Intervention: High-Level meeting on the Sahel
WED 26 SEPTEMBER 2012
New York City, USA
Subject(s): United Nations; Foreign Affairs; The Sahel
The Sahel region is rich in ancient cultures and history.
But the convergence of complex political and security issues with a devastating humanitarian crisis presents serious challenges.
The human cost to the people of the region is very real.
And the international community should also be gravely concerned about the risk of northern Mali becoming a safe haven for extremists and a focal point for transnational crime.
These challenges demand the care and concern of the entire international community.
So I thank Secretary-General Ban for bringing us together to discuss them and commend the UN’s work towards an ‘Integrated Strategy’ to guide our development of a comprehensive response.
The Sahel is rightly at the front of our minds today.
More than 18 million people are at risk of food insecurity.
An area of northern Mali the size of France is currently without government.
I’m deeply disturbed by the destruction of UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites in Timbuktu – and I am appalled by reports of public stonings and amputations.
Peace and stability must be restored to Mali.
The international community must reject the claims of sovereignty in northern Mali and pursue regionally-led mediation to resolve the crisis.
Australia applauds the efforts of the ECOWAS to engage the parties in dialogue.
Australia welcomes the appointment of the National Unity Government, but recognises that there is a long way to go.
And we encourage the transitional government in Mali, ECOWAS, Mali's neighbours, the African Union and the UN Security Council to continue working together to develop strategies to restore stability and territorial integrity.
Restoring effective, representative government in Bamako is the necessary first-step in restoring peace and stability in Mali.
Together with these efforts to restore peace and stability in Mali, the international community must move quickly to address the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel.
Australia is playing a significant role.
In 2012 we have contributed AUD 30 million to deliver urgently needed food and medical relief, as well as training to local medical staff.
We will provide a further AUD 14 million in urgent humanitarian assistance including AUD 7 million through the World Food Program and AUD 7 million through the Red Cross and UN Refugee Agency.
But as always, humanitarian aid can only be a temporary measure.
So Australia is working with partner Governments in the Sahel to build long-term food security and resilience.
This includes a program in which Australian scientists work side-by-side with scientists from the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development to boost agricultural productivity in the Sahel.
Long-term security in the Sahel will be closely tied to economic development.
The international community must help to improve the economic prospects of the people of the Sahel.
This will reduce the appeal of extremism and provide a means for individuals to earn livelihoods and respect.
Australia’s ‘Mining for Development’ initiative and program of scholarships for Africa – over 1 000 in 2012 – are designed to provide such opportunities and promote economic self-reliance.
Australia commends the governments of the Sahel region for their efforts to address the humanitarian crisis.
As friends and partners, we stand ready to support regionally-led solutions.
There is much to do – our partners in the Sahel region can be confident Australia will do its part.