UN Security Council Briefing: Peace and Security in Africa: challenges in the Sahel Region

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

  • Peace, Rights and Security
As delivered by Phillip Taula, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 26 May 2016

Thank you Mr President.

We thank our briefers Mr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Mr Jean-Paul Laborde, Ms Monique Barbut and Ms Hindou Oumara Ibrahim for their insights. These challenges have implications that go far beyond the Sahel and its people. They relate to wider security issues on this Council’s agenda, as well as refugee and migration issues addressed by other bodies of this organisation and its Member States.

One of the recurring themes of conflict prevention and resolution has been the call for the Council to be more alert to the underlying drivers of conflict. Tackling the symptoms of conflict without adequately identifying and addressing its underlying causes is a recipe for failure and for continued instability.

It is therefore entirely appropriate, in our view, that the Security Council should focus attention on the underlying drivers of instability in the Sahel, and should consider their implications for conflict in the region.

The causes of instability in the region are complex and varied such as underdevelopment and economic and political marginalisation. These factors have fed unrest and instability, and have made the whole region vulnerable to encroachment by violent extremists and transnational criminal networks.

But as we have heard from the briefers, these trends are undoubtedly being magnified and exacerbated by the acute and intensifying challenges posed by droughts, irregular rainfall, desertification and other climate and ecological changes.

What we have heard today is a further manifestation of the reality that was highlighted during the Open Debate on the Security Challenges faced by Small Island Developing States convened by New Zealand during its Presidency last July. Environmental degradation and climate change can result in major security concerns for small, vulnerable states with limited resilience and capacity to adapt, whether they be small islands or large arid continental spaces.

Most of the tools for addressing these specific climate-related challenges lie outside this Council chamber. But it is important that our discussions are underpinned by a firm understanding of these manifold challenges. They need to be factored into our conflict analysis, and integrated into our strategies for maintaining peace and security in the region.

A major focus of the Security Council in respect of the Sahel region has rightly been on addressing the threat posed by terrorism. We have placed a heavy emphasis on counter terrorism measures. These play an essential role in disrupting terrorist networks, which thrive where governance is weakest. But they are not sufficient. It is also necessary to consider the economic, social, and climatic drivers that facilitate the recruitment of terrorists. As Ms Ibrahim said, if extremist groups such as Boko Haram can offer a few hundred dollars a month to desperate people who are facing climate-induced hardship and therefore have only grim and uncertain choices in order to provide for their families, then we should not be surprised that many, tragically, joined these groups.

The multiple drivers of conflict in the Sahel also remind us that it is a mistake to simply designate every person who takes up arms as a terrorist. In most cases where individuals and minority groups have rebelled out of a sense of hopelessness, peace and security will only be secured through negotiation and through peace processes designed to accommodate their grievances and achieve rehabilitation and reintegration.

Mr President,

New Zealand has consistently stressed the importance of various actors working together in addressing peace and security issues. We have, for example, been active proponents of both the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council improving their working methods and working cooperatively with sub-regional bodies. That principle is just as important in the Sahel region as elsewhere.

In the Sahel, we are unfortunately faced with a situation where the problem is reasonably well defined, but the solution is lost amongst a surfeit of strategies. Duplicative, contradictory or competitive approaches will simply serve to dissipate our effort and diminish impact on the ground.

In this regard we welcome the recent consolidation of UN regional offices to create the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel

Mr President,

In closing, New Zealand stands ready to discuss with colleagues what creative options we could pursue to further rationalise existing efforts to deliver tangible results for the Sahel region and its people.

I thank Spain and Egypt, for initiating this valuable discussion today.


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