United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C, front) addresses a Security Council open debate on peace and security in West Africa at the UN headquarters in New York, on Oct. 30, 2017. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on the Security Council to be ambitious in its decision over a joint military force of the Sahel region in West Africa. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on the Security Council to be ambitious in its decision over a joint military force of the Sahel region in West Africa.
"I therefore invite this council to be ambitious in the choice it has to make. Strong political support for the G5 (Group of five) Sahel and material and operational support commensurate with the challenges are critical," he told the Security Council in a ministerial debate.
The G5 is comprised of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania and they have established Joint Force to counter a growing jihadist threat in the Sahel region in West Africa.
Given the rapid evolution of the situation and the risks of widespread contagion, failure to act could have serious consequences for the region and beyond, Guterres warned.
He expressed concern over the situation in the Sahel region. "Poverty, underdevelopment and climate change have contributed to humanitarian and security crises. Weak institutions, the exclusion and marginalization of some groups are exploited by extremists and terrorists. Porous borders facilitate the trafficking of human beings, drugs and arms, and other criminal activities."
The humanitarian crisis is getting worse. Nearly five million people are displaced and 24 million people need humanitarian aid, he said. Birth rates are among the highest in the world, but millions of children in Sahel do not have access to health care and do not go to school.
He said the creation of the G5 Sahel joint force demonstrates the willingness of the five countries to work together to address the threat. "Today we have the opportunity to support them and together reverse the course of events."
The United Nations could quickly mobilize essential support, complementing the work of bilateral partners. Such support would not only serve to reinforce the G5 Sahel force, but would also help mitigate the threats that directly affect the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, said Guterres.
The support to the G5 Sahel joint force would also be part of the strategic partnership to strengthen African responses to crises in the continent, he said.