Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on G5 Sahel

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
May 16, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President.  And thanks to today’s briefers.  A warm welcome to Foreign Minister Barry.

Mr. President, the last six months in the Sahel have been concerning.  The security situation continues to deteriorate.  Radical elements have pushed intercommunal violence to an all-time high.  The massacre in Ogossagou points towards a potential epidemic of intercommunal violence throughout the region.  Meanwhile, terrorist groups and criminal organizations continue to thrive, moving across borders, attacking civilian communities, and government, and international security forces.

This insecurity impacts all of West Africa.  The heroic rescue of four kidnapped civilians last week, during which the two French soldiers lost their lives, reminds us all of the danger.  The United States honors the two fallen French soldiers, and their families, for their loss and their great sacrifice.

Mr. President, the international and peacekeeping forces alone will not solve the security crisis in the region.  This is why it’s critical to work on the long-term goal of fully operationalizing the G5 Sahel Joint Force.  The United States recognizes this and thus far has committed approximately $111 million dollars to G5 Sahel states to fill capability gaps through equipment, training, and advisory support.  Mr. President, we’re encouraged by the Joint Force’s resumption of operations and pay tribute to the sacrifices member states are making to bring stability to the region.  We call on the Joint Force and member states to continue to take the necessary steps to become fully operational, including through adherence to the compliance framework to prevent, investigate, address and publicly report violations and abuses of human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law.

The United States continues to believe that bilateral assistance remains the best way to support the Force and is disappointed that others in this Council and outside continue to call for Chapter VII authorization and UN assessed funding for the Joint Force.  As I noted in my remarks last November, and as the United States has repeatedly stated, Chapter VII authorization is not needed to accomplish the Joint Force’s mission as the G5 Sahel states already have existing agreements in place for military operations in their respective territories.

We note with regret that as highlighted in the Secretary-General’s recent report G5 Joint Forces in Mali are not sufficiently leveraging the established technical agreement with MINUSMA and the EU.  We call on the Joint Force, the Malian government, and partners to find ways to help the force more efficiently use this opportunity.  Some of our briefers and Council colleagues have expressed an interest in exploring possible ways to deliver reimbursable support outside of Mali to the Joint Force.  I urge our colleagues to recall that in Resolution 2391 the Security Council encouraged that the technical agreement constitute a temporary measure towards the Joint Force’s full self-sufficiency.

In addition, the Council emphasized that any facilitation of support through the technical agreement should not adjust or adversely impact MINUSMA’s own operations or put its personnel at undue risk.  The United States believes the international community should focus our collective support on the G5 Sahel Joint Force as an African-owned, African-led response to regional instability.

Mr. President, the dire security situation demands the international community focus its collective efforts in the Sahel in a smart, deliberate, and collaborative way.  As others have noted, this requires that the region and its partners continue to pursue more than security responses alone and address the root causes of conflict, through coordinated humanitarian, health, agricultural, governance, and development assistance.  As I have stated before, through our effective coordination with the security and development actors in the region, and the leadership of the African Union and ECOWAS in solving regional and local disputes, significant improvements in security are achievable.

Mr. President, the sustainability of those improvements will depend on the progress of G5 Sahel states toward effective governance, creation of access to 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 combined endeavors can achieve durable peace and stability and unleash the potential of this vital region and its people.

I thank you for your attention.