Statement by Special Envoy Halvor Sætre at the Peacebuilding Commission's Annual Session on the Sahel, 12 November 2018.
| Peacebuilding Commission
Chair, let me first say how pleased I am to be back in the Peacebuilding Commission in my new capacity as Norway’s Special Representative for the Sahel.
A warm thanks to the briefers who have spoken before me.
This meeting comes at an important moment in time for the Sahel, and the Peacebuilding Commission has a real opportunity to fulfil its important role with regard to this important region, in close cooperation with the Security Council and other partners such as the African Union and the G5 Sahel.
Norway’s Sahel Strategy
Norway is increasing its engagement in the Sahel, and we have recently launched a holistic strategy to guide our efforts in the coming years.
The strategy builds on Norway’s previous engagements in conflict related regions and our long-standing engagements to foster durable peace and sustainable development, in Africa and other regions of the world.
The strategy rests on the premise that security, political engagement, respect for human rights and the rule of law and sustainable development are closely interrelated.
It makes a strong case for partnerships and cooperation in order to respond effectively to the transnational challenges in the region.
It is designed to match the already existing international strategies for the Sahel, in particular the UN’s strategy and new Support Plan.
Role of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund
The Peacebuilding Commission has a crucial role to play in the Sahel region in the coming months and years, and we hope that this meeting will be more than a one-off.
Indeed, if we want to truly stabilize this region and prevent instability to spread to other countries in the region, the time to act decisively is now.
Norway applauds the rapid surge in Peacebuilding Fund spending in the Sahel (increased to USD 70 million in 2018).
In close cooperation with other actors in the region, the fund is again proving its ability to be innovative and act as a catalyzer for other engagements.
The Fund’s investments in fragile border areas between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are of particular importance, and we hope that this effort can be boosted even more.
The border areas are facing a perfect storm of challenges, including security, climate change, extreme poverty and lack of government presence.
If we do not invest heavily in strengthening the countries’ presence and ability to support the populations in these regions, instability risks spreading even further to other neighboring countries in West Africa, and we already see worrying tendencies.
A critical challenge is to ensure UN and other international partners have operational capacity to operate there, which needs considerable investment.
Norway has provided USD 72 Million to the Peacebuilding Fund since its inception (5th largest bilateral donor).
We are planning further increases in our support to the Peacebuilding Fund’s activities, with a special emphasis on the Sahel.
The UN Support Plan
International support to the Sahel remains too fragmented. Need to reduce earmarking and promote a strategic, long-term international approach.
Support the approach in UN Support Plan for the Sahel and Ibrahim Thiaw’s intervention, including the call for more pooled funding.
Important to focus on the regions vast potential in sectors such as solar energy, minerals and agriculture, and to invest in youth.
Need to create a viable environment for private sector investments and innovation, and to stimulate local value chains that can create jobs.
We express particular worry for the rapid security deterioration in Burkina Faso.
During president Kaboré’s visit in Norway last week, he informed us that more than 280 schools have had to shut down recently because of increased insecurity.
Need to act fast and increase our collective support to Burkina Faso to prevent further negative development.
Burkina Faso is already the third top country of investment for the Peacebuilding Fund, and we encourage this to be even further expanded.
The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)
Our engagement in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is the core of Norway’s security support in the region. We will maintain it at least through 2022, with participation in the multinational rotation of military aircraft as our main contribution.
We will continue our support to the MINUSMA Trust Fund, which allows the Mission to complement their engagement by uniformed elements with crucial investments on the civilian side, in order to strengthen the Malian authorities’ presence in the whole of the country.
Norway is impressed by how far African owned initiatives such as the G5 Sahel and the Multinational Joint Task Force (the MNJTF) have come in a short time, and we look forward to seeing these initiatives develop in the years ahead.
Norway is pleased to support the civilian aspects of the G5 Sahel through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). We will continue to look for ways of supporting the G5 Sahel.
Norway hopes that the G5 Sahel meeting in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in December will be an important occasion to galvanize this support and move from words to action.
We also support an increased role for the African Union in the Sahel, in close conjunction with the G5 Sahel and the Multi-National Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad region.
Governance and human rights
In order to succeed in the long run, we need to employ a broad approach to security.
Experience has shown that security interventions are only effective, if they respect human rights and respond to the needs of the population.
Violations of human rights, weak systems of justice and corruption, erode trust in institutions and government processes.
It feeds a sense of injustice. It undermines democracy and the rule of law. And it creates a fertile breeding ground for extremism, violence and conflict.
All our efforts must therefore seek to enhance the legitimacy of the state, and address the root causes of the conflict. This requires a long-term perspective.
We must invest in people, men and women, girls and boys. We must provide hope for the future among the youth.
Norway therefore places particular emphasis on education.
Today, millions of primary school age children are out of school across the Sahel, many of them in the conflict-ridden areas.
Only in Mali, more than half of the children are not going to school, and we see worrying tendencies that violent extremists are actively mobilizing to push children out of school – even very close to the capital Bamako. This is a warning sign that we must act on decisively.
Education is not only a human right; it is a prerequisite for both security and development.
The root causes of conflict are often political: marginalization, weak representation and lack of development are often among the drivers.
It follows from this that political solutions need to address such issues.
In Mali, for instance, we strongly welcome the Government’s renewed effort to ensure full and inclusive implementation of the Algiers Agreement.
We now sense an increased political will by all the parties to move decisively forward on outstanding issues.
Important to strengthen the role of women in the peace process.