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National statements

Briefing on Peace and Security in Africa: The situation in the Sahel

Thematic issues

  • Counter-terrorism
  • Extremism
  • Great Lakes Region
  • Humanitarian
  • Justice
  • Mali
  • Sahel
  • Sanctions
  • Terrorism


Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mr President,

Australia welcomes today's briefing on the Sahel, and the personal commitment of the Secretary-General and Special Envoy Prodi and other speakers – including World Bank President Kim, and the AU and EU. I must say – as a general comment – that the partnership between the UN and World Bank has the potential to be a genuinely transformative one, and I know the global community wants to see it grow.

Mr President,

We know that the Sahel has been struggling for far too long with chronic humanitarian, security, and governance crises. The human toll is terrible – over 11 million food insecure, a million displaced, and 5 million children at risk of acute malnutrition.

Possible nowhere is the development-security nexus as pronounced. The region illustrates the deep connection between security challenges – such as terrorism and transnational crime – and development challenges – such as food security and the generation of economic opportunities.

As Mr Prodi has reminded us, these challenges transcend borders, and so – obviously – must the solutions. He has previously warned us – and again today – that we must not forget the Sahel, or we risk more crises like the one in Mali.

We welcome the visit led by the Secretary-General and World Bank President. This highlighted the centrality of addressing economic challenges as part of the path to peace – building on their partnership in the Great Lakes region – and the $8 billion mobilised will reinforce the dividends of peace.

Progress towards peace and stability requires genuine UN, intergovernmental and regional cooperation and coordinated engagement. Australia considers that the Sahel Strategy provides a solid framework, and we strongly support its three strategic objectives.

The key now is to move ahead with actual implementation by identifying priorities for action, and the comparative advantage and value-add of the UN.

Within this context, I'd like to address three specific issues: (1) national ownership and regional cooperation; (2) terrorism and transnational crime; and (3) resilience.

First, Governments of the region must own and lead efforts in the Sahel. They must, in turn, be accountable to their populations.

We therefore welcome the 5 November Bamako Ministerial Meeting. The launch of the coordination platform at the meeting was an important milestone. We look forward to hearing more about its work, and how the Council can support it.

Increasing cooperation – between national governments and regional and international organisations – will be vital to the success of the strategy.

This is particularly true of efforts to combat terrorism and transnational organised crime – my second area of focus.

The threat must be tackled through capacity-building, prevention, and coordination.

Border management and building law-based criminal justice must be important focuses of our capacity-building efforts. In this regard, we welcome recent progress on trans-border security at the November Regional Ministerial Conference in Morocco.

We know that a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy must include efforts to prevent terrorism and extremism from emerging, arming and recruiting. We therefore particularly welcome the Strategy's recommendations on countering violent extremism – including through regional dialogue among traditional, community, and faith-based leaders and organisations.

I should note that the Al Qaida Sanctions Regime has significant potential to assist Sahel states to turn the tide against Al Qaida affiliates in the region. But it can only realise this if the regime is genuinely accessible to States and is integrated into their responses.

We have to place the sanctions regime in the hands of the affected countries and regions, both to ensure the sanctions list accurately reflects the dynamic and evolving nature of the threat, and to enhance implementation.

As Chair, Australia is committed to seeing the Al Qaida Committee working collaboratively with the region to identify the individuals and entities we should be applying the sanctions against: the Al Qaida affiliates, their leaders and, most importantly, their enablers – those who provide the arms, funds and recruits.

To this end, on 3 December we convened a special meeting with Member States of the Sahel and Maghreb to discuss the threat posed by Al-Qaida. This was the first of a series of steps in improving regional awareness and engagement.

Finally, building resilience in the Sahel will be essential to breaking the cycle of humanitarian crises and protecting the most vulnerable from persistent shocks. We must also target the underlying drivers of conflict – inequality, social exclusion, and ethnic tensions.

Australia has provided $50 million in assistance to the region over the past two years, to meet immediate needs and has supported communities in the region to build long-term resilience to disasters and address the causes of food insecurity, including support for agricultural research.

In concluding, we have seen the impact of concerted national, regional, and international efforts in Mali. We are confident that the Sahel Strategy can be a valuable tool for the UN, the region and international partners to achieve a coordinated response to the challenges of the broader Sahel region. Much of the effort will need to be innovative. We now know it is overdue. And it is of course necessary.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 4 June 2015
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