G5 Sahel force "the right response" to terrorism - Minister

United Nations – Ministerial meeting on the G5 Sahel/Security Council – Speech by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs

New York, 30 October 2017

Mr Secretary-General,


Permanent Representatives,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to begin by thanking the Secretary-General, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Mali, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the European Union Representative for their respective presentations.

I also want to thank you, Mr Secretary-General, for the presentation of your report on the deployment of the G5 Sahel Joint Force. Together with the conclusions drawn from this Council’s visit to the Sahel 10 days ago, this report offers us a very solid basis for discussing the support that should be provided to this exemplary initiative.

The facts are perfectly clear: terrorist groups in the Sahel now represent a global threat to both regional stability and international security. Terrorists exploit our weaknesses and divisions. They are funded by drug trafficking and human trafficking; they have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to strike Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and their desire to strike neighbouring countries. Nor does this threat spare our citizens or our forces working alongside our partners in the Sahel.

This situation has a direct effect on the security of a number of other countries in Africa, Europe and the rest of the world. It calls for a clear, strong, coordinated UN response, but also a response by each and every one of us.

The G5 Sahel Joint Force is the right response to this challenge. The response to a threat that is playing out on national borders must be organized by border states. That’s what makes the joint force such an exemplary initiative. We must lend it our support in order for it to be strong enough to respond to the regional terrorist threat.

By combining their forces with the explicit goal of securing their borders and ensuring they have the resources to succeed, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad are adding their efforts to those of the international community in the region. I’m thinking of the United Nations mission in Mali, MINUSMA; and the European missions, EUTM Mali and EUCAP Sahel, that helped rebuild Mali’s armed forces and security forces. And of course I’m thinking of the 4,000 soldiers of France’s Barkhane force.

The G5 Sahel Joint Force should enable MINUSMA and Barkhane to focus on their core missions, at the Malian government’s request, making them even more effective. That is why the G5 Sahel Joint Force must progressively become able to combat terrorism and trafficking.

The recent Security Council visit to the Sahel drove home the concrete nature of this force, which – as has been noted – is now operational in its central time zone, where it has begun its first operation. The visit also helped us to understand the need and full potential of these armed forces, which are rapidly improving their interoperability. And it enabled us to confirm the seriousness and determination of the G5 states in their implementation of this initiative. I want to take this opportunity to salute the representatives of each of these five states; their commitment is the key to success. I want to reiterate yet again that they have France’s full support.

This initiative is still young; many challenges remain to be met before it is fully active in all three time zones. It must also meet demands with regard to human rights, without which the fight against terrorism cannot be effective. But it must be noted that eight months after it was initially announced, the Joint Force does in fact exist: it is beginning operations in its central time zone, where it must play its full part.

The question is no longer whether the international community supports the response provided by the G5 states. By now, it looks like we’re all convinced by it. Now we must ask ourselves how it can help, without taking away the G5 states’ principal responsibility to secure their borders.

Bilateral support, as you emphasized in your report, Mr Secretary-General, remains critical in order to help the Joint Force reach its full capacity.

France is playing a major role in this effort, which must be collective. It is doing so through material and technical support provided by the Barkhane force and its mechanism for cooperation on security and defence. The EU too has mobilized its efforts, immediately deciding to provide a massive €50-million aid package to support the launch of the force.

I call on our partners to play their full roles in this necessary effort, especially ahead of the planning conference to be held in Brussels on 14 December. On that occasion, announcements are expected that will be as important and concrete as possible.

But we must also develop a multilateral aid package; it would offer ongoing operational and logistical support for the Joint Force. It would send an important signal about the international community’s support for the G5 countries in their fight against terrorist organizations.

The Secretary-General’s report offers us well-articulated options for potential support. It is an ambitious report, and I want to thank him for it. It will be up to us to take advantage of it, in the coming days, in determining its operational application.

The Security Council and, by extension, the international community must demonstrate that it is up to meeting the challenge being tackled by the states of the region and combating terrorism together.

The Security Council must take relevant action and support the increased operational capacity of this force. First, by doing everything it can to mobilize on behalf of this initiative, but also by considering forms of multilateral support, as the Secretary-General has proposed.

Options to allow MINUSMA to provide logistical support for the Force, as it is currently conceived, must be studied in the short term, as proposed by the Secretary-General’s report. I am convinced that such support could be provided while in no way altering MINUSMA’s peacekeeping capabilities. I would therefore like to ask you to consider these options in an open manner.

Let’s be ambitious but also pragmatic and realistic, in keeping with the approach and the options contained in the Secretary-General’s report. The main thing is to get off to a good start and to support the initial augmentation of the Joint Force’s capability. It will be up to us to subsequently review the situation with the G5 and decide to make changes to that support based on the results obtained by our partners on the ground. But let’s not skip this first step, in which we must be part of the history now being made with the G5. We must give our support to the Joint Force before the planning conference slated to be held in Brussels on 14 December.

Of course, security is not the only response to the threats being experienced by the Sahel. There can be no lasting peace without sustainable development. An additional effort must therefore be made in this area in order to stabilize the region.

France is fully aware of this. That is why it is working with Germany, the EU, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme to support an Alliance for the Sahel project. This project would have to achieve significant – and swifter – results in key development areas: the employability of young people, agriculture, and energy, as well as governance and security. Without guaranteed access to education and to a more promising future, we will not be able to prevent many young people from falling into the clutches of terrorist groups out of despair.

Finally, all these efforts make it imperative for us to fully implement the peace process in Mali. Once again, I call on all the concerned parties to assume their responsibilities. Every effort must also be made with respect to governance and dialogue with the concerned communities in the area where the G5 Sahel Joint Force will be deployed, especially on the borders of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Thank you./.

Published on 13/11/2017

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