Margot Wallström is no longer a government minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs
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Speech at Security Council briefing on Peace and Security in Africa
Margot Wallström, New York, 30 October 2017.
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The situation in the Sahel is a source of increasing concern. It has implications, not only for the millions of people facing insecurity and hunger, but also for the wider region, and indeed, globally. The root causes are complex and transboundary. The effects of the spread of violent extremism, organised crime, climate change, a worsening human rights situation and weak institutions are mutually reinforcing. They are having devastating consequences for the people of Sahel and show the limits of traditional peacekeeping. In response, a combination of short- and long-term efforts must be applied. We are heavily engaged through our development cooperation and humanitarian assistance, as well as our contribution to MINUSMA and the EU mission.
Stability in Mali is critical for the Sahel as a whole. Supporting the full, inclusive and effective implementation of the peace agreement must remain a priority, not least in view of the upcoming elections. It is our best chance at building a sustained peace, and preventing the further spread of instability. The sanctions regime established pursuant to resolution 2374 should be an active tool in our endeavours to achieve peace and stability in Mali. However, sanctions are not an end in themselves. They are a means of encouraging political momentum
Allow me to dwell for a moment on the issue of inclusivity. In Mali, Security Council members, during their recent visit, met with women civil society representatives. Asked whether they had access to the political leadership in their country, they responded that they did not only want access to politicians; rather, they wanted to become decision-makers in their own right, represented on equal terms with men.
While the 30 % quota law is a welcome development, women are still largely excluded from the political sphere; just as they are from bodies related to the implementation of the peace agreement. As we discussed on Friday, women's representation is not just a question of fairness; it is a matter of effectiveness and of increasing the probability of a lasting peace agreement.
However, when you fear leaving your house to fetch water a few kilometres away, or when your children are prevented from going to school for years, political representation seems an abstract goal. This is the reality in central Mali, as it is in many other places throughout the Sahel. For me, the interlinkage between security, human rights and development is evident. Without security, there can be no development. Without full respect for human rights, any security effort is doomed to fail, further alienating the population from the state.
The collective efforts of the G5 Sahel countries to step up development efforts, and to move towards the full operationalisation of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, are therefore truly commendable. They have our wholehearted support. Considering the complex set of challenges on the ground, the manner in which the force performs its tasks will be critical to its results.
Let me highlight three areas that should guide our continued engagement with the G5 Sahel Joint Force:
Firstly, the G5 Sahel Joint Force is one of many instruments that make up an integrated, sustainable and regional approach to the situation in the Sahel. The primacy of politics should guide this work, and it is essential to ensure that an overarching political framework for the Sahel is put in place.
Continued unity among G5 Sahel countries and the international community is crucial. We also encourage strong engagement by the African Union, not least in ensuring coordination with other regional initiatives and frameworks and in ensuring further integration within the AU Peace and Security Architecture. This is an opportunity for the UN, the AU and the sub-region to work as one, together with other partners, such as the EU.
Secondly, the success of the force will depend on support to it from the population. This is particularly true where armed terrorist groups are entrenched within the population, exploiting the absence of the state authority. A solid human rights compliance framework will, therefore, be of the utmost importance; not least to restore trust in state institutions and prevent fuelling further radicalisation and destabilisation. The G5 Sahel countries have recognised this need in the Joint Force's Concept of Operations; we must now move towards the establishment of mechanisms to prevent and address international human rights and international humanitarian law violations and abuses.
It is essential that the activities of the force include a gender perspective in planning as well as in specific protection actions. The Joint Force might also encounter children associated with armed groups. Clear procedures on how to tackle this issue, including through cooperation with child protection advisors, are therefore needed.
Finally, peace is best pursued in partnership. We need to ensure that our repeated calls for regional ownership, expectations from the force and our demands for accountability are matched with adequate resources and support.
The suggested options for support put forward by the Secretary-General illustrate that many possibilities exist.
Predictable and sustainable UN support is vital for the force to be able to deliver on its objectives; Sweden stands ready to explore all models, including the most ambitious. A supportive role from the UN can underpin a stronger political framework, including through the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and mutual accountability. In addition to our support through the EU, Sweden is also considering possible ways of supporting the FC-G5S bilaterally, particularly in the area of preventing and addressing human rights and international humanitarian law violations and abuses.
In 2017, an estimated 30 million people in the Sahel will not have enough food to eat. At the same time, terrorists continue to threaten lives and undermine the livelihoods of the population across the region.
The success of our efforts in the Sahel will be judged by how we improve the lives of the people who live there. The G5 Sahel Joint Force is a welcome initiative to increase security, complement the activities of MINUSMA and end the terrorist threat. It deserves our full support. Accompanied by robust and meaningful development efforts to address the root causes of conflict and instability, it offers a chance to set the region on the path to sustainable peace.