open and inclusive political system can provide a foundation for problem solving while simultaneously reducing the appeal of violent extremist groups.
Building security capacity, especially in states where the political institutions are fragile, is difficult but essential. Working through the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership, the United States is helping to enhance the ability of ten countries in the Sahel and Maghreb to combat terrorism, strengthen regional security cooperation, discredit radical ideologies, and assist communities that are at most risk. The Partnership is an ongoing effort that is informed by local experience and supported by many leaders within the region. It recognizes the value of development aid in responding to the political grievances and day-to-day needs of people who might otherwise be tempted – in their desperation – to join or support extremist groups. Strategies to improve security and extend the rule of law are more likely to achieve their goals when citizens have reason to hope and are integrated into communities that are becoming stronger and more cohesive. In a parallel effort, the United States is also working closely with Germany, the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, and other allies and partners to prevent illegal trafficking in ammunition and arms.
Through the Global Alliance for Resilience in the Sahel, my government is engaged with states in the region, the World Bank, the UN, and other stakeholders in a vital initiative to reduce what has become a chronic need for emergency assistance. By coordinating our efforts to build resilience, we are enhancing the capacity of individuals, families, communities, and entire countries to prevent, adapt to, and recover from civil strife, natural disasters, and similarly disruptive events. To the extent these initiatives succeed, people in the region will be less vulnerable to stress of all kinds and better equipped to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth. The United States commends the UN for making resilience a core pillar in its regional strategy and also the World Bank for its recent investment pledges aimed at improving infrastructure and supporting economic development in rural areas, where the most vulnerable populations live.
Though the challenges facing the Sahel remain daunting, we are seeing progress. Many African countries are deeply engaged in combating terrorism, brokering peace, and fostering the critical economic and social gains. Looking ahead, we must continue to respect the leadership, ownership, and entrepreneurship of our African partners. We are hopeful for the future, because we know that the goals we seek – of improved governance, greater security, and more resilience – respond to a yearning that exists among people throughout the Sahel for a chance to live in larger freedom with greater prosperity, greater security, and more peace. With these goals in mind, let us move ahead to implement our integrated strategy in full cooperation with one another.
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