Address by Parliamentary Secretary Obhrai at High-Level Meeting on Sahel

September 26, 2013 - New York City, New York

Check Against Delivery

Canada is concerned by the ongoing needs of vulnerable populations in the Sahel region, who face chronic hunger and malnutrition, and by the security situation, which is compounding an already complex situation in the region.

Last year’s food and nutrition crisis, which affected more than 18 million people throughout the Sahel, is still fresh in our minds.

Canada was one of the key providers of assistance in the Sahel region during the food and nutrition crisis, providing $65.4 million to partners addressing critical food, nutrition and livelihood support needs.

Poverty reduction remains the objective of Canada’s development assistance in the region, which directly contributes to improving peace and security.

In this context, we will continue to work with other donors as well as with our humanitarian and development partners in order to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, particularly women and children, in the Sahel region.

As we speak, states across the Sahel are facing many common challenges to stability and peace.

Where governments are unable to exercise their authority, criminal networks and ideologically driven transnational groups, some with connections to al Qaeda, foment instability. While African economies are among the fastest growing in the world, demographic and economic pressures, as well as ethnic and class rifts, are deepening in many states of the Sahel.

Canada is encouraged by the initial success of MINUSMA [the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali] in the implementation of its mandate, particularly on the political and security fronts, alongside France’s Operation Serval. This UN mission is playing a key role in the stabilization of Mali and, by extension, contributes positively to security in the Sahel region.

As per its mandate, MINUSMA contributed to creating the conditions for the holding of successful presidential elections and has made progress in restoring the capacity of the Malian security forces.

The inauguration of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta as the new president of Mali in September was another important step in Mali’s return to democracy, and the Malian people can take pride in their commitment to democratic values. It also marked an important step toward reconciliation, strengthened democratic governance and the protection of human rights for all Malians.

However, while the armed groups that triggered the Malian crisis are no longer operating freely in northern Mali, the threat posed by them must not be underestimated as they seek new safe havens in neighbouring countries and could have the potential to destabilize the region one more time.

Canada has also been strongly engaged in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.

Canada, through the Global Peace and Security Fund, has disbursed approximately $400 million in security programming in the Sahel and North Africa, largely in support of UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan and South Sudan.

Since 2010, the Canadian Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program has provided $24 million in funding for training, equipment, and technical and legal assistance to Sahel states so that they can prevent and respond to terrorist activity. Canada is also proud to co-chair, with Algeria, the Global Counterterrorism Forum Sahel Working Group, which is strengthening the civilian capacities of Sahel countries to combat terrorism.

During a recent visit to Algeria, our minister of foreign affairs, John Baird, announced $1.2 million in new funding toward counterterrorism initiatives aimed at strengthening border security and judicial systems in North Africa and the Sahel. These initiatives will be implemented by experienced partners such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

As the development challenges and security threat in the Sahel evolve, Canada will continue to support Sahelian countries.

Thank you.

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