Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS)

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
U.S. Mission to the UN
New York City
July 24, 2019


Mr. President, Special Representative Chambas – thank you for your informative remarks here today and for your leadership at UNOWAS.

Mr. President, the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNOWAS activities underscored just how varied the realities are in West Africa. From presidential and parliamentary elections, where the people freely and fairly chose their preferred candidates, to continued insecurity in the Sahel where terrorism and armed conflict have interrupted livelihoods and made millions food insecure, the positive and negative developments in West Africa are as big and diverse as the region itself.

UNOWAS has played an important role in West Africa and the United States deeply appreciates UNOWAS’ efforts to support long-term peace, security, and stability in the region.

West Africa has seen several noteworthy positive developments, as was highlighted today, over the last six months.

The United States is encouraged by the success of the largely peaceful elections in Nigeria, Senegal, and Mauritania and we extend our particular appreciation to Special Representative Chambas for his efforts in all countries to emphasize the importance of dispute resolution processes rather than violence as means to pursue grievances with the electoral process.

In addition, we are encouraged by the Secretary-General’s report of projected high economic growth across the region in 2019 and 2020. While we know that such projections are uneven across West African countries, we are nevertheless optimistic that such economic performance, when coupled with responsible fiscal policy and good governance, is a bellwether for the region’s future.

Mr. President, at the same time, the United States is deeply concerned with the increase in security and governance challenges across the region.

Transnational organized crime and the illicit trafficking of narcotics continue to undermine responsible governance and fuel corruption in Guinea-Bissau. We call on government authorities to maintain momentum towards genuinely free and fair presidential elections in November and encourage all political leaders to refrain from volatile rhetoric.

In Burkina Faso, the terrorism threat emanating from Mali is fueling instability and has displaced hundreds of thousands, curtailed government services in some areas, and disrupted livelihoods. We are concerned by the potential spillover of the situation into neighboring countries. We encourage the Government of Burkina Faso to continue to address the root causes of instability and work with the regional partners to address the growing terrorism threat, and we request UNOWAS to continue its effort in security sector reform.

In Mali, we are troubled by the insufficient progress in implementing the 2015 Algiers Peace Agreement and insecurity in central Mali that has exacerbated ethnic and intercommunal tensions. Such violence has negatively affected institutions that provide basic services like health facilities and schools and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. With the recent renewal of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, the United States calls on the Government of Mali and the Signatory Armed Groups to use this opportunity to take urgent steps to implement the measures of Security Council Resolution 2480.

While the United States is a strong supporter of the G5 Sahel Joint Force as a long-term security initiative in the Sahel and has provided $111 million to help operationalize it, we must emphasize the Council’s need to comprehensively review the problem of terrorism and its root causes across all of West Africa, not just the Sahel. It is time to transform the standalone report and briefing on the G5 Sahel Joint Force into a broader discussion on terrorism challenges and root causes across West Africa, with spillover to the littoral states of the Accra Initiative.

This broader review should draw attention to the conflicts’ impacts on millions of people across the region and the efforts of all regional governments to prevent and counter radicalization and terrorism in general.

Mr. President, we must also focus on the threats emanating from Northeastern Nigeria. Throughout the Lake Chad Region, the United States is supportive of the coordinated multinational efforts to bring long-term stability to a region that has suffered far too long from the predations of Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa. Terrorism remains a threat to millions and affected countries must redouble their comprehensive efforts to counter these actors, protect the civilian population, and create the conditions for safe, dignified returns of the displaced.

We share the Secretary-General’s emphasis on the need to address the root causes of insecurity and instability including inequality, exclusion, and marginalization, human rights violations and abuses, sexual violence, and lack of opportunity and livelihoods.

To that end, the United States is working closely with Sahel countries and international partners to support integrated security sector response efforts. In 2018 alone, we have committed over $242 million in overall security assistance to the G5 Sahel countries.

Mr. President, the United States is committed to supporting the millions of people across the region who have suffered for too long the worst of such conflict and instability.

Thank you.