On September 26, the United Nations Secretary General held a High Level Summit on the Sahel.
The ongoing crisis in Mali following a military coup there this spring has exacerbated the complex humanitarian crisis gripping the Sahel region of northern Africa. Almost 500,000 people have fled their homes as insurgent groups filled the security vacuum created by the coup and seized key areas of Northern Mali. Many escaped to neighboring countries, which are also facing food and water scarcity.
Regional leaders are working to address the political, security, and humanitarian crises in Mali and the Sahel region. On September 26, the United Nations Secretary General held a High Level Summit on the Sahel, which helped to focus international attention to the problems affecting the region. World leaders discussed plans to develop an integrated regional strategy for the region, encompassing security, governance, development, human rights and humanitarian issues.
The United States supports the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, as it coordinates with Mali, the UN and African Union to set the objectives, means and logistics of deploying a regional military force to Mali to address these challenges. Their work is key to developing a U.N. resolution that we and others in the international community can support to best address the crisis.
We are also working with Sahel nations that are confronting extremist threats harbored in the region such as in Niger, Mauritania and Algeria to increase their capacity to deal with security threats and to understand and address the underlying causes of radicalization. Terrorists do not respect borders and they operate more effectively when borders are porous and cooperation between neighboring nations is poorly coordinated.
Therefore we support efforts to increase regional cooperation and interoperability, and are enthusiastic that with the United Nations taking up the cause, regional security issues may play a key role in an integrated UN strategy for the Sahel.