I thank the briefers for their insights - not least those of our civil society briefer, Ms. Fatimata Sinare. And let me first express Norway’s concern about developments in Mali – which not only affect the country, but also the region, and the regional cooperation efforts.
We continue to strongly support the leadership, and peace diplomacy, of ECOWAS.
Let me also express sympathy with colleagues from Niger after the horrific attacks last week. This is just one example of a deeply disturbing security and humanitarian situation in the Sahel. We also know that violent armed groups largely operate in border areas to evade accountability. Hence, we see an alarming risk of this menace spreading even further.
Given this concerning context, we spent the Council’s recent trip to the Sahel listening for solutions. We understand the need for flexibility, sustainability, and predictability for the G5 Sahel Joint Force. As a regional response to regional challenges, the Joint Force merits our attention and support.
It is for these reasons that Norway is supportive of the Secretary-General’s proposal of a support office for the Joint Force. We look forward to discussing this further, including how a support office could best supplement other and future bilateral and multilateral support.
We know that the Joint Force operates in a challenging context. Nevertheless: any support that involves the UN must hinge on conduct in line with the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Framework. Military operations must uphold obligations under international humanitarian law, and human rights law.
Norway remains deeply concerned by attacks against civilians- including allegations of sexual violence against women and girls- reportedly committed by members of the Joint Force. We commend where perpetrators have been removed from positions or prosecuted. We encourage that monitoring and accountability efforts are scaled up -- to prevent incidents in the first place. There is a need to increase the Force’s awareness of the impact of their operations on civilians, and to prevent civilian harm. To this end, Norway continues to support the implementation of the Compliance Framework of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Lastly, but importantly: Military and security measures alone will never be enough to ensure stability and sustainable development for the Sahelian population. Or, as a Norwegian author Olav Duun once put it: “evilness cannot be killed with an axe”. Security can’t be the only goal, but is a means to an end. We need to maintain a holistic focus on good governance, human rights, climate change adaption, and basic services. In the end, these are the things that matter for people in their daily lives.