West Africa: Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on the G5 Sahel Joint Force

MINUSMA peacekeepers on patrol in Niafounké in Mali.

New York — Thank you, Mr. President. And let me start by thanking Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, Brigadier* Namata, Ambassador Edrees, and Minister of State Daud for your briefing today

To start – like other Council members, we're alarmed by the rising violent extremism, terrorist attacks, and inter-communal violence across the Sahel. In addition, with climate change and food insecurity on the rise, civilians are increasingly vulnerable. As you heard, already in 2021, at least 300 civilians were killed in attacks, and nearly 2.2 million people were internally displaced in the Sahel. We mourn the deaths of those innocent people. These upsetting trends are why we must continue our serious, sustainable approach toward the region. The G5 Sahel – both the civilian component and the Joint Force – is a crucial part of that solution. Continued coordination between governments in the region is also critical. And we welcome the creation of the UN Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel, which complements the ongoing efforts of the G5 Sahel, ECOWAS, UNOWAS, and other African institutions.

For our part, the United States is a dedicated partner in the region. To the G5 Sahel alone, we provide equipment, training, advisory support to fill critical capability gaps on a bilateral basis. Since 2017, the United States has committed more than $588 million in security assistance and other counter-violent extremism support to the G5 countries.

Given all these mechanisms in play, the existing G5 Sahel Trust Fund and bilateral support to the Joint Force are the right approach toward addressing the Sahel's security concerns. But to make that work, all partners must honor their pledges to the Joint Force and support the individual G5 militaries that supply troops to the Joint Force. We believe that UN-assessed peacekeeping funds are not a viable source of financing for the Joint Force. Chapter VII authorization for the Joint Force is neither appropriate nor ideal to help it accomplish its mission.

Beyond security response, we also need to address governance in the region. As Secretary Blinken said in his remarks to the G5 Sahel Summit in February, tactical counterterrorism work is essential – but, on its own, it's not sufficient. Instability and violence are also symptoms of a crisis of state legitimacy. Stability comes from providing economic opportunity, protecting the rule of law, and engaging communities in decisions that affect them. And to help with these concerns, the U.S. government has provided more than $2 billion in health and development, security, and humanitarian assistance to support the Sahel.

But stability requires more than that. It requires justice and accountability, especially for human rights violations and abuses committed by security and defense forces. And it requires addressing the needs of survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence. The G5 Joint Force has an obligation to fully implement its own Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Compliance Framework. It must visibly demonstrate its commitment to the protection of civilians in the region. To that end, we welcome the Government of Mauritania's recent step to complete two trials of alleged cases of abuse. We look forward to the timely and credible investigations, and resolution of all outstanding cases.

In Chad, we strongly support the efforts of the African Union to engage with the transitional authorities toward a peaceful, timely, and civilian-led transition to a democratically elected government. And in Mali, we welcome the transitional government's plan to hold presidential and legislative elections in February of 2022. In Niger, we applaud the government's recent transition, and congratulate the president on his inauguration. We urge the Malian transitional government to ensure inclusive and transparent processes in preparing for and holding free and fair elections – including the full, effective, and meaningful participation of women and youth.

For Chad, Mali, and the rest of the region – representative, elected governments are the best path forward. Democracy leads to good governance. Good governance leads to stability. And stability will lead to peace and prosperity for all.

Thank you, Mr. President.

*Brigadier General

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