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26 September 2013 - High-Level Meeting on the Sahel - Statement of Mr. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. President, Dear friends and colleagues,

Like you, I very clearly remember last year’s meeting on the Sahel. Many of us, including the French President, sounded the alarm on that occasion, and a few months later, terrorist groups were nearing Bamako.

Actions were taken, for which I want to thank the international community. France was among those taking action, and today we are fortunate to be joined by a President of Mali who was elected democratically and overwhelmingly.

This means that action pays off. It also means—and I know we all agree—that what happened in Mali could most likely have happened elsewhere. That is why, President Prodi, the UN was absolutely right to launch an integrated action strategy, of which you were one of the main architects. We all know that the Sahel remains an extremely vulnerable region; economic development is difficult there, the humanitarian situation is troubling, and terrorist threats remain, along with all sorts of trafficking. Yet it is a region that also inspires enormous hope. France believes that in order to be effective, we must focus our efforts on three things.

First—and others before me have strongly emphasized this—we must abandon the purely national mindsets we’ve inherited from the past and strengthen the regional dimension, for the simple reason that economic development, like drug and arms trafficking, knows no borders, either between countries or regional organizations. From this standpoint, I would like to draw your attention to the summit scheduled to take place in Paris this December between Africa and France, where we will discuss security issues throughout the continent as well as development and the climate, all of these issues being interconnected.

A second aspect to which I want to briefly draw your attention is the fight against radicalization. We must invest in the economy, education, the infrastructure and the creation of opportunities of all kinds, particularly for young people. One point that I want to mention—one of us has already done so and I know it is rather delicate—is the fertility rate. Because you don’t have to be an economic expert to understand that if growth is entirely consumed by out-of-control demographic growth, we can’t move forward. This is a very delicate topic, partly for cultural reasons, but we can’t ignore it when we consider the demographic outlook of certain Sahel nations.

The third thing is that we must foster the emergence—you are already doing so—of solid, responsible states. Indeed, looking back, we see that we have made enormous financial investments in the Sahel. But we must be honest enough to admit that the results weren’t commensurate with our efforts. This was due largely to poor governance, for which all parties, including international donors, and among them France, must assume their share of responsibility. Here, too, the themes proposed in the various reports—controlled decentralization, better control over public expenditures, greater transparency in international aid—are all certainly necessarily. On a bilateral basis, France is the Sahel’s largest donor after the United States, providing more than 300 million euros in annual assistance, and that’s not counting technical and security-related cooperation.

I will conclude these brief remarks by thanking Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, our friend Romano Prodi, and all of you for your outstanding contribution to the integrated strategy for the Sahel. I would also like to say—and this will come as a surprise to no one—that in the future, whether in the European Union or the United Nations, you can count on France to maintain its commitment to the Sahel’s development. And in fact when France presides over the Security Council this December, I intend to propose a special meeting on the Sahel to review the very timely visit there by the UN Secretary-General and other colleagues in November.

France will stand by your side.

Thank you.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU