Excellencies, Dear Friends.
I am very pleased to be among you today to discuss “the Sahel: a region in dire need of a new modus operandi”. I welcome the Forum Organizers’ angle and would even go beyond this axiom by affirming that the Sahel people and governments, as well as all actors working in the region, need a new paradigm for lasting peace and sustainable development. Luckily, a roadmap has been laid out at the recent G5 Sahel Summit and Sahel Alliance General Assembly in Ndjamena (15-16 February), not only demonstrating that peace, security and development are intertwined and mutually reinforcing, but also calling for a political and civil surge, most importantly a surge in development action.
Ndjamena should enable progress: Firstly, on a diplomatic level by strengthening cooperation between the G5 Sahel and the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, and by promoting better cooperation with
countries Algeria, Morocco and Egypt. Secondly, on a political level by accelerating the implementation of the Algiers accords by the Malian authorities. Thirdly, through a civil surge to ensure progress on stability, inclusion, and sustainable development. By this, I mean supporting the governments and people of the Sahel in reinforcing State capacities and presence, in particular at border areas, and by ensuring access of populations to basic services, especially health and education. Operational successes will remain fragile without long-term development achievements.
It will require more prevention, responsiveness, and better coordination between the different actors, not only in the G5 Sahel countries but also in the whole region. This is where the UN plays a bridging role, ensuring continuity and coherence of action, as well as strengthened coordination
and cooperation. The UN Support Plan for the Sahel was conceived to provide a common vision through a joint framework, the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, to all partners.
But first and foremost, it was developed to make a real change in the region. Operational successes will remain fragile if we do not operate within the “ Nexus Plus” vision, encompassing peace and security, humanitarian assistance, development aid, but also human
rights and other important dimensions such as religion, culture, and history, to efficiently address the root causes of the crisis and build a solid foundation for a better future for the Sahelian people. Operational successes will remain fragile if we do not, as my good brother, Maman Sidikou rightly put it, fully align our various supports and funding with national and regional strategic priorities. This must be a binding imperative.
Dear friends, “Pivoting” on the Sahel , in a post Covid-era, and in a SDGs Decade of Action , will require some massive leverage, primarily around three critical points:
(1) Putting the populations at the center of our collective action:
By that, I mean their wellbeing, their safety, their mobility, their dreams and aspirations, but also ensuring their ownership and participation through national and local engagement. Engagement and involvement of local leaders should guide strategic Investments. That’s why we need to bring in more the diaspora, youth and influencers, and creative people from the private sector as well as civil society. I seize the opportunity to welcome here the great work of the “Citizens Coalition for the Sahel”. Citizens of the Sahel want to be given a voice and a role in developing their countries. They want to see addressed the syndrome of the “elites” and “experts” capture of the Sahel narrative and action. They want to be recognized as agents of change, especially women, girls and young men – not as victims, perpetrators of violence, or vulnerable groups.
It is hence instrumental to ensure inclusivity of women and youth in political decision making and peace processes, and to invest in youth leveraging digitalization and innovation as new channels of development taking advantage of the fourth industrial revolution. Women and Youth are a cross-cutting priorities at the core of our action in the Sahel but
also those of partners. Evidence shows that investing in women’s and girls’ education, health and economic opportunities is essential to accelerate the demographic transition, moving the human capital agenda forward and spurring sustainable economic growth. Citizens in all Sahelian countries call for reform. Which brings me to my second point:
(2) Pulling out the necessary institutional and structural reforms that will enable the transformation of the economies of the region:
This would require changing the narrative underpinning the current international strategy from one highlighting insecurity to one centered on governance; one where the root of the Sahel’s crisis is key and will prompt coalescence of the populations of the region to our common objectives.
Military operations are important but should be at the service of such an approach. For that, we must reorder our collective priorities, and put wider governance reform and local dialogue first, in order to foster the state’s return to rural areas, ensure equal access to social services, and improve public-sector financial management. We must support Sahelian States build institutions’ accountability and performance and deliver basic public goods in a fair and inclusive manner, and adopt policies better tailored to today’s reality, namely mitigating local conflicts and supporting reforms targeting poor governance and corruption.
(3) Generating a transition towards greening the Sahel through the Green and Digital Revolutions:
We have entered 2021 with exciting news for the development and green economy of the Sahel. At the OnePlanetSummit, 14.3 billion dollars was pledged to advance the implementation of the Great Green Wall. In a post-COVID context, where Sahelian countries are grappling with very stressed fiscal space and funding problems, the Great Green Wall will be a catalyst to better rebuild after the pandemic, by accelerating sustainable development.
As the UN Secretary-General said, “2021 must be the year of humanity’s reconciliation with nature.” Nature-based solutions must be at the center of green economic and social recovery in the Sahel, especially for women and youth. It took the Marshall Plan to lift Europe out of the grooves of the aftermath of the2nd World War. It may require the same energy to lift the Sahel and put it on the right path to recovery. Such investment would build on the Sahel’s major assets, including solar and water energy, and its incredible demographic dividend. We need to aim at bigger plans, at innovative funding initiatives.
I would like to conclude by saying that it is high time for us to shift the
narrative on the Sahel. If we want to attract growth, prosperity. success and foster hope, we need to shed a light on the Sahel’s resources, opportunities, positive dynamics, and successful national and regional initiatives. This first requires a shift in mindset, especially from us actors working on the Sahel crisis, as well as from the Sahelian youth.
We can play our part by maintaining the Sahel Agenda on major Global Fora (Aswan, TICAD, G7, G20 summits). The Sahel is a Global Public Good. Let’s protect it and invest in it together. Only by joining
our forces to showcase the richness of the Sahel, the success stories, and the impact of our collective and integrated actions, will we be able to progress on our path towards achieving lasting peace and sustainable development in the region and beyond.