Statement of Abdoulaye Mar Dieye during the Joint Meeting of ECOSOC and the Peace Building Commission of the United Nations on the Situation the Sahel RegionJun 28, 2017
United Nations Secretariat, Conference Room 4
Wednesday 28 June 2017
Mr. President of the Economic and Social Council,
Mr. President of the Peace Building Commission,
Madam Deputy Secretary-General,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We face a haunting Sahelian equation! We must defeat the Sisyphus syndrome!
Since the creation of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, CILSS, following the great droughts that struck the region in the 1970s, the Sahelian question is still a major challenge today. Despite enormous efforts by governments and their development partners, the region remains an area of low development and of human insecurity.
The fragile situation of the Sahel has multiple causes; they are well known and have been the object to too many studies! These result mainly from a triple gap: a lack of resilience; a lack of governance, particularly in the management of the large territorial areas that make up the Sahel; and the consequent shortage of sustained and massive investment, especially in agriculture and in youth employment.
A great sword of security now hangs over the region, which is the result of several concomitant factors, such as all forms of trafficking, transnational crime, unregulated immigration and migration, identity issues, the effects of the war in Libya, and the emergence of extremist groups.
There is also the fact that the Sahel is a place where all the geostrategic issues are played out. It is the backbone of Africa. It is the link between the Atlantic and the Red Sea. It is the gateway of the Mediterranean, and it contains enormous energy and mining resources.
Due to these combined factors, the region is experiencing multiple crises—food, environmental, security, economic and, at times in some places, political.
The acute nature of these crises, their recurrence, their devastating impacts, and their regional and global repercussions undoubtedly explain the preponderance of the responses, which today consist in almost 17 bilateral or multilateral strategies or initiatives for the Sahel.
But most of these responses, although all having real and positive impacts, are often reactive, cyclical and fragmented, and limited in time and geographical scope. In addition, their effective non-coordination leads to high transaction costs at national and regional interface structures. Their combined effectiveness is therefore of limited value.
Another Sahel can be built. A Sahel that is not shackled by determinism or fatalism. And the region has all the potential and all the assets to become the land of plenty that it was before! A region that, in 1222, under Emperor Sundiata Keita, had already conceived the Mandé Charter, the first declaration of the human rights in the world, which solemnly proclaimed that "hunger will no longer kill in Mandé; and war will no longer destroy villages in Mandé!"
But this construction will have to undergo three categorical imperatives:
First, the imperative of the structural response. This will require a prospective vision of the Sahel; a vision that is sorely lacking today and that will have to define the nature and the scope of the structuring investments – public and above all, private – that would have to be made through adequate funding, just as for the Marshall Plan. The building of this vision should not only be exclusive to the states. There should be active participation of communities, especially border communities, because it will also be necessary to define strategies, in an inclusive and participatory way, for strengthening social cohesion and the social contract.
Second, there is the imperative of coordinating the various actions in the Sahel. A streamlined United Nations strategy could serve as a framework for concerted dialogue on all initiatives in the region while ensuring that leadership remains within endogenous structures such as the Ministerial Coordination Platform for the Sahel, the Permanent Secretariat of the G5 Sahel, the Liptako-Gourma Authority and the Lake Chad Basin Commission. These are structures whose capacities must be strengthened, and whose strategies and investment programs must supported, but which should develop their synergies on their own through more systemic interfaces.
And third is the imperative of optimal management of large areas, especially border and cross-border areas. Lao-Tzu was right when he said that "war horses breed on the frontiers!" There is therefore urgency, especially since the management of cross-border issues is an Achilles’ heel in many strategies and initiatives in the Sahel. And yet the Sahel, by its very nature, is a gathering of communities crossed by borders that they perceive as artificial and they are. Build a Sahel in peace, security and sustainable development necessarily calls for boundaries, not barriers. The Bamako Declaration of 11 March 2016 on "Border management and border communities of the G5 Sahel", and organized in partnership with the Government of Mali, Japan and UNDP, remains a strategic and programmatic reference framework. This allows for a concerted and coherent response to the concerns posed by the border issues.
If our meeting were to make these three imperatives our collective road map, then we will have defeated the Sisyphus Syndrome and initiated a revolution that would make the Sahel the Mandé of old.