United Nations Security Council Briefing on the Sahel

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 25 November 2015.

Thank you Mr President.

I would like to express the condolences of the Government of New Zealand to the Malian people and those affected by the attack in Bamako on Friday.  The recent attacks on civilians are seemingly endless, yet we are horrified anew every time.  In light of Friday’s attack, it is all the more important that the parties to the Mali peace process continue to consolidate the hard-won gains made this year, can move forward with the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation. Similarly it is vital that the peace process in Libya does not falter and is brought to a successful conclusion.

I would like to thank the Special Envoy for the Sahel, Ms. Hiroute Guebre Sellassie for her briefing and for her work across the Sahel.  The challenges detailed in her briefing and report are immense. Making progress will require sustained long-term focus by the Governments of the region and support from the international community. New Zealand hopes that we will be able to adopt a presidential statement as a clear acknowledgement of the challenges to peace, security and stability across the Sahel.

We have learnt time and time again that the security threats that face one country or region are not contained by borders, deserts, or indeed oceans.  That is precisely why this Council has had to become involved in situations which, while largely within the territory of one country, pose a threat to the peace and security of the wider region – and as in the case with the Sahel, well beyond that region.

Yet, too often the issues before this Council are considered and acted upon in isolation. The United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel acknowledges that the threats to international peace and stability within this vast region are interlinked. Terrorism, political instability and the flow of arms, to name but a few, cannot be dealt with, without reference to each other, and without the region acting in close coordination with the international community.  As we know only too well, these threats are not contained with any one of the Sahelian countries or even with the whole of the Sahel. The risks of migration, radicalisation and terrorism have rightly been highlighted by the Special Envoy in her briefing.

Looking ahead, and picking up on the observations and conclusions in the Secretary General’s report, we consider that four steps are critical. 

First, ongoing military cooperation in the region is essential. This cooperation, between regional states, such as through the establishment of the Multinational Joint Taskforce by the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, will be critical to reducing the ability of terrorist groups to operate freely across borders.

Second, we need to maintain concerted focus on humanitarian support.  Combatting trends such as food insecurity and malnutrition are critical to resolving the root causes of conflict and instability. Social and demographic issues, including gender inequality, entrenched poverty, unemployment, lack of access to education and a growing contingent of disenfranchised youth, also undermine political stability and national cohesion across the Sahel. Ultimately, addressing these challenges requires a long term approach. The actions, missions and strategies that this Council mandates in the Sahel must be carefully considered within the context of international support.

Third, we need to acknowledge the impact of the continued instability in Libya on the wider security of the Sahel.  The illicit flow of arms, drugs, and people across the region undermines national governments and exposes the countries of the Sahel to unpredictable security vulnerabilities.  Resolution of the conflict in Libya is important not only for the people of Libya but for the wider region. 

New Zealand recognises the increasingly important role that regional organisations play in addressing regional issues. In this regard, we encourage the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union to harmonise efforts to support the Sahel region.   

Fourth, we encourage the Special Envoy to continue her outreach to all international and regional actors focused on the Sahel.  The fact that there are currently a multitude of strategies being pursued by various actors risks duplicating resources and undermining efforts to support the region.

We welcome therefore, the increasing cooperation between the Office for the Special Envoy for the Sahel and the UN Office for West Africa and encourage continued and long term engagement with the African Union, ECOWAS, the Lake Chad Basin Commission and leaders of the G5 Sahel. Further cooperation will significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the combined efforts in the Sahel. 

Our pursuit of international peace and stability in the Sahel must be conducted in unison. If we work together, then the security gains made so far will be harnessed and will better prepare us for future challenges.

Thank you


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