Debate of the Security Council on Sahel,

United Nations, December 11: Speaking at the Ministerial debate of the Security Council on Sahel, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative, ambassador Masood warned that if the challenges facing the countries of Sahel were not addressed quickly and effectively, the gains so far made by these countries could be reversed and would impact its long-term stability. “The region faces chronic problems of food insecurity, underdevelopment, and climate change. The rise of organized crime in recent times has aggravated the situation”.

He said Pakistan had already expressed its grave concern in Council’s previous meetings over the rise of organized crime, including drug and weapons trafficking, and terrorism in West Africa and the Sahel. “Drug trafficking in particular is a serious threat to the countries of the region because of its nexus with terrorism; and its potential to fuel corruption and undermine governance”, he said.

The Security Council which met this morning under the agenda “Peace and Security in Africa: The Sahel — Towards a more comprehensive and coordinated approach”, called for the finalization of an integrated strategy for the North-African region encompassing security, governance, human rights, humanitarian needs and development, while it strongly condemned terrorism, human rights abuses and the destruction of historic sites in Mali.

Mr. Khan underscored the need for a greater regional cooperation in border management, as well as justice and law enforcement sectors for tackling these threats. “Countries of the Sahel are all developing countries that face lack of capacity and resources. Therefore, the international community in the short run must provide effective assistance to the relevant countries and regional organizations”.

The conflict in Libya, the ambassador said had also added to the region’s difficulties. “Consequences of this conflict are still unfolding with Mali being its first victim. Refugees from Mali have placed an additional burden on neighbouring countries that were already reeling from the impact of the prevailing drought. Terrorists and criminals, who have filled the security vacuum in northern Mali, pose a serious risk to the security of the entire region”, the ambassador said.

He underlined the need for an integrated strategy, which has the support of the international community to address the challenges facing the region. “Pakistan has supported the elaboration of a United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel”.

Citing Mr. Romano Prodi appointment as the Secretary-General’s special envoy for the Sahel a welcome sign, ambassador Masood hoped that Mr. Prodi’s efforts would go well in finalizing the UN strategy and mobilizing the resources for the region

He, however, cautioned that while drafting the UN strategy; principle of national ownership and close consultation with all relevant countries should not be overlooked. In addition to this, he said the aims and objectives must be realistic while keeping a balance between immediate and long-term needs.

Underling the importance of an effective coordination among various UN presences in the region, the ambassador said the strategy must also identify the resources required for its implementation, as this was crucial for its success.

Expressing concerns over the situation in Mali, which he termed poses a grave threat to regional stability, the ambassador called for an urgent attention of the Security Council. “Pakistan supports efforts to restore the territorial integrity of Mali, address the threat of terrorism, and respond to the humanitarian situation in the country and the Sahel region through a comprehensive approach addressing both political and security aspects of the crisis. The AU Joint Strategic Concept of Operations provides a useful basis for addressing the Malian crisis”.

UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon in his speech, stressed that even though the Council was dealing with acute problems in the Sahel, “as acute as the problems are, we cannot lose sight of the context in which Mali is but a part: a sustained, systemic crisis across the entire Sahel region. What happens in Mali can affect the entire region.” He added that the problems in Mali could not be effectively addressed without confronting the challenges in the broader region.

Romano Prodi, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, said his goal was organizing “a worldwide platform aimed at putting in action an efficient network of humanitarian aid and a common strategy for the development of the Sahel”. Nothing could be done, however, without restoring a united of Mali.

New York, 11 December, 2012