Efforts to address the multiple challenges facing Africa’s Sahel region should be driven by local, regional and national leadership, with the support of international partners as required, the United Nations Special Adviser for the region said on Thursday.
Briefing the Security Council, Ibrahim Thiaw, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for the Sahel, said that the region’s stability and development was important not only for Africans, but also for Europe and beyond.
“The Sahel is one of the least developed regions in the world, facing simultaneous challenges of extreme poverty, the dire effects of climate change, frequent food crises, rapid population growth, fragile governance, and terrorist-linked security threats,” he said.
An uptick in criminal activity and cross-border organized crime, preying on the most vulnerable across the vast, mainly desert region - which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea - is only adding to the challenges, said Mr. Thiaw.
“The profits generated from human, drug, and arms trafficking can only make a precarious situation even less tenable. A portion of the criminal or illegal proceeds is instead used to feed extremism and exacerbate instability,” added the Special Adviser.
In his briefing, Mr. Thiaw reviewed the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, which was approved by the Security Council in 2013 and is a part of a preventive and integrated approach to strengthening governance, security and development in the region.
In 2018, this Strategy was given fresh impetus by the Secretary-General, through the adoption of the Sahel Support Plan, he added, noting the importance of an approach that looks beyond the security aspect, to ensure stability of the region.
Economies need to be transformed, people’s lives have to be improved, and the region’s youth have to be given hope, said the Special Adviser. At the same time, public “perception” of the Sahel needs to be changed and the many potential assets the region offers, highlighted, he said.
The Sahel is ideally placed to boost its economy through renewable energy, such as solar or wind, explained Mr. Thiaw said, adding however that reaching key targets would require good governance, and the mobilization of resources across the region.
He went on to note that for these reasons, a new mechanism within the Sustainable Development Goals Trust Fund has been established, to make UN interventions for the region more effective. “Such a flexible and transparent mechanism will make it possible to respond more quickly and better to the needs, often unpredictable in the long term, that arise in the Sahel,” he concluded.