Africa’s crisis-torn Sahel region needs support from the international community “now more than ever,” the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, told the Security Council on Thursday.
In a briefing on the G5-Sahel Joint Force, the regional body designed to improve security and development and comprised of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad, Mr. Lacroix said the counter-terrorism initiative has seen “remarkable progress,” but warned it faces critical shortages.
“Major equipment shortfalls, capability gaps, insufficient infrastructure and a lack of secured operational bases continue to delay its full operationalization,” he said.
He expressed his “deepest gratitude” for donors who contributed to the start-up phase of the Joint Force, adopted by the Security Council in June 2017, however generous contribution, he said “almost 50 per cent of pledges generated have not been earmarked, let alone disbursed.”
He added that for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known by the French acronym MINUSMA, resources are strained and the entity is facing “a funding gap of almost $ 30 million to provide the support it was mandated to provide to the Joint Force.”
It is our shared and collective responsibility to ensure that the joint force succeeds--UN Peacekeeping chief
“In the absence of funding, there is not much the Mission can do.”
Echoing previous calls for changes to support made by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Lacroix stressed that ramping up support is vital to the survival of the Force, calling for measures that would ensure sustainable planning.
Through a “dedicated support office, funded through assessed contributions,” the G5-Sahel Joint Force can thrive, freeing up MINUSMA to “focus exclusively on mandate implementation.”
Further, G-5 “will only stand a chance if the people of the Sahel are confident in actions of their defence and security forces,” he said, citing the successful investigation into Mali’s Boulekessi killings earlier this year, and commending the police deployed to the Joint Force.
The Sahel Region’s deep-rooted issues in governance and security must be addressed first, if any security initiatives are to be successful, and “bigger more holistic” strategies are needed to bring the underlying causes of instability to the forefront.
Mr. Lacroix welcomed the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, and the G5 Sahel Priority Investment plan along with the Sahel Alliance partnership in Niger, and the Secretary-General’s call for creation of the Groupe de Soutien, which would facilitate the dialogue between key regional and international actors.
“It is our shared and collective responsibility to ensure that the Joint Force succeeds,” he said.
“I call on each and every one of us to do our part. The United Nations remain deeply committed to this important initiative.”