Statement at a Peacebuilding Commission Session on the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, and Manu River Union

Courtney R. Nemroff
Acting U.S. Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 4, 2019


Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the briefers. We are pleased the Peacebuilding Commission is taking up this important issue today. We agree that efforts to deepen regional and sub-regional cooperation will allow us to collectively address current challenges and realize potential opportunities. The United States is committed to long-term stability and security across the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.

Across this region, we have been encouraged by a number developments over the past year – including a number of presidential and parliamentary elections, where the people freely and fairly chose their preferred candidates in an environment in which violence was limited. We also applaud governments that are mobilizing their security structures to more effectively address drivers of conflict, the local NGOs that are providing trainings on human rights and cultural awareness to police, as well as local communities’ efforts to improve social cohesion and support peacebuilding.

However, as others here today have already highlighted, there a number of worrying trends that make our collective peacebuilding work all the more urgent: growing threats to democratic governance, a degraded security environment, and increasing food scarcity. As we know, these dynamics contribute to a dangerous cycle that fuels terrorism and increases the risk of armed conflict.

In Mali, we believe that the 2015 Algiers Agreement has the potential to address the drivers one of the worst crises in the region – but to date we have seen very little progress in implementing the substantive provisions of the agreement. We thank UNOWAS SRSG Chambas for his focus on peacebuilding in Mali and urge other stakeholders to follow suit.

Unrest in Mali has also spilled over to Burkina Faso – and threatens to expand beyond these borders – reminding us all that peacebuilding must be truly regionally-focused. We are concerned about the increasing insecurity in Burkina Faso that has internally displaced approximately 500,000 people this year, has curtailed government services in some areas, and disrupted livelihoods. We are encouraged by UNOWAS’ work to date and recommend a continued focus on security sector reform support. Improved oversight of security forces to minimize human rights violations and concerted community engagement is essential to build trust.

The United States is also pleased to have recently committed $13.5 million in bilateral funding to support conflict prevention planning and programming in Burkina Faso. Ongoing engagement from UNOWAS, the PBC, and bilateral partners can support the Government of Burkina Faso’s efforts to reduce instability and confront terrorism.

We applaud President Kabore for convening the September 14 Extraordinary Summit of Heads of States of the Economic Community of West African States in Burkina Faso to combat terrorism in the Sahel, including the launch of the $1 billion counterterrorism fund from 2020-2024.

We also welcome partners’ peacebuilding initiatives. We thank the distinguished Deputy Permanent Representative from France for her comments about the recent joint French and German initiative – the Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel or P3S. We also are interested in learning more about other ongoing efforts from the European Union. We understand these projects are intended to identify and coordinate efforts to fill gaps in current bilateral assistance to support internal security, rule of law, and access to justice in the Sahel.

Regarding the Lake Chad Region, we remain concerned about continued conflict and humanitarian crises across these four countries. We agree with the Secretary-General that any response must address the root causes of this insecurity and instability, especially inequality, human rights abuses, and lack of access to livelihoods. We commend the PBC’s ongoing focus on this region and encourage additional peacebuilding work – and investment – to begin to reverse these troubling trends. For our part, the United States remains the single largest humanitarian donor to the Lake Chad region and has provided nearly $470 million in humanitarian assistance in 2019 alone.

Our collective peacebuilding efforts in active conflicts zones across the region are important – but we must also not overlook the need for preventative action. A recent World Bank study documented that for every $1 invested in prevention, the international community could save about up to $16 down the road in responding to crises. This is an important element of the PBC’s work.

Thank you.