Sahel governments set new strategic priorities with UNODC and international partners


Terrorism and transnational organized crime in the Sahel have seen a preoccupying evolution in recent years, and especially since 2012, when the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel was launched by the Security Council (UNSC). The evolving nature of the threats affecting the region requires flexible responses by governments. To afford such flexibility, the UNODC Sahel Programme created a Steering Committee to ensure that the evolving needs of Sahel countries are met by the international community.

On 5 and 6 April 2017, the Sahel Programme held its second Steering Committee Meeting in Dakar. Participating governments had the occasion to share key results and future technical assistance needs with Sahel Programme experts, who delivered presentations outlining past achievements and new priorities in the fields of terrorism prevention, firearms trafficking, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering, among others.

Group photo of the participants to the Sahel Programme's second steering committee meeting, 5 and 6 April 2017
Group photo of the participants to the Sahel Programme's second steering committee meeting, 5 and 6 April 2017

Ms Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG) for the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel participated to the opening ceremony of the meeting, and congratulated the recent creation in Burkina Faso of specialized judicial units against crime and terrorism, and the creation of Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs) in Niamey and Bamako.

UNODC also had the honour of welcoming Ms Mbaranga Gasarabwe, DSRSG for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and UN Resident Coordinator for Mali, during the meeting. Ms Gasarabwe praised UNODC's efforts, its dynamic and pragmatic approach to the challenges in the region, and its efficient partnership with beneficiary countries, crucial to the successful implementation of necessary reforms.

Ms Hiroute Guebre Sellassie and Mr Pierre Lapaque
Ms Hiroute Guebre Sellassie and Mr Pierre Lapaque

General Mohamed Znagui, defence and security expert of the G5 Sahel, took the floor to provide the audience with updates on the efforts put in place by the organization, notably regarding the Security Cooperation Platform (in French: " PCMS: Plateforme de Coopération en Matière de Sécurité"), which was institutionalized and is now being operationalized in close partnership with UNODC.

Key recommendations were discussed and approved during the final sessions of the second day of meeting. Special attention was given to cybercrime and the use of internet and of new technologies in illicit activities, and to the need to sensitize and train the various actors involved in cases where children have been recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups. Such recommendations precisely show the willingness of UNODC and its partners to adapt to a constantly evolving environment, and provide an integrated, sustainable response to the threats that have come to define the 21 st century.

General Znagui, G5 Sahel
General Znagui, G5 Sahel
      Participants during a session of discussions
Participants during a session of discussions
Ms Mbaranga Gasarabwe and Mr Pierre Lapaque
Ms Mbaranga Gasarabwe and Mr Pierre Lapaque

On the final day of the meeting, representatives of the Sahel Programme's key donors, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Spain joined in for a roundtable session, during which Final recommendations were presented and discussed.

The Sahel Programme created its Steering Committee during the Strategy meeting of January 2015, and held its first meeting in April 2016. These events serve as consultation fora to assess and orient the implementation of the UNODC Contribution to the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, one of the 9 flagship projects of the Strategy designed by the UNSC in 2012 to address the crises in Libya (2011) and Mali (2012).