We join others in commending Morocco for convening this Ministerial meeting dedicated to the Sahel region. It is a timely initiative, which will help maintain focus of the international community on the challenges confronting the region.
We thank Honourable Mr. Saad dine el Otmani for presiding over the meeting.
Pakistan enjoys close relations with all countries of the Sahel and therefore has an abiding interest in their continued well-being.
I would like to thank the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, Mr. Romano Prodi as well as Mr. Antonio Gutterres, High Commissioner for Refugees for their briefings. We also welcome the participation of high-level representatives of the various regional organizations and United Nations entities in this meeting.
Despite the progress made by countries in the Sahel, they continue to face serious security, humanitarian, and socio-economic challenges. If these challenges are not addressed quickly and effectively, the gains made so far could be reversed and there would be negative repercussions for the long-term stability.
The region faces chronic problems of food insecurity, underdevelopment, and climate change. The rise of organized crime in recent times has aggravated the situation.
The conflict in Libya has also added to the regionís difficulties. Consequences of this conflict are still unfolding with Mali being its first victim. Refugees from Mali have placed an additional burden on neighbouring countries that were already reeling from the impact of the prevailing drought. Terrorists and criminals, who have filled the security vacuum in northern Mali, pose a serious risk to the security of the entire region.
We have previously, in this Council, expressed grave concern over the rise of organized crime, including drug and weapons trafficking, and terrorism in West Africa and the Sahel. Drug trafficking in particular is a serious threat to the countries of the region because of its nexus with terrorism; and its potential to fuel corruption and undermine governance.
Tackling these threats demands greater regional cooperation in border management, as well as justice and law enforcement sectors. Countries of the Sahel are all developing countries that face lack of capacity and resources. Therefore, the international community in the short run must provide effective assistance to the relevant countries and regional organizations. UNODC should also play a role in providing assistance to these countries.
Evidently, to address the challenges facing the region there is a need for an integrated strategy, which has the support of the international community.
Pakistan has supported the elaboration of a United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel in resolution 2056 (2012).
We welcome the appointment of Mr. Romano Prodi as the Secretary-Generalís Special Envoy for the Sahel and support his efforts for the development of the strategy as well as for mobilizing resources for the region. We hope that with his support the UN integrated strategy will soon be finalized.
This strategy of the United Nations should be based on the principle of national ownership and drafted in close consultation with concerned countries. Its aims and objectives should be realistic and prioritized, to keep a balance between immediate and long term needs.
It must focus on effective coordination among the various UN presences in the region, which would be crucial for its success. The strategy must also identify the resources required for its implementation. Statements made by regional representatives in this meeting contain some valuable suggestions, which must be considered.
The situation in Mali poses a grave threat to regional stability and deserves urgent attention of this Council. Pakistan supports efforts to restore the territorial integrity of Mali, address the threat of terrorism, and respond to the humanitarian situation in the country and the Sahel region through a comprehensive approach addressing both political and security aspects of the crisis. The AU Joint Strategic Concept of Operations provides a useful basis for addressing the Malian crisis.
An integrated Sahel strategy will act as ballast, will help stem a powerful tide of extremism, and spur social and economic development of the region. The United Nations can be complimented for looking at the big picture and working on a holistic approach. We must now inject a sense of urgency to achieve our goals. In the coming days and weeks, Pakistan will assist in the efforts to develop an effective response by this Council to address the development and security challenges in Mali and the wider Sahel region.
I thank you.