Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Peace and Security in Africa

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 15, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, Permanent Secretary Sidikou, High Representative Buyoya, and Deputy Secretary-General Serrano for your briefings today.

Mr. President, there is no denying the many challenges faced today by the people and countries of the Sahel. We are concerned by the growth in intercommunal violence, the rise in insecurity along the Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger borders, and continued prevalence of terrorist and criminal activity throughout the region. As many have said here today, only through a combination of good governance, focused on addressing root causes of instability and creating opportunity, respect for human rights, and security can the region resolve the challenges and defeat the threats that it faces.

The United States commends the initiative of the G5 Sahel Member States to create and operationalize its joint force to combat threats of terrorism and transnational organized crime. We take this opportunity to recognize the sacrifices of the soldiers of the G5 Member States and their families and to also honor civilians killed as a result of the violence and insecurity in the region.

Mr. President, the United States strongly supports the G5 Sahel Joint Force and its efforts to establish lasting security. We believe bilateral support remains the most effective option, and we continue to work closely with all partners to coordinate our contributions of much-needed equipment, training, and technical advice. Over the past year, the United States has nearly doubled its assistance to G5 Sahel Member States, from $60 million to approximately $111 million, specifically to fill prioritized capability gaps of the joint force. This amount constitutes just one piece of broader and longstanding U.S. security assistance to the G5 Member States, with over $1 billion in total U.S. support to their institutions and combat capabilities since 2012.

Mr. President, we laud the continued support of the international community in the joint force’s development and successful operationalization. In particular, the European Union’s support for the implementation of the Human Rights Compliance Framework for the joint force and its continuing training missions. We commend the G5’s collaboration with Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and MINUSMA toward the continued establishment of the compliance framework. The joint force’s professionalism and respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law will be critical to its long-term success. We also salute France’s longstanding and integral role as a security partner to the Sahel countries through its Operation Barkhane and the many sacrifices made by that mission’s men and women to defeat continuing violent extremist threats.

We also applaud the role of the UN, including the personnel of MINUSMA, UNOWAS, and others who are working diligently to solve the political and security challenges across the region. Mr. President, the United States hopes to see effective implementation of the technical agreement between the G5, UN, and the EU called for in Resolution 2391, which allows for MINUSMA’s reimbursable logistical support to the force within Mali’s territory. As Ambassador Haley stated a year ago, we believe this is the full extent of any support role that the UN should play outside of continued coordination and technical assistance on a voluntary basis, but the technical agreement remains a way for MINUSMA to help the mission at a critical stage. We encourage donors to support the trust fund for MINUSMA reimbursement in order to facilitate urgent engineering needs like the mission proposed camp designs still awaiting the G5’s approval.

On a related but separate note, Mr. President, we also do not believe Chapter VII authorization is needed to accomplish the joint force’s mission as the G5 already have existing agreements in place for military operations in their respective territories.

As others have recognized, security responses alone will not solve every problem. Therefore, the United States continues its multi-sectored partnerships with the governments and societies of the G5 countries to bolster stability and security through U.S. humanitarian, health, agriculture, governance, and development assistance. In our 2017 fiscal year, the United States provided more than $460 million in development and humanitarian assistance to programs in these countries. As we have stated before, our support seeks to complement the United Nations Integrated Sahel Strategy and the creative partnerships envisioned in its support plan.

Mr. President, at the center of the region with its own unique political and security challenges is Mali and its peace agreement. We call again on the parties to that agreement and to those of the new Pact for Peace to make significant progress over the next few months in recognition of how critical their success on the roadmap will be. Going forward, we cannot and should not accept the lack of coordination and communication between the parties that we have seen in the past. For example, the disagreements that led to the failure of the opening ceremony for accelerated DDR last week in Gao. Parties must expeditiously resolve outstanding issues and rapidly implement the key provisions outlined in Resolution 2423. The stakes are too high, both for the people of Mali and the region, and the Security Council should reserve the right to use all its available tools, including sanctions, on spoilers who obstruct the agreement’s implementation.

Mr. President, the United States will continue to work together with the G5 and its partners to ensure our bilateral support is appropriate and effective. We also encourage all donors to disburse the resources pledged to the joint force last February in Brussels. Through our effective coordination with the security and development actors in the region, the leadership of the African Union, and that of the Economic Community of West African States in solving regional and local disputes, significant improvements in security can be made. The sustainability of those improvements will depend on the G5 Member States’ progress toward effective governance, creation of access of opportunity, and respect for human rights, accountability, and inclusiveness. Also critical will be increasing the roles for women, youth, and marginalized groups in decision making. Together, these steps can contribute to achieving durable peace and stability and unleash the potential of this vital region and its people.

I thank you.