World losing ground against violence in Sahel – Antonio Guterres

World losing ground against violence in Sahel – Antonio Guterres

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday told delegates at the UN general Assembly that West Africa and international powers are failing to tackle the spiraling threat of Islamist militancy in the Sahel region.

“Let’s be clear, we are losing ground in the face of violence,” Guterres told a high-level panel on the sidelines of the United National General Assembly, calling for scaled up response for peace, across the troubled Sahel’s region.

Humanitarian and development responses for Mali and Africa’s wider Sahel region “are falling short”, and support must be scaled up to ensure a hopeful future for its people, the Secretary-General told the high level panel Wednesday.

The meeting hosted a discussion around the implementation of priority measures, and recent operations to strengthen international and regional support, such as the Security Council’s renewed mandate for Mali’s UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) to promote peace and security there.

Since 2012, Mali and the wider Sahel region have seen instability wrought by political turmoil, growing violent extremism, widespread poverty, unemployment, economic disparities, crumbling governance and lack of access to basic services.

Environmental issues, shrinking natural resources, climate change and population growth, have further exacerbated the problem, fueling tensions between communities, and incentivizing extremist groups to spread militant ideologies across the region.

“The time has come for the urgent mobilization to support countries and people of the Sahel,” he insisted, underscoring that partners should “ensure prompt disbursement of the funds committed and to support the implementation of the UN’s Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.”

The 2013 plan, endorsed by the Security Council, prioritizes life-saving activities to meet immediate needs, and provides a framework for resilience-building.

In addition, the Joint Force of the G-5 Sahel, “remains critical in fighting extremist and armed groups,” Mr. Guterres said, referring to the coalition of five African countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) united to combat the Sahel’s complex web of criminal networks and extremist militias.

“A significant portion” of the $2.3 billion to prioritize G-5 operations, pledged at a donor conference last December, “has not yet been disbursed”, and “this year, just one fifth of the necessary humanitarian funds have been received so far,” Mr. Guterres lamented.

Lack of training, poor equipment and a chronic lack of funds have undermined the G5 Sahel Joint Force initiative.

Funding shortfalls coupled with dire humanitarian need, outpacing available resources, means some 5.1 million of the region’s people will need assistance in 2019 alone, the UN humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA) estimates.

A disrupted peace process and lawlessness in the northern and central regions has left more than 100,000 people displaced within Mali, 220,000 in Burkina Faso, and 400,000 in Niger – a transnational crisis which the UN chief described as “a regional threat”.

“Stemming and preventing escalation requires offering people, and particularly young people, a hopeful future.” What youth and adults alike need, is a perspective that goes beyond their daily needs: to ensure development, promote gender equality, and ensure access to economic opportunities and social services, Mr. Guterres said in closing his remarks.

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