I am particularly pleased to join you today from Dakar to shed light on the situation in the Sahel.
I would like to seize the opportunity to thank the Vice-Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, HE Ambassador Jose Blanco as well as ASG Elizabeth Spehar, who is online with us, and PBSO colleagues, for organizing this timely meeting. I also want to acknowledge my colleagues from IOM , FAO, and UNOWAS ; our civil society briefers from Niger and Mali as well as representatives of the G5 Sahel (ES Eric Tiare), AU (Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed) and EU (Envoy Emanuela Claudia Del Re). The list of briefers today demonstrates the tremendous coordination effort and strong partnerships that are required to ensure positive outcomes in the Sahel.
These are grave times! The Sahel, object of our discussion today, is going through added stresses, not only at the country and regional level, but also from an international perspective.
On one hand, the recent military transitions in the region have been further restricting democratic and political spaces. The ECOWAS sanctions on Mali, if not backed by a strong humanitarian clause and sturdy mitigating measures will exercise added pressure on an already dire economic and social situation in the entire region.
On the other hand, the current war in Ukraine is already pushing upwards, oil, gas and food prices worldwide and will undoubtedly have a strong impact on the Sahel countries. It will likely create a crowding-out effect on humanitarian funding, singularly for the Sahel, where humanitarian needs are dramatically underfunded to the tune of a low 20-25 % rate.
These alarming facts make this PBC meeting all the more timely and I want to thank you all for your commitment to the Sahel and your leadership in addressing the root causes of the crisis in the region.
The situation calls for uplifting responses and solidarity.
- First, it is crucial to preserve the political unity of the G5 Sahel and reaffirm its central role in addressing the many challenges facing the region. In doing, so we must elevate our programmatic partnership with the G5 Sahel; through a greater alignment of our collective support to its Priority Investment Programme (PIP).
Noting the importance and centrality of the G5 Sahel, I would like to draw your attention to the need to address the Sahel “à geometrie variable”: indeed, we need to look at the region from a wider perspective, by including in the political and security parameters, the Nouakchott Process and the Accra Initiative.
- Second, it is instrumental to intensify our structural funding to Sahel countries in the spirit of Germany’s Marshall Plan with Africa, which aims at promoting innovation and harnessing the potential of Africa’s youth. The drama of the Sahel is that overall investment is chronically low; an average of 16-18 % of GDP; while a minimum floor of 24 % of overall investment ratio would be required.
In that respect, structural investments like the Africa Union Great Green Wall Initiative and the African Development Bank Desert-to-Power initiative will need stronger support for scaled up implementation.
- Third, successful ongoing initiatives implemented under the framework of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) need to be upscaled. Among these, let me mention the joint FAO-IOM initiative on transhumance and conflict prevention supported by the Peacebuilding Fund, the UNDP-led initiative on stabilization in the Lake Chad Basin and recently in the Liptako-Gourma region, the UN Rome based Agencies’ support on resilience in the Sahel. All these initiatives were highly praised by the G5 Sahel Heads of State and Government during the N’Djamena Summit in February 2021.
What we’re learning from these initiatives is that the peacebuilding fund is a helpful tool through which we can test new approaches by putting prevention at the center of the humanitarian/development/peacebuilding nexus and by investing in the meaningful participation and empowerment of women and youth, targeting at-risk groups in the border and cross-border areas which are traditionally neglected.
We need to act with a sense of urgency and solidarity. Therefore, we need to invest in the most powerful engine that would transform the Sahel to a better and stable version, and that is education. There won’t be any peaceful and prosperous Sahel without our youth, and let’s not forget the importance of investing in young girls. The Sahel needs all hands on deck and in many configurations we have seen how women and girls act as a driving force.
Investing in youth is not only good economies and climate smart; but it is a down payment for a stable, peaceful and most promising future. This then should be at the heart of the Peace Building Fund, singularly in the Sahel.