UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for creative measures to tackle the problems that are plaguing the Sahel, saying the security crisis in this region poses a global threat.
"If nothing is done, the effects of terrorism, violent extremism and organised crime will be felt far beyond the region and the African continent," Guterres told a high-level meeting on the Sahel yesterday, held on the sidelines of the high-level week of the UN General Assembly.
"A co-ordinated international breakthrough is urgently needed. We must rethink our collective approach and show creativity, going beyond existing efforts," he said.
In December 2021, the African Union and the United Nations undertook to work together, in tandem with the Economic Community of West African States and G5 Sahel – comprising Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger – to improve global action on security, governance and development across the Sahel.
As part of this effort, the Independent High-level Panel on Security and Development in the Sahel will be launched. The panel, chaired by former Nigerian president Mahamadou Issoufou, will carry out an independent assessment and make specific recommendations to address the multifaceted crisis and mobilise the resources needed for a sustainable response to it, he said.
The United Nations stands ready to work with the parties, with urgency and solidarity, for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Sahel, said the UN chief, adding that insecurity and political instability in the region continue to make an already catastrophic humanitarian situation even worse.
In some regions, states have totally lost access to their populations. Non-state armed groups are tightening their deadly grip over the region and are even seeking to extend their presence into the countries of the Gulf of Guinea, he said.
Indiscriminate violence continues to kill and injure thousands of innocent civilians, while forcing millions of others to flee their homes. Women and children, in particular, are bearing the brunt of insecurity, violence and growing inequality. Reports of serious human rights violations committed by non-state armed groups – and also, sometimes, by security and defence forces –are of great concern, he said.
Climate disruption continues to cause soil erosion and the drying-up of water sources, contributing to acute food insecurity and exacerbating tensions between farmers and herders, he said.
Against a global backdrop of turmoil in energy, food and financial markets, the region is threatened by a systemic debt crisis that is likely to have repercussions throughout the continent, he said.
With debt-to-GDP ratios of above 75 percent in some cases, more and more countries in the region are being forced to channel their funds into debt payments, at the expense of essential services for their populations. Furthermore, given their limited fiscal space, governments in the Sahel are unable to pursue inclusive recovery or invest in resilience to external shocks, he said.
Guterres called for renewed collective efforts to promote democratic governance and restore constitutional order throughout the region, noting that the rule of law and full respect for human rights are indispensable for ensuring security and sustainable development.