I thank the briefers - ASG Martha Pobee, Executive Secretary Eric Tiaré and Ms Solange Bandiaky-Badji - for their insights.
As this Council saw during our trip to the Sahel in October, the region still needs our support. We were therefore encouraged by the Secretary-General’s recent visit to West Africa. His visit highlighted alarming situations, in the political, humanitarian, and human rights spheres.
In order to turn negative political trends in more constructive directions, agreed timelines and calendars for return to constitutional order will be necessary. We support AU and ECOWAS efforts to accompany Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Conakry, and Chad’s returns to Constitutional order.
That being said: While governance crises continue - hampering governments from fulfilling their responsibilities - we cannot delay our humanitarian responses to people in need. In many countries, food prices, and the number of food insecure people are rising drastically. Such needs must be addressed urgently. In light of this worsened situation, Norway has allocated approximately 25 million USD to humanitarian efforts in the Sahel and Lake Chad region in 2022.
We continue to support policies and development programs to ensure long-term access to food, water and sanitation, health services, education, and livelihoods. As Ms. Solange Bandiaky-Badji has explained: Climate-smart solutions will also increasingly be necessary.
Reports of increasing human rights violations and abuses in Mali and other countries must be followed by full access for independent investigations. We echo the Secretary-General’s call for G5 Sahel authorities to uphold and protect human rights. This is important for the success of efforts to combat terrorism, improve security, and gain the trust of communities. Particular attention must be given to the situation of children.
Norway also remains concerned by recent, worrying reports, which include allegations of human rights violations and abuses committed by the Wagner Group. Accountability must be ensured.
Turning now to solutions: We welcome the news of a Joint Strategic Assessment for the Sahel. In light of the regrettable Malian decision to withdraw from all the organs and bodies of the G5 Sahel, this initiative makes up a particularly timely attempt to find common solutions on security, governance, and development issues for the region.
We look forward to former President Issoufou’s lead on this issue, in cooperation with the UN, the AU, ECOWAS, and the G5 Sahel, building on the experience of its Joint Force.
New thinking around security for West Africa and the Sahel should have a holistic approach, and ensure ownership by countries in the region. The engagement of coastal states is also positive. Discussions cannot shy away from tougher issues, like financing and mandates for robust, regionally-lead, operations. This must also be matched by human rights due diligence, and OHCHR compliance frameworks. We underline that the assessment must lead to conclusions that are bold enough to make a real difference, while also remaining implementable.
President, in conclusion, this is what we consider should happen now:
First: we should consolidate and uphold MINUSMA’s strong mandate – as a key stabiliser for Mali, and the wider region. In parallel to this, we should use the upcoming Joint Strategic Assessment as an opportunity to have a serious discussion on innovative, future solutions. Norway stands ready to support such discussions.
I thank you.